(Title with apologies to Joyce Carol Oates)
I spent my nineteenth birthday washing dishes beside a broken-down bus in Baja, Mexico.
I can still, when I close my eyes, see the saguaro and the century-plants stretching off into the distance, as I try to use my knuckles to scrub off the baked-on scraps on the plates.
I don’t write about Baja or Durham or Tokyo or Paihia or any of the other places where I spent some time and passed on through.
At least, I don’t write about them directly.
It is interesting when I am writing fantasy how much a little piece of experience will sneak through into an otherwise unrelated world. I’ve caught myself putting little touchstones into my stories, stolen from memories I’ve hoarded like precious jewels.
I would like to pretend that I am a fabulously wealthy woman of the world. The truth is that my traveling was often on a shoe-string budget or sponsored by my work or my education. I am not sure how different it would have been to have traveled as a full tourist. I don’t know if I would have had the experience of walking fifteen kilometres of back road in Northern New Zealand, getting hopelessly lost, and being rescued by a kind South African baker.
They were amazing experiences all of them- often funny, sometimes sad and always filling me with a renewed appreciation for the home I love.
This is the true thing that I have taken from my travels and try to express in my writing.
Everywhere that I have gone and experienced has highlighted for me not just the draw of the unusual but of how much you can see if you just open your eyes to the view around you.
I do not know where the road ahead of me leads, but I am here, walking, buoyed by the beauty of the world around me.
A view from a fifteen kilometre walk to nowhere