Sunday, July 12, 2020

Three Angles for Writing a Travel Article

I've been thinking about my camping blog, Green Goddess Glamping. During the camping season, I write about the places I travel to, about my experiences out and about in my tiny camper. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, though, I'm not out and about so much, and when I am camping, it's been to sites close by, places I've camped at before. As a writer, does this create a dilemma? Since I've already written about a particular lake or campground, then what more is there to say?

I'll be traveling to a nearby state park tomorrow, Lake Darling State Park, in SE Iowa. I've written several times about camping at Lake Darling, both as a tiny trailer camper and as a bicycle camper. I've described hikes, bike rides, the campground, cooking, the weather, sunsets . . . all the fun my wife and I have fun there. What more to write?

What occurred to me was that any experience has three aspects or "angles" of approach by a writer, the writer's personal experience, the dynamics of the experience, and the geography of the experience. I've heard this described as the perceiver , the process perception, and the object of perception. This means I can write about any destination from any one or more of those three angles. I don't have to just write about my drive, setting up camp, and what I did. I have more options, and looking through past articles in Green Goddess Glamping, I can see examples of where I have already focused my writing on one aspect of this "three-in-one" reality of experience.

The Writer

When I arrive at a campsite, especially when I camp alone, sometimes the inner landscape of the mind melds with the outer natural beauty of the river or lake, the woods. Sometimes this leads to insights which I share in my articles.

Photo by Mark Busha, tiny trailer camper, in a remote location in Utah

One good example is my article about how being alone doesn't mean one is lonely, that solitude is not synonymous with loneliness. In "Traveling Solo: Being Alone Is Not the Same Thing As Being Lonely," which I wrote while camping, I focused on my inner experience while out camping. I wrote about how camping in nature can lead not to a sense of loneliness and isolation but rather to an experience of connectedness and integration.

The Process

Sometimes the process of camping dominates; perhaps it dominates most of the time if we let it. Towing the trailer, backing the trailer, setting up camp, and camping out provide many opportunities for writing. My "How-To" and "Reviews" tab links are filled with articles that relate to the process of camping, everything from how to stabilize the trailer to campfire cooking. Articles about equipment, how it works and how well it works are always popular and fun to write about.

Jomeokee Park, North Carolina

When I write about the process of camping, there is always that journaling aspect: I did this and then that. Photographs fit into the narrative, which adds to the enjoyment of the camping experience. Many of my camping blogs are about the Green Goddess Expeditions. Since the Green Goddess is my first camper, many of my articles have been about what I needed to learn in order to enjoy the trailer camping experience. One good example of a narrative of a camping weekend is my article "Unknowingly, I Tiny-Trailer Camp-Crash Woodstock," where I wrote about stopping for a quiet weekend at a private campground while traveling the Carolinas, and then discovering that a private camping group had organized a music concert for the weekend. A fun experience!

The Subject

We show up to a campground for a few days, but the land has its reality outside our experience, it has its geography, its biology, its history. That is a subject for experiencing and writing about that is a source of great possibility. The more times I camp at a particular place, the more I learn about that place.

Statue at the west entrance to Lacey-Keosauqua

Lacey-Keosauqua State Park is a good example of experiencing a particular place. My wife and I have camped there many times, and I have quite a few articles about our "expeditions" there. As time passes and the number of visits to a campground add up, I think the experience becomes more "vertical" than "horizontal." We go deeper into a place and learn its secrets, something I wrote about in the article "It's Not Just How Many Miles or Places." Delving into the details can be a joy. What specific variety of oak is that? What variety of goldenrod? And since I'm writing during the Midwest summer: What exactly is a "chigger"?

Bur oak sketch

The three-in-one reality of knower, process of knowing, and known don't take place one at a time; there is no separation--one including all. As a writer (and a student of nature), I can focus on one attribute of my experience, though. It expands my ability to understand and express my experience. It focuses my intellect.

From the Gutenberg e-book

In Henry David Thoreau's narrative Canoeing in the Wilderness, he shifts seamlessly from his own personal experience to the process of canoeing to the beauty of the woods and river. He writes with growing awareness during the book of how he, even though an experienced naturalist, is not as knowledgeable in the woods as his American Indian guide Joseph Polis. Thoreau creates an enjoyable read as he narrates his experiences of canoeing the river rapids and the turbulent lakes in Maine. He writes about setting up camp and how his guide knows just the right place to be not too far from the river yet still dry and relatively free of mosquitoes. The physical environment is described with great regard and attention to detail, as seen in this passage describing canoeing down a branch of Webster Stream.
"As the shores became flatter with frequent sandbars, and the stream more winding in the lower land near the lake, elms and ash trees made their appearance; also the wild yellow lily, some of whose bulbs I collected for a soup. On some ridges the burnt land extended as far as the lake. This was a very beautiful lake, two or three miles long, with high mountains on the southwest side. The morning was a bright one, and perfectly still, the lake as smooth as glass, we making the only ripple as we[152] paddled into it. The dark mountains about it were seen through a glaucous mist, and the white stems of canoe birches mingled with the other woods around it. The thrush sang on the distant shore, and the laugh of some loons, sporting in a concealed western bay, as if inspired by the morning, came distinct over the lake to us." 
Whether as a camper or as a writer, whether on an expedition into the Maine woods in 1857 or on a weekday romp to the local state park, we can all be explorers of the three-in-one nature of life. We can have our inner selves up uplifted, we can enjoy the dynamism of our activity, and we can appreciate the rich beauty of our world. So this has been a small update from me: I'll be out there somewhere close to home, safely enjoying the richness of life, writing about how to make it even richer.

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