Call to Action: Introducing Not Your Mom’s Travel Guide

This semester has been anything other than a clear, linear path. It was manic and fragmented and interrupted. But that is what our world is now: interrupted. In times of incredible catastrophes or depressions or pandemics, one thing is certain amidst all the uncertainty— change is inevitable.

Our world is more connected than ever with every country just a flight away. But, that ease of travel was the catalyst for this pandemic, and it is bound to be rethought.

These days I’ve been trying to look for the silver linings in things. I’ve been able to spend more time with my family. I managed to escape a Michigan winter and found solace in the South Carolina heat. I’ve been thinking about the silver linings that exist outside of my personal life and the small bubble I live in, too.

This is the perfect opportunity to examine not only how to make travel safer but to also consider sustainability in our travel. How do we travel consciously? I’ve found comfort in the idea that all this destruction could allow us to reimagine the travel industry, to think about the intersection of cultural, economic, and environmental impacts.

It makes me think of my project in a new light. Not Your Mom’s Travel Guide is not just a podcast that explores my own traveler’s guilt. It is not just a series of conversations discussing the past. It’s a call to action. How can we address the negative impacts of travel? How can we learn from our mistakes and use our guilt as a force for change?

Explore. Reflect. This is the sign you’ve been looking for. This is Not Your Mom’s Travel Guide.

Where We Are and Where We’re Going

Here I am, knee-deep into the semester and there’s really no turning back now. If you told me freshman year that I’d be making a podcast before I graduated, I’d probably laugh in your face, with an eye roll and a, “yeah, right.” I’ve never been the type to fully push myself out of my comfort zone (and audio is nowhere near that realm).

But this is where we are.

My podcast will be an exploration of traveler’s guilt, inspired by my semester studying and living abroad in Barcelona. I’ll be having conversations with other students who had the privilege to study abroad to delve into issues like gentrification, overcrowding, overdependence on the tourism industry, the depletion of natural resources, and more.

But what better way for me to introduce you to my podcast than by sharing the trailer with you all! This is Not Your Mom’s Travel Guide.

Over the next month and a half, you’ll all be with me on this journey to see this idea through. I’ll be speaking with four guests about their time living in four drastically different countries: Australia, Italy, South Africa, and Spain.

Can’t wait for you to see where we’re going.

Topics in Writing Podcast: Linda Adler-Kassner

I was busy Tuesday night with another mandatory presenter as part of my BA 200 class. From the class discussion it appeared everyone enjoyed Heather Ann Thompson. I alternatively listened to an episode of the “Topics in Writing Podcast,” choosing Linda Adler-Kassner, a Dean and Professor of Writing at the University of California – Santa Barbara. The discussion revolved mostly around students’ experience in writing classes and the challenging, educational process which is learning to write. Here’s some takeaways:

  • Good writing isn’t one thing.

Adler-Kassner spoke towards the idea that students often search for a definition of what good writing is, when, in reality, that definition is malleable, shifting across cultures. Different ideologies, expectations, and audiences all influence how a piece of writing is received and analyzed. This gets back to a major part of this course which has been our discussion regarding the importance of understanding audience. A piece of writing can be incredible in the writer’s eyes but if the audience doesn’t connect with the writing in the same way, it will be negatively-received.

  • learning writing is about building a framework that is transferrable across topics, courses, and situations.

The process of learning how to write was also discussed heavily. The skills a student learns in a writing class should be applicable to the other subject matters they decide to take. In this way, learning how to write is more about building a framework, and understanding of the skills and structures employed in strong writing and applying them across different academic situations.  In this light, more connections need to be made across disciplines both between instructors and in content to solidify student’s understanding of what is expected of them.

  • Writing is a subject not an activity.

Students often see writing as an activity, something they do in the process of learning other subjects. Writing students, however, understand that writing is a skill that can be learned just like any other subject they are studying. Successful learning in writing is measured through the application of skills learned continually through writing. In other words doing it. Another part of learning writing is realizing progress—understanding growth in writing—because it helps build a better understanding of good writing.

