Framing the Story

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The last three months were… full. The little bundles of experience I’ve made during this time are jostling in my skull still bright and vivid. But, memory fades, I know this too well. Eventually, I’ll be grasping at memories of memory. Better get them onto paper so years from now I can remember at least some of the details.

While I can remember the last few months with relative clarity, and revisit recently made memories, the sights, the sounds, the feelings, the friends, old and new, I cannot transfer that experience to paper without losing that visceral vibrancy that breathes life into memories. I could list the memories in a bulleted list, like a detective recording facts from a murder scene, but that would effectively kill the memories. Take all the like out of them.

No, the proper way to archive memories for later viewing is a story. I need to write a narrative.

I’m always interested in the characterization of stories, that is, how we frame them. The same set of facts could tell any number of stories depending on what is brought to the forefront, what is discarded, etc. Framing is necessary for any story.

So, if I’m left with telling a story, how do I frame it?

I could frame story in terms of geography and make it a story about where I was: Egypt, Tunisia, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, and The Netherlands.

Or, I could frame the story around actions, what was I doing? Well, I was studying Arabic, meeting friends, doing some work, a bit of wheel grinding, and lots of reading.

Location and action. These days nearly all my interactions with others are staked between these two reference points, so they seem a natural enough frame for my story. After all, you’re always somewhere, and you’re there doing something, right?

There’s one little problem with choosing one of these reference points for my story: neither of them are interesting! The stories would be boring.

One of the reasons for keeping a travelogue is to tell the story of my movement. People (maybe even you) have asked me, what have you been up to these few months? But the fact is my nomad life can be dull and boring just like the rooted person’s life. Don’t get me wrong, my individual memories are special enough, but the cohesive narrative that makes for good reading just isn’t there.

Travel is a state of mind. It has nothing to do with existence or the exotic. It is almost entirely an inner experience. — Paul Theroux