(the autobiographical travelogue of Olivia Rae James)
For my 20 percent project, I made an autobiographical travelogue that documents my travels through photos and text. Whenever I travel I take photos and write daily, even if it’s just a snapshot of a French breakfast or a few words about the way the light hit the lego-like buildings on a cliff in Greece.
Framing it in the context of autobiography, the three major components I dealt with were authenticity, memory, and experience.
My goal was to make something personal enough for anyone relate to, including universal themes and feelings, but without divulging too much personal detail or logistics. A major priority for me in making this book was maintaining authenticity without making it a tell-all memoir.
Sometimes the specifics of travelogues bore me. Assuming other people feel the same way, and that no one cares to know what I did 24 hours a day in each place I’ve ever visited, I tried to pick out a few specific memories – tiny, focused, details from each place however random or insignificant they may seem. I wanted to evoke the feelings I experienced in each particular time and place.
For example, my entry on Paris:
“When I saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time, I wanted to cry — not because I was sad, but because ‘the world is so beautiful and life is so short.’ Usually things that are built up your entire life are inevitable disappointing, but the Eiffel Tower was bigger and more beautiful than I ever imagined.”
Of course there are pages and pages I could have written on what we saw, did, ate, etc. But anyone can travel to Paris and do the exact same things. What sticks out in my mind about Paris is the way I felt walking out of the metro station and seeing the Eiffel tower.
Executing memories and experiences also proved to be a challenge. I went through my personal writing archives and tried to remember my experiences and feelings accurately (especially since I have a tendency to remember everything with rose-colored goggles) while trying to keep the narrative tone consistent. Maintaining a consistent perspective was difficult since I visited these places at many different points and phases throughout my life.
At the end of the book, I did a little section on home – if nothing else, traveling has showed me the importance of having one place where you feel truly at home.
My initial plan in creating this book was to use the Blurb Booksmart Software, which you have to download to your hard drive. After I had finished England and Scotland, I realized I would never be able to get through the entire book that way. The software is so large and my computer is so old that it literally took ten minutes to upload each individual photo into the book, and for a book well over 100 pages, it was driving me insane. Plus, I felt panicky throughout the entire process because it was messing up my computer so much I felt like my hard drive was going to crash and I’d lose my project all together.
Upon further investigation of the Booksmart website, I discovered an option to create the entire book online (Blurb Bookify), bypassing the software all together. I completely abandoned my first book and started over. Not only was the program infinitely easier to work with, it also gave options of embedding the book to Facebook, twitter, and blogs — the ideal situation for this project. Once I learned the software, designed my minimalist layout, and started uploading the photos, the process went really fast. It was one of those things where I would sit down to work on it, and not realize that six hours had gone by and I had forgotten to eat (a rarity for me).
I didn’t stick to the initial timeline I had planned. Instead of doing it in stages categorized by country, I did the book in the following stages: layout, photos, text. I finished the layout for the entire book first, then filled in the photos for the entire book, then wrote all of the text last. The text was definitely the most difficult aspect of compiling the book. Trying to make all of the writing flow cohesively even though I visited these places at many different points in my life was definitely a challenge. I did my best to keep the writing simple, focusing on the small, specific, details that initially come to mind when I think of a certain place.
It took me a while to commit to being finished and actually order the book, but I’m so excited to have the hard copy in my hands. Making this kind of book is something I’ve always wanted to do – it’s the ideal record to have of my travels. In July, I’m embarking on a new travel adventure and plan on making another book with Booksmart when I return (if I ever do).