  • Reflection is crucial. in understanding your learning and writing, accepting struggle, the more you know the harder it becomes

Reflection is a crucial part in understanding your relationship with writing. A common misconception students have is this belief that you can grow as a writer to the point where it is no longer challenging. Linda Adler-Kassner dispels that notion explaining how it actually gets more difficult as you become an expert. The more you know, the more techniques, skills, and knowledge you can employ, the more complex the process becomes. This is important to recognize because it will change students’ understanding of the craft as a whole.

A Room of Your Own

I was very moved by Maria Cotera’s interview on Writer To Writer.  I was disappointed to have to miss the event in person, but am so glad I got to listen to the podcast.

There were many part’s of Maria’s story that I really learned from and enjoyed.  I loved the way she addressed the changing modes of writing, and that in response we must change the way we think about writing.  The hottest writing is happening online through modes like twitter and blogging.  It was helpful to hear how much she loved blogging, since we’ve been doing so much blogging recently.  She explained that it forces you to write for a large audience and to write often.  In addition, she emphasized the fact that in blogging, you’re not writing for an audience of specialists.  So, you can accept that you’re in a transitional process and let your fear of the public reading your writing fade.  This was important for me to hear.

My favorite part was Maria’s story of the first time she witnessed writing.  The image of a Chicana feminist woman taking her children to McDonalds to play on the play space while she wrote books by hand stuck with me long after listening to the podcast.  I found it remarkable that her mother wrote without gaining any fame or remuneration.  She was self published and created her own knowledge, believing in the importance of her voice and cause even without reassurance from anyone else.  Upon hearing her tell this story, I realized that I had never really thought about the first time I witnessed writing.  I wondered why this isn’t something we talk about more.  Surely, for all of us who love to write, that first exposure to writing left a mark on us and, perhaps without our knowledge, planted a seed that eventually grew into a passion for stringing together words into a piece of art.

For me, my first exposure to writing was through my dad.  As a little girl, I had a lot of trouble falling asleep after the September 11 terrorist attacks.  I think I realized for the first time that we aren’t indestructible.  I became afraid of what could happen to me and the ones I loved, and couldn’t sleep most nights.  So, my dad began telling me stories about a little boy named Friedrich, a painter who saw and painted the best in people…sometimes things even they couldn’t see in themselves.  I was mesmerized by his stories, by the way his words created characters and thrilling suspense and endings that made your heart swell with hope and joy.  As his captive and insomniatic audience, I watched his process of writing and felt its power.  Perhaps that’s what gave me such a love for words and writing.

Maria used a quote of Virginia Woolf’s that I loved: “A woman must have a room of her own if she wishes to write.”  Maria talked about how that room is not only literal, but also metaphorical.  How do we find time and space in our lives to write?  How, in a time of endless demands and pressures, do we find room to write for our own joy?

Again, I thought of my dad.  His literal room was a bit unconventional.  I remember sitting on our front porch, looking out over the outline of the Blue Ridge mountains fading into the smoky dusk’s light.  He would smoke a pipe and write notes in a leather notebook.  He has the perfect literal room to write.  Yet, he doesn’t have the metaphorical room.  Yet, he talks now of how he always wanted to be a writer but never had the time to truly do it.  With working enough to send a kid to a $56,000 a year university and another to a state university, it’s not hard for me to understand why he doesn’t have time to write.  But, my hope for him, reignited by Maria’s story about her mother, is that he can find a metaphorical room as spacious and peace-filled as his literal room.  After hearing Maria’s words, I hope we can all find that rom.


Scriptwriting Surprises

This re-mediation project is my first venture into the world of podcasting, so as way to get comfortable with the genre I have been listening to some short podcasts that I enjoy. One is This American Life, a radio show on NPR which has an archive that I’ve been streaming here. In the past I’d always listened to This American Life with the content of the show in mind, as I assume most people do and its creators intended. But since I started my project I have been instead listening for the strategies employed that make this content interesting and natural: how topics are introduced, transitions are handled, vocal tones are changed, etc. It has been eye-opening to discover what makes listening to ten minutes of someone talking such an enjoyable activity.

