A few days ago, my husband Eduardo gave me a “travel” notebook with names of cities printed all over the cover. I instantly loved it. He said, “Welcome back.” What do you mean? I’m here. I’m not traveling. He smiled and said, “A long time ago, you went to Tibet, Laos and Cambodia. And now, you’ve written a book about it. This whole journey has taken you a long time. More than a decade. Welcome back. And congratulations on your memoir. You did it!”
My literary journey of planning, writing and ultimately publishing my travel memoir THE SAME SKY has come full circle. I have arrived! This Friday February 28th is my official book launch event with 70+ people expected to come to celebrate its release. I’m so thrilled!
The story began in 1999 when I was a Canadian expatriate in Beijing. Following a breakup and traumatic event, I packed my bag, camera and journal and went on a solo journey through Southeast Asia. I was truly at the lowest point of my life. However, heartfelt exchanges with locals inspired me to rediscover my strength and the peace I was looking for. And most importantly, I found a courage in me that I never knew I had on my own. I was a survivor and I didn’t want to wallow in my sorrow and waste away.
I had to tell this story. I wanted to inspire women to believe that after a breakup, you can discover a strength tenfold in yourself and that you can overcome any calamities of the heart. Traveling is also a wonderful way to explore and heal once again.
Thus, in 2001, after settling in New York, I started writing my travel memoir – at first on cocktail napkins, then on post-it notes as thoughts came to my mind. I purchased a used IBM Thinkpad and carried it everywhere and frequented every Starbucks in my neighborhood. While consuming a ton of lattes, I wrote my story in fragments, in themes, and then in chapters. I joined a writing group and they became my dearest friends as we swapped chapters and encouraged each other on with feedback and honesty. I booked trips to Greenwich, CT where I holed myself up in hotels for days to think and write. The walls of my apartment were decorated with flip chart paper scribbled with story arcs and character development. I kept writing.
Then I put my story away in a drawer for two years. I faced an impasse. I had reached the part in my literary journey where I had to really open up and share about the breakup and betrayal that had devastated me. The lingering pain was still present. I wasn’t ready to release it to the world.
In 2010, on my birthday, I crashed my bicycle into an SUV. I flew over it and landed on the ground. Hard. After a frightful trip to the hospital, luckily I suffered no broken bones but I was pretty shaken up. I survived that accident but it was a wake up call. Life is short! Get my memoir out there!! I locked myself in my apartment with my manuscript and finished the last several chapters, the most painful part of my story. Three years later, after several rounds with an editor, and a crash course in social media, I finally released it.
I’m proud that THIS FRIDAY February 28th is my official book launch at the Tibet House, a beautiful art gallery and community center that promotes Tibetan culture. I couldn’t have found a better place since so much of my memoir takes place in Tibet. As the first stop on my journey so many years ago, Tibet reminds me of the vulnerability of solo travel, and how I ventured out on my own.
I’m here now…returning home after a long literary journey. But I won’t stay long – I’m ready for the next adventure.