Once a month in the city of Manhattan, in a neighborhood south of Delancey Street, a group of travel-philes congregate at Lolita Bar. Their quest is a simple one — listen to well-known travel writers share stories of adventure and self-discovery from around the globe.
I discovered Restless Legs after attending the New York Times Travel Show (if anyone has been following this blog since its inception, they may have uncovered by now that the show was the impetus for me to get back into blogging). The moderator of one of the travel writing sessions, David Farley, began the reading/lecture series that brings together an inspiring and impressive group of travel writers once a month.
Marc and I attended the February event as it was the same day of the Travel Show, but despite best intentions I never made it back. Until last night.
This month I set an appointment in my calendar and made a promise to myself to go. When I waffled about attending alone, Marc was right there to encourage me to attend. And I’m so glad he did. This month the spotlight was on female travel writers, specifically four women (Meera Subramanian, Abbie Kozolchyk, Nancy Kline and Carol Reichert) who had their work published in the 2011 Best Women’s Travel Writing anthology. Their stories spanned the globe from France and Spain to India and a quest for football jerseys that took one woman (Abbie) around the world.
The stories were amazingly heartfelt and evocative – Nancy’s description of Paris made me long for the City of Lights and those overcast days spent strolling down the boulevards, taking in the sights and sounds of a city that is authentically itself. But more than that, it reignited my love of writing, and good writing at that. Truth be told, these women have serious skills!
At the end of the readings and before the Q&A session began, a brief 10-minute break allowed everyone to stretch their legs (no pun intended) and grab that last $3 happy hour beer before the clock struck 8 o’clock. At the top of the stairs I found Carol Reichert who had wrapped up the session with a stirring tale of flamenco lessons in Sevilla, after she and her family left suburban Massachusetts to move to Spain for 14 months. There she was, all smiles in full flamenco regalia. We had a terrific conversation about travel and writing — and in some ways her life mirrors my own (I’d like to call it a kindred spirit kind of way). Both of us work in the healthcare field (she in medical education, me in PR), have partners who are photographers and a love, no passion, for writing.
As we made our way back downstairs, her husband and I (who had met at the beginning of the evening) continued our conversation. He shared stories of their time and travels in Spain. His eyes lit up as he told me about a trip they had taken to Marrakech, from the sights and smells in the local markets to the haunting and beautiful sound of the muezzin who, perched atop of a minaret, called faithful Muslims to prayer. This is what I love about spending time with fellow travelers — the sense of camaraderie, connecting with others through a love of exploring a little sliver of the world and how it leaves its imprint on your soul. It’s exhilarating, and I find I want to hold onto that feeling for as long as I possibly can, before the reality of daily life sets in.
As the evening drew to a close, I had found a renewed sense of determination to make writing a priority and get published this year. I made my way through the crowd to pick up a copy of the 2011 anthology (inspiration!) and found my way back to my spot where Jerry and Carol were standing. As we said our goodbyes, I watched as they turned to climb the stairs when Jerry stopped and said, “Just do it.” A simple phrase but one that, Nike connotation aside, I took to heart. The main obstacle is me. If I want to write and travel the world, it’s not an improbable goal. Feeling buoyed by a sense of optimism, I slowly gathered my things, took one last swig of Sierra Nevada and made my way into the New York City night.