Everyone has a travel story. And if you don’t, it’s either because you’ve never traveled or you’re just not thinking hard enough.
The experiences we garner through travel make for perfect, compelling stories: There is drama, action, characters, conflict, tension, humor, universal truths, triumphs and lessons learned.
There was the time you had to use the airplane bathroom, ahem, seven times on a three-hour flight. Or that time you found yourself walking down a strange Texas interstate at 1 a.m. hoping to God that the glowing sign in the distance was a motel and that someone was at the front desk.
Travel takes us out of our comfort zones; it can test us. Often, we find ourselves helpless, at the whim of an airline, or saved by the kindness of a stranger. Travel induces discovery – of different places, people, cultures, and customs.
But while the trip might last for a week or a month, it’s the stories we bring back that allow the trip to live on. And by sharing those stories, we not only connect with others in an “I’ve been there” kind of way, but we connect with ourselves through reflection. We come to know ourselves better through travel, through tests of will and obstacles and challenges encountered. Travel and the stories we tell afterward can teach us.
There was the Mexican shop owner you were haggling a couple bucks off a cowboy hat with when he said in broken English, “You are very rich, and I am poor.”
The best travel stories (or my favorite at least): When things go wrong. Cars break down. Bones get fractured. Passports fly out of cab windows. Dogs get adopted. Arrests are made. Airport floors get slept on. Food-borne illness wreaks havoc. Bags containing everything you ever needed to be comfortable get lost. Really, any trip that goes exactly as planned with no hardship whatsoever is probably not very memorable. A refreshing, invigorating soak in a pristine resort hot spring is a boring story. A refreshing, invigorating soak in a pristine resort hot spring that was ruined by the drunk, pony-tailed, naked guy creepily ogling everyone is likely more interesting.
But travel stories need not be horrific. Maybe you met your future spouse or the president of Portugal. I probably don’t need to be telling you any of this; you know you have a great travel story. Or three. And if you stopped the next person who walks past you and asked them to tell their best travel story, they’d produce it within moments.
Which is why we want to hear your stories. Starting in next week’s issue, we here at DGO will begin a new feature called Wanderlust in which we share your travel stories, the good, bad, and ugly.
Of course, in the end, the reason why we love hearing travel stories is because it’s a way to connect – we’ve all been there in some way, at some point. And because, usually, there’s a takeaway of some sort; we learned something about others, about ourselves.
The best travel stories will be in the spirit of connection and ultimately have something uplifting or valuable about the human condition, even if not explicitly expressed. They’ll also have a beginning, middle, and end, along with plenty of rich details to paint an image for the reader. The best stories will have that “so what” element: OK, your flight was delayed for 72 hours – so what? Show us the conflict – internal or external. Show us the vulnerability, the test of will, the overcoming of obstacles. Tell us something unbelievable. In some way, show us the value of having had this experience.
If you want to write your own story, do it in about 400 words and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d rather tell your story, send a brief synopsis along with your name and phone number to the same address. Either way, your story should be true. Also, be sure to include your full name and town.
We’re looking forward to hearing your stories. Now, it’s time to get telling.