Friday, August 12, 2011

Departure From Myself (+ PHOTOS!!)

Taken from our cliff side table at lunch, Ravello, Italy (Amalfi Coast)
The beauty of vacation lies in its pure departure from routine, everyday life. It's a reversal in quotidian tides; dessert before dinner. Heck, it's dessert instead of dinner. At least, that's how I'd describe my recent vacation to Italy and Malta. And though it was no surprise that I adjusted with yogic flexibility to the welcomed disruption in my personal life, I didn't anticipate how vacation would affect my writing life.

The Axioma, our home for two weeks.

With regard to my personal life, I am firmly rooted in America's middle class. So to sail the Mediterranean Sea by private yacht from Naples was a two-week out-of-body experience. We visited Capri and Italy's Amalfi Coast. We enjoyed the Eolian Islands before cruising between Calabria and Sicily through the strait of Messina and on to Malta.

The boat's crew of twelve outnumbered us. They were gracious and enthusiastic, and when they'd satisfied any needs we had, they catered to whims we hadn't yet thought of. With no household chores to perform or meals to prepare, I was free to bask in the sun and swim in the sea. To play with the kids and dance with my husband. To sip champagne with my sister, giggle like children, and whisper our secrets. We snorkeled, jet skied, kayaked, water skied and wake boarded. We went sightseeing and even climbed to a volcano's crater. And I wrote.

The kids knew where to find me each morning, on the top
deck, writing in my journal.
Just as my regular-life duties dissolved during vacation, so did my normal writing style. I am by nature a tightly wound writing instrument. Though my creativity flows freely, my process is laboriously obsessive. As images translate to words, their essence is usually sucked, sentence by sentence, back up off the paper to be kneaded and massaged in my mind, until some semblance of "first draft perfection" is regurgitated before I can go on to the next line. (I'm working on changing my habits, though it may require a few more vacations.)

In Italy, I wrote every day in my journal. The first entry was penned on the plane as we took off from Atlanta. Per usual, my handwriting was neat. I wrote in complete sentences and searched for creative modifiers to enhance my thoughts. Very quickly though, my style began to mutate. Within days, I'd deserted all my rules. I wrote with abandon, filling page after page with writing that looks and sounds nothing like my usual work.

My penmanship was loopy and messy. I wrote sentence fragments of misspelled words, sometimes in straight lines, but more often in clumps or sideways, following along the binding or page edges. I doodled. I expressed myself from the soul.

It was as exhilarating as flying full-throttle on a jet ski across the turquoise surface of the Mediterranean.

I'd forgotten how wonderful it is to keep a journal, and I intend to continue now that I've returned to regular life. Journaling frees your mind, helps you remember events, and connects you to your emotions. The absence of rules awakens your creativity and allows you to explore nonlinear thought patterns and expressions. Stories whisper from every page.

Every time I open my journal will be a little creative vacation from reality.


Who wouldn't be inspired to write in this location? (Capri, Italy)

My sister Natalie and I, after climbing 2000 steps from sea level to the top of the cliffs near Positano.  We actually swam back to the boat, anchored 900 ft offshore, after walking back down!

From the left, Sidney on the back of Christian's jet ski, and Cody and I in kayaks.

Me, Natalie and Christian during our 2000 step climb, enjoying the view from the cliffs.

(Remember the photo at the top of this post?) Sweet Sidney and I, taken during lunch.

Christian and I outside a spa on the island of Ischia, right after his deep-tissue massage and my hour-and-a-half long Chocolate Massage.  Yes, I was THAT spoiled on this trip!

Christian and I, climbing Vico Volcano. It's most recent eruption was 100 years ago...and we climbed right up to the crater.  Breathtaking!

Me, rocking the wake board!

Shot of Vico Volcano, taken from the deck of our boat.  (Sorry for the out-of-orderness of these photos, btw.  I got tired of battling Blogger.)

Me and my kids, ashore for dinner in Siracusa, Sicily.

From left, daughter Sidney, nephew Luchino, sister Natalie, me, and son Cody. When we snorkled at dive sites in open sea, we wore bright shirts so the crew could keep a regular "head count" from the tender.

I have so many photos of our time in Italy and Malta.  I'll definitely share more, soon!

Thanks for visiting today!!

[Text from this post was originally written for and published in the August 10, 2011 Drama Newsletter at  I am the original author :)) ]



Linda G. said...

Wow! Great pics -- it's like you vacationed inside a post card.

And a chocolate massage? Geez. I'm not sure if that's the greatest concept ever, or a waste of good chocolate. ;)

storyqueen said...

