Alison's Writing Portfolio

My Best of Perceptive Travel

Kripalu

I’ve been so proud to be a part of the Perceptive Travel team since my first post on September 8th, 2009.

The blog has been much honored — both before I came aboard, and since, most recently with a Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers. I wrote a weekly piece — mostly essays, sometimes other things — but in the past year, as things began to shift for me, I began to post more irregularly. And so, in a couple of weeks, with the publication of my 208th essay, I’ve decided to step down.

It’s part of a general cleaning of my career house. I haven’t spoken much about this publicly, but in the past few months, I’ve slowly and deliberately shed my regular writing contracts, which have taken up most of my writing time over the past seven or so years. I call it putting the “free” back in “freelance.” Ha ha.

It’s a change I needed to make, but damn. Looking back at my PT work over these past five and a half years makes me realize how much I’ll miss it.

I wrote about some of the more unusual experiences I’ve had while traveling: calling the cows in Sweden, swimming with sharks in Bora Bora, kissing a penguin in Dubai, shooting a rifle in Montana.

I got to indulge my penchant for quirky history — two of the most popular pieces I wrote along those lines were on The Negro Motorists Green Book, a guidebook for African Americans traveling in the segregated south, and a piece about Evangeline’s empty grave. And my love of literature:this piece on Cannery Row. And my appreciation for art, public art installations of pink critters in Calgary, the photographs of Inge Morath. And my enthusiasm for science fiction, which justified several pieces on The Very Large Array in New Mexico. And for volcanoes, which justified not one, but two trips to Mt. St. Helens.

PT provided a unique opportunity to link external travel with internal travel — exploration and introspection. I had no shortage of anxiety to plumb — about my appearance, The European Look continues to hold a spot on the site’s top list; about flying, about swinging bridges. But I didn’t find only bad news when I looked inward: I’m also fond of the pieces I wrote about imagination and travel.

It was an opportunity to dig into the things I was curious about when I was traveling — those blue evil eye beads in Istanbul, a hotel that had once been a brothel, virginity soap in Dubai, Newport’s mansions, Chinglish. And shoes! I got to write about shoes.

New York City was my home for all but eleven months of my tenure on the site, and I wrote about my hometown more than I ever have before. I wrote about being a Native New Yorker, about the city in the summer, a much hated walk in Times Square, and alligators in the sewers. The eleven month hiatus I took from the city were spent in the most rural county between New York and Boston, and I chronicled those adventures on the site too.

Eat, Pray, Love. These are the three words I heard most often when people heard that I was getting divorced, and that I was a travel writer. (It’s a flattering comparison, I think.) I did write a little about my then-husband and our travels before the marriage’s unexpected demise — just over a year it came apart, I wrote a piece about a camping trip that I’d taken with my ex-husband when he was my college boyfriend. I thought it was funny at the time, but it now strikes me as quite sad.

My divorce was dramatic, sudden and, thanks to the ex-husband, salacious. But some good writing (and, I’ll admit, some less-good writing) has come of it. On PT, the pieces that I’m proudest of includes the first piece I ever wrote on the subject, which is in part about the inspiration I found in The World Trade Center, and a piece I wrote about revisiting Puerto Rico.

As people like to say at the end of posts like these, what a ride. Thanks to Tim, and to Sheila, Liz, Brian and Kerry for a terrific five and a half years. I’m looking forward to seeing where you all take PT next.

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