I always consider it a great privilege when I’m called upon to ghostwrite a travel memoir. These books are just like any other memoir in that I simply interview the clients, get all their stories on tape, and ask a lot of questions so that I can figure out not only what the trip was about, on a superficial level, but what it was about on a deeper level.
In your Eat, Pray, Love style travel memoir, there are always a lot of adventurous tales to be told, but the real story, of course, is how did the person change because of taking this trip? How did the protagonist solve her existential dilemma or “find herself?” Just like with any other memoir, we’re dealing with the action-based superficial story at that same time as the inner-based story of growth. But this isn’t the only kind of travel memoir.
Locked Up Abroad!
I once wrote a book for an American man who ended up getting thrown in prison in a third-world country. After he got out on bail, after a great deal of investigation, he discovered that the authorities were probably not ever going to give him is passport back. They’d keep him in a state of legal limbo, indefinitely.
He didn’t know why this was happening or what the police (or government) thought they were achieving by treating him this way, but, of course, his mind raced with possibilities, including some pretty paranoid ones.
Then again, considering his situation, paranoia might have been the safest course of action. His memoir tells the story of how he came to be thrown in jail in the first place and how he eventually trekked across the country in order to escape across a little-guarded border. Pretty good stuff!
In this particular case, the traveling carried a sense of urgency. It was also a spiritual experience in which he found himself. The sense of urgency caused by his need to escape certainly amped up the story quite a bit, though.
Stories With or Without “Urgency”
Not every traveler has to escape from evil authorities or run for his life in the course of his memoirs, but every travel memoir has the chance to be a goal-driven story, even if it felt like just wandering at the time.
Even with the example above, a lot of of the urgency of the story came from the client’s own paranoia about what was going on. He did get thrown in prison, let out, and had his passport taken away, but another client might have described all of this as just a big misunderstanding and a beaurocratic nightmare. This particular client, though, actually suspected people were trying to get him killed, and if he didn’t escape the country, his life would be in danger.
Your Story is an Interpretation of Events
So, the excitement of the story came from his interpretation of events. Your own memoir, no matter what events take place, can have the quality of a pleasant ramble or a swashbuckling adventure, depending upon how you see your adventure. You can also choose to see it differently from the way you originally did, if you wish. A memoir should be true, in terms of the events of your life, but how you interpret those events is a very personal matter, and your perspective is always a valid part of the story.