It’s no surprise Thomas Swick started off by introducing the German term “Reisefieber” – translated as travel fever. He proclaimed that the Germans are some of the best travelers. It’s hard not to take his word as they had so cleverly come up with one word to describe our kind’s wanderlust. As I witnessed fiery desire light the eyes around the room, it was clear that “Reisefieber” was innate for all in attendance at the Travel Writing Workshop, led by lecturer and experienced travel writer Swick, this past Saturday at General provision.
Sure, it would have been easier to stay under the comfort of the sheets as the rain tapped on my windowsill and the cat lay purring diligently next to me. Or nurse my slight hangover with a peppery Bloody Mary – biting into the piquant garnishes while dreaming of last night’s electric noises still reverberating through me. It was my sacred weekend after all – two holy days – little did I know that Swick would distribute the “10 Deadly Sins of Travel Writing” and I would find sanctity in his words as I sunk deep into the stiffness of my chair, akin to a pew at church, coveting each eloquently pronounced word that fell from his mouth.
As Swick’s wisdom spilled forth our mouths filled with moist, dense, homemade pound cake. With each bite I hoped for the taste of velvety key lime frosting to sweetly sting my senses. There was a food blogger present, which seemed perfectly fortuitous; as the explorative traveler seeks to find culture and the best way to embody the culture of a foreign place is to consume the food. However, not all was as seamlessly synchronous as Swick informed us to never use cliché words such as “magical, mystical, adventurous, exotic, paradise,” yet these were the only words coming to mind each bite.
As the workshop progressed I found myself split between two worlds; the student, feverishly scratching out notes of Swick’s ardent advice; and the traveler, wandering away on flights of fancy yearning to put it all together – to put these plans into action. I wanted to be holding a notebook in the luscious parks of Berlin; dividing the pages in two by pen: One half for fervent notes jotted down while observing passersby, the other for deep reflection while drinking a club mate and vodka later that night in a bar. I must be careful not to neglect the back of the divided page, reserved for sketching the scenery by hand; sloppily translating the minutiae only observable by the human eye through my pen in hand. These are the images that a camera could capture, but I would glance over as the viewfinder is too small and the shutter release too convenient to really see what’s in the moment.
More than anything, this workshop resurrected the burning fever for finding the world that is sometimes subdued by the mundane day to day. The reignited flame is taunted, provoked even, by the changing direction and strengths of the wind, tearing little metaphorical pieces of me to be carried off into the unknown – the next destination to sink my teeth into. As perfectly stated by our lecturer Swick, “the best kinds of trips are the ones where you can leave a little piece of yourself behind.”