As with any project, input is key. I invited an intimate crowd--just enough to fill my little living room--of smart, creative friends over for chili and cornbread to brainstorm, if given eight weeks to explore the country and photograph people reading books, where they would go.
The stickies yielded everything from a wacky Key West home roamed by the descendants of Hemingway's six-toed cats to a practical visit to the Greyhound headquarters.
But it wasn't just stickies that the party yielded, there were also questions. The big one--why?
I'm not quite sure what the impetus was, if it was the tug of armchair traveler envy I felt while reading Melinda Henneberger's If They Only Listened to Us: What Women Voters Want Poiticians to Hear, in which the author traveled around the United States interviewing voters, or if it was my friend Sasha Cagen's return from Boulder's World Affairs Counsel and declaring, "we live in a bubble," if it was my two-year anniversary of working at a bank or if it was simply unquelled wanderlust, but the need surfaced: I needed to leave the comfortable surroundings of San Francisco, a town I've loved and lived in over the past five years.
When I was twenty-three and I got this feeling, I felt it necessary to test myself physically and traverse the Pyrenees, lose myself in the woods, break down crying on tree stumps and carry a pack much too heavy for my hundred-pound frame. Now, at thirty, I feel a need to do this.
I've never been to the Grand Canyon. Never been to Graceland. I'm not well-read, and I crave to be well-read. I'm a slow reader, and sometimes it feels like I'll never catch up. I need to acknowledge that pain and agony and solitariness of writing is worthwhile. I like to talk to strangers. I like adventures. And this is the right adventure for now.
When I return, I wonder:
Will the hipsters on Valencia Street feel more or less familiar?
Will my friends seem more or less familiar?
How will I want to change my life?
What I will have gotten out of it?
What books will I need to read?
What will I want to write about?
Thank you for reading.