Just from my limited pre-recording experience, I’ve realized that, maybe obviously, the podcast is all about the script. Or maybe, more accurately, the podcaster’s relationship with the script. In other words, you have to decide where to follow it verbatim and where to diverge from what’s written down, all while simultaneously sounding professional and natural. Listening to experienced podcasters, I’ve always taken the difficulty of this task for granted. I definitely think that being invested in the subject matter of your podcast goes along way to pulling off this balancing act.

To tie it back to earlier discussions in the year, one aspect of writing that making a script has really brought to light is the marked distinction between written and spoken word. At the beginning of the Gateway class I stated that I wanted to become more comfortable writing in a less formal tone. So far, the script I have been crafting has been challenging me to meet this goal. When I originally looked over the sketch of my podcast script, it seemed fine. But as soon as I started to read it out loud, and apply a personal tone and inflection to it, it seemed awkward. I had to spice it up with interjections, contractions, and informal phrases that, interestingly enough, are usually frowned upon in academic writing. As I go forward into the recording process, I am curious to see how the interpretation of the content is affected by how I present it, and what kind of overall tone I end up constructing.

How I Write and How I Speak

Today, I was having some trouble explaining some idea from my re-purposed argument and my potential podcast.  I wanted just to say “read what I wrote!” Instead, I blubbered.  Perhaps that was a lesson for me though.  Podcasts are supposed to be spoken. So they have to be written as people speak.  Some of  parts can’t even be written; mainly the interview. I can write my questions but I can’t predict what the other person will say.  However, in a way that’s easier. I can adlib (hopefully).  Writing a natural-sounding script is harder than I thought and I thought it would be hard to begin with.  I had to cut out the wordiness that bloats up my writing and transform all my elaborate clauses into simple active sentences.   In the end, I think it’s been good for me.  If you can’t make it simple, you don’t understand it; I have no idea what quote I just distorted there.  Moreover, it’s easier for other people to understand it, if you make it simple. It should be easy then, right?

Writing and speaking are the transference of thought into sentences and words. When I think, unless I’m writing, I usually don’t think in full sentences. I admit, it’s a pretty short interval between when I think about what I’m going to say and what I says. Sometimes there is no real thought at all, like when I stubbed my toe this morning.  So how do we think when we write? Is it a different process than when we think before speaking? For one, when you write on a page you can review what you’re saying as you go. You can’t do that when speaking. Two, there is that time delay between when you write something and when it is “out there”, not the case with speaking. This gives you time to revise. Three, when you speak you usually can interact directly with your audience. You can feed off them. You can change what you’re saying depending on their reaction. When you write, you can imagine your audience or try to create them. However, you’re still fairly solitary. When writing, your audience is only in your head.  You can change your whole piece in revisions but you can’t get a sentence by sentence reaction. You can’t see what they want but only what you think they want. Podcasts are strange. They are a forum for speaking without the benefit of an audience to react to. There is the script which can be revised and worked, which is one benefit. Making a podcast is a lot like writing, even though the medium is the human voice.   A good podcast though is as accessible as a conversation.  NP says it should be like you’re speaking directly to your listeners, rather than vocalizing your writing. So that’s the challenge. Podcasts are writing as you speak, without some of the benefits and drawbacks of speech.  The weird thing is even though radio simplifies the construction of sentences (compared to writing), it is still popular with all different kinds of people. It’s for people who love to read and people who hate to read.

So anyone think of something I missed? Any more notable differences between speaking and writing? Any ways that we speak different than when we write? What positives characteristics can we take from speaking and apply to our writing? What things that we do in our speech should we avoid? Are good writers better speakers, and vice versa?  See, this is part of the issue with writing. The writer is often left with lots of questions that a speaker can just ask. Before the internet, it was difficult to get a direct response. Now, it’s far more possible.

Reading Speaking Writing