Storytelling is an art form, and something I dream of doing well. When I was a teenage girl I used to listen to Paul Harvey on the radio. I looked forward to the weekly day and time that a local country radio station would broadcast his syndicated show. Paul’s sing-song voice would weave a tale of some far off time or place while always holding back a small secret that he would reveal at the end, inevitably surprising me with a twist of fate or unknown connection. I thought he was a master storyteller.
Years later, when I was out of college and working full-time as a hotel manager, enjoying the incessant 24/7/365-ness of my demanding career choice, I occasionally splurged on a book-on-tape to entertain myself with while driving between my employer’s properties. One summer, inspired by my love of travel and my greater love of my country, I picked up a 4-cassette audiobook, Charles Kuralt’s America, and found my next favorite storyteller. His tales of fly fishing in Montana, enjoying beignets in the French Quarter of New Orleans, waiting for daffodils to bloom in New England and going to watch an artist carve a totem pole in Ketchikan, delivered in his own deep tones, fed my burning sense of wanderlust.
I’ve always loved to read. And I often have a few books on the go at once, a strange habit that my self-diagnosed version of ADHD perpetuates. More than a dozen years ago a friend suggested I read Bill Bryson’s A Walk In the Woods, which became one of my favorites. His ability to tell a story that I can instantly visualize while infusing his experience with a self-deprecating humor that I appreciate, is addictive. I buy a copy of every book he publishes.
And somewhere along the line I stumbled across Will Ferguson, a funny and down-to-earth, well-traveled Canadian whose work I instantly loved. I was visiting a friend in Winnipeg and stopped by a book store in the airport to grab a light read for my flight home, and picked up Beauty Tips from Moosejaw, which became another of my favorites.
While I love reading a good travel memoir, I will be the first to admit, I don’t have the first clue about how to go about writing one. But I decided to give it my best effort anyway. That is, after all, all any of us can do. I’m still working full-time as a hotel manager and don’t have time to take the much needed writing classes that might help me do better justice to my experiences, but maybe someday…
In 2013, I sold my house, left my 20-year job, and packed a few essentials onto the back of a motorcycle and took off for what I thought might be six months of R & R. I didn’t make it back home for two years…not that I had a home to come back to. I rode from South Dakota to the bottom of South America. Along the way I met some incredible people, saw beautiful landscapes, had some scary moments, had a nasty wreck, had a strange encounter when I thought I might get shot, challenged myself more than I ever knew I could, faced old hurts head-on and grew stronger. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I feel so lucky to have lived it.
After coming home in the summer of 2015, I planned to go back through my two years of daily diaries and put some of my stories together for a book, but found the actuality of it overwhelming. How can you possibly do justice to two years of living in a paperback book? How can you possibly bring to life the people you meet along the way? How can you possibly choose between one story and another? The truth is, I don’t know. But I tried my best.
My memoir, The Butterfly Route is being published this week, to my everlasting joy. It’s my way of trying to pay forward, to anyone who cares to read it, the same type of inspiration that I received from the great storytellers above and the motorcycle specific ones who inspired my own journey – Ted Simon, Lois Pryce and Sam Manicom. This book is my way of celebrating the people of this world, especially the ones I met along this journey. We are all much more alike than we are different. I hope I’ve done them justice.