Seven scars lace my back like a permanent corset. Six are only an inch wide, marking the spots where metal screws held my back together as I fought oncoming paralysis. The last is a long, keloid snake that runs half the length of my spine, where my L1 vertebrae exploded.
I was 20 years old when I broke my back. I had been backpacking through Europe solo for six months, loving every second. I was a columnist for a local newspaper in northern Scotland. I poured beer at rugby matches in Edinburgh. I savoured Glühwein at Christmas Markets across Germany, visited Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen and went snowboarding in Norway. I had just secured the ultimate seasonal job at a ski resort in Alps d’Huez, France, when with one miscalculated jump and a freak fall on my snowboard, my entire life changed.
I had to re-learn how to sit up, how to walk, and most importantly, how to travel. Metal was placed along my shattered spine and taken out in two invasive surgeries. I was completely, unbelievably broken; but I got back up, and began to travel again.
Today is a beautiful summer day in Atlantic Canada. The slushy white slopes of Alps d’Huez seem so far away.
I’m sitting in a lecture room at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I’m here for the first Summer Residency of my MFA in Creative Nonfiction.
Between our intensive schedule of 9-5 class, 7-10 events and 10pm-bedtime pints of beer, I’m planning. I’m planning how to tell my story.
How to write my travel memoir.
Over the course of the next two years, I will be writing (and re-writing) a book proposal and sample chapters. I’ll pitch my ideas to editors, authors, publishers, mentors and peers, and soak up their advice.
So why am I telling you?
Because you’re my readers. I value your thoughts, opinions and interests.
One of the hardest things for me is figuring out what to keep in and what to leave out. Do I take readers to my apartment in Berlin, Germany? Do I bring them into MacKay’s Hotel where I worked as a waitress in Wick, Scotland? Do I invite them onto the Sleeper Class train that took me from Goa to Hampi in India? Do I go back to my classroom in Seoul, South Korea? Or do I stay in the surgery room in Grenoble Hospital?
If you were there (ie. if you’re my mom or travel companions), I want to compare my memories to yours. If you weren’t there, I want to know which parts stand out to you, what you want to hear more about, and what doesn’t make sense. Email me, comment below, or reach out via Facebook.
This isn’t going to be your typical, happy-go-lucky travel book. As all of us know, things rarely go smoothly on the road. I’m not going to gloss over the fear, loss, loneliness and pain that have become common themes in my worldwide escapades.
So, I’m inviting you to come on this journey with me. It will be a bumpy ride – but the best ones always are.