Thursday, October 5, 2023

The Secret to Successful Travel and Travel Writing by Alle C. Hall


Nominated for The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Book Award, Alle C. Hall’s debut literary novel, As Far As You Can Go Before You Have to Come Back is a-girl-and-her-backpack story with a #MeToo influence: Carlie is not merely traveling. A child sexual abuse survivor, as a teen she steals ten thousand dollars from her parents and runs away to Asia. There, the Lonely Planet path of hookups, heat, alcohol, and drugs takes on a terrifying reality. Landing in Tokyo in the late 1980s, Carlie falls in with an international crew of tai chi-practicing backpackers. With their help, Carlie has the chance at a journey she didn’t plan for: one to find the self-respect ripped from her as a child and the healthy sexuality she desires. Purchase a copy of the book on Amazon,, or Barnes and Noble. Make sure you also add it to your GoodReads reading list.

The Secret to Successful Travel and Travel Writing

 When I first conceived of As Far as You Can Go Before You Have to Come Back, I thought the subtitle should be, A Travel Adventure of Internal Terrain. In the novel, the main character, Carlie, practices Tai chi .Tai chi is a Chinese Daoist training. There is no separation between the body and the mind. What one experiences, the other experiences. Therefore, to me, a physical journey can only be a spiritual one.

 When I travel, I see the big sights and all, but my true pleasure comes from connecting with people. That happens when I recognize a shared humanity. To write meaningfully about travel, the surest way comes by letting the reader into what your best self has observed about thoughts of the people you meet, about their reality. It can be hard to forge any true comradery, let alone any semblance of friendship, as a white-skinned person in a country where the population is largely brown- or black-skinned and the people that are easiest to meet are those working in a service industry. It’s not that their care is fake; it’s that service industry employees have no option. That’s the job.

 However, if I travel in a way that recognizes the humanity of every person I interact with, I am far more likely to fall into a meaningful conversation or even the beginnings of friendship. When I interact as no more or less than the humans we all are, I feel the same sense of balance, purpose, and grace that happens when I do Tai chi. Having a spiritual core fed by kind people can grow to replace the nasty imprint left on a survivor by her trauma history. As much as I travel to connect with others, the spirituality of the road returns me to an emotional state of self-esteem and compassion.

 I find that the most significant obstacle to connection is language. I get that many people are fearful when they don’t speak the language of the country they are traveling in; or don’t understand the culture. Here is one of the few advantages of having survived a traumatic childhood: when I began traveling, I walked around so disassociated that it didn’t strike me as wholly different when I do not understand the language, or I put my foot in it, culturally. Guess what? Making mistakes leads to great travel writing!


About the Author

 Nominated for The National Book Award and The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Book Award, Alle C. Hall’s debut literary novel, As Far As You Can Go Before You Have to Come Back was winning prizes before its publication, including the National League of American Pen Women’s Mary Kennedy Eastham Prize. Her short stories and essays appear in journals including Dale Peck’s Evergreen ReviewTupelo QuarterlyNew World WritingLitro, Creative Nonfiction, and Another Chicago. She has written for The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and was a contributing writer at The Stranger. She is the former senior nonfiction editor at jmww journal and the former associate editor of Vestal Review. Hall lived in Asia, traveled there extensively, speaks what she calls “clunky” Japanese, and has a tai chi practice of 35 years running.

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1 comment:

LG said...

Very nicely put!