What a wonderful vacation! There is something so relaxing yet vibrant about your photos.

And is your family gorgeous or what?


Lola Sharp said...

Dude, Nic, srsly, you had The Trip of a Lifetime! Dreamy!!!

Also, envious of your arms/shoulders. Your workouts have paid off, girlfriend. :) You're gorgeous.


~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

Linda~ LOL, my sister and I wondered if we'd want to eat our massage products. My eyes were closed as the "chocolate" was worked in, and I seriously wondered if I was covered in dark brown goo. When I opened my eyes, I realized it was more ecru in color. Maybe based in cocoa butter?? Definitely nothing I'd eat, though -- and I do not turn down chocolate! LOL

Shelley ~ Thank you so much!!

Lola ~ You're the sweetest! And yes, it was beyond fantastic. So many memories!

Sophia Richardson said...

I second storyqueen; you are one good looking family! Loved hearing about your journal exploration, and the trip photos look amazing. I hope you're able to settle back into the 'real world' without too much of a bumpy adjustment!

Summer Frey said...

So glad it was everything you were hoping! I love the photos! Hope to see you soon! :)

Rachel Searles said...

Drool! What an amazing vacation! Thanks for sharing your photos :)

Jessica Bell said...

Wow! Jealous! So glad you had a great time!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I could live like that! I'd fry in the sun, but it would be worth it.

Bossy Betty said...

Isn't it wonderful how just a change of scenery and routine awaken all the senses and make us aware of new things? Loved hearing about your vacation!

Laura Marcella said...

Wow, what a spectacular vacation! Those pictures are gorgeous. Wish I could fly to that place on the cliff for lunch right now!!

I'm a big fan of journaling, too. For while in high school and college I was using fancy schmancy journals; my Nana would give me these beautiful leather journals with gilded page lines and edges. Though I liked them a lot, I felt so pressured to have profound, beautiful thoughts and descriptions and it hindered my writing. So once I finally filled up all those journals, I switched to mini notebooks. I choose ones with fun covers, and I can write with abandon. No pressure, just writing.

Michael Offutt said...

Rooted firmly in the middle class? Yeah right. That's jealousy talking. My favorite line here is "They were gracious and enthusiastic, and when they'd satisfied any needs we had, they catered to whims we hadn't yet thought of."

It's nice to see how the other half lives /sigh

Matthew MacNish said...

Oh. My. God. Amazing.

julie fedderson said...

I have no idea what a chocolate massage is, but I want two. What an incredible trip--I can't get over how blue the water is! I'm a journaler, too, and I read stuff later and wonder who the hell wrote it because it's so stream of conscious.

Myne Whitman said...

These pictures are amazing, you guys had a great time obviously.

Funny I was discussing with some friends recently about the joys of going on a cruise. This has convinced me, if I had any doubts left, :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Great pictures! It looks like a really beautiful place. :)

Julie said...

So jealous. These are gorgeous!

Melanie Kolb said...

I love these pictures! The Mediterranean is calling me too
: ) your writing is a breath of fresh air... Can't wait to talk live!

James Garcia Jr said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing. It looks like it was a wonderful time in a beautiful place.


DL Hammons said...

WOW. Although those pictures capture the luxuries you experienced so amazingly, your words communicated what only a deep sigh could come close to describing. I really enjoyed our visit! The photo's don't disappoint!! :)

Adriana Noir said...

It is all so breathtakingly beautiful! I just love the ocean..any form of water, really. What wonderful memories you and your family must have of this time together! Thank you so much for sharing. I'm still in awe of the whole experience! Chocolate!

Mara Mc Bain said...

What a spectacular looking vaca! I loved the pictures you shared. It really looks like you and your beautiful family made the most of your time together and had a grand adventure that you will all remember for the rest of your life. Awesome!

Kari Marie said...

OMG. What an amazing trip. Thank you for sharing!

Amish Stories said...

Id like to invite you folks to come to Amish Stories for a recipe for "Famous Pennsylvania Dutch Sticky Cinnamon Buns" along with a book signing schedule for Amish fiction writer Wanda Brunstetter for Pennsylvania and Ohio as well as a contest to meet her. I hope everyone so far is having a great weekend. Thanks everyone. Richard from Amish Stories.

Theresa Milstein said...

Wow, what a trip. You're glowing in those pictures! Thanks for sharing them.

I haven't written in a journal in ages.

Carolyn V said...

Wow, it's so beautiful! What a wonderful experience. =)

Pat Tillett said...

Wow, wow and double wow!
What a great trip! Your pics served as a very good photo journal also. What beautiful places you visited!
VERY nice! I want to go there...