Last October, I had the privilege to read and review The Yellow Envelope, by Kim Dinan. She hooked me with this phrase:
It was a truth that the most essential part of me had always known. I needed to see the world. I needed to write. I didn't have to know why. Wanting it was enough.
Does this ring any bells? Sound like anyone you might, just might, know?
Oh, and to really ratchet up the creepy factor, she too has a husband named Brian. Look, I can't make this stuff up.
So when I was offered the opportunity to do a Q&A with Kim for the blog, well...you can imagine that I jumped all OVER that. I was so eager to hear her answers, and I'm over-the-moon excited to share them with you all now.
Enjoy, and don't forget to pick up your copy of The Yellow Envelope!
olive + yew // How did it feel to put your story into words? Did it change your perception of anything that happened?
Kim Dinan // I think that putting my story into words gave me an opportunity to reflect on the trip in a way that I might not have done otherwise. As you learn in the book, I go directly from traveling to another big (albeit very different) adventure in life—and writing the book gave me the chance to really comb through the memories my husband and I made on the road. Like many things in life, having some distance from the stories I told did change my perception of many of the experiences I had on the trip. That distance helped me see how much I learned and gave me the space to see that the hard times had been worth it.
o+y // What was your biggest fear about telling your story?
KD // I had two big fears. The book is a travel memoir, of course, and I write extensively about traveling, the yellow envelope gift that we received, generosity and the kindness of strangers. But I also write extensively about the problems and questions I had surrounding my marriage. It was really scared to write that part of the book because I knew my mother-in-law was going to read it! Luckily I’m pretty sure she doesn’t hate me. If she does she hides it well.
The second fear I had was that I didn’t want to come off like I some kind of “western savior” complex—like I thought I’d go out there and “fix” the world by giving money away. I wanted it to be obvious that, first of all, I don’t think most places need fixing and, second of all, how much respect and love I have for the people we met and the places we went. There is no right way to live in this world. I feel lucky that I got to experience how so many other people live.
o+y // What's your advice for someone wanting to travel like you and your husband did?
KD // My first piece of advice is “go for it.” It took my husband and I years to save for our trip. It didn’t happen overnight. So, if you want to do the same thing, set the goal and then do something each and every day that takes you in the direction of that goal- even if that means just setting an extra $5 aside.
My second piece of advice is to approach the experience with an open heart. I can guarantee that things won’t go as you’ve planned them. Traveling is hard work. It’s also beautiful and eye opening and wondrous and life changing—but it’s hard. When things get tough just know that they won’t stay that way.
o+y // How has your trip, and the memory of it, continued to shape your marriage?
KD // Good question! That’s so hard to say because the trip really changed everything about my marriage and those changes continue until this day. But, you know, we experienced and saw so much while we were traveling and those memories are our memories alone. No one else besides my husband knows what it was like to land in Ecuador and find ourselves suddenly homeless in a brand new place where we couldn’t speak the language—and somehow figure out how to get around and, eventually, thrive. No one else knows the people we met or the food we ate or the blunders we made. So, we have this whole world that we both carry inside that no one else really understands. It’s special to share those memories with someone else.
o+y // What's the one thing you hope readers take away from your book?
KD // I hope that the book will inspire readers to be generous and open-hearted with others and I hope it will inspire them to use their own yellow envelope to do a kind deed for someone else (there’s a yellow envelope in the back of every paperback copy of the book). I also hope that it inspires readers to be brave and stop putting off the things they really long to do. And of course I hope it inspires readers to travel. I think that now it’s more important than ever to get out there and experience the world firsthand.
o+y // What's your advice for anyone wanting to write a book about their own travel experiences? (okay, this question is a little self-serving...)
KD // Find your unique hook. What makes your trip special? What did you learn? What unique perspective can your bring to your story? Ask yourself those questions and then build your book around that. Also, keep a journal or a blog (or both). Take lots of photos. Write down now only what you did but who you did it with. What did the streets smell like? What did it feel like to enter a labyrinth of market stalls or walk into a street buzzing with 50,000 motorbikes? Capture those details while you’re living them, you’ll find them indispensable when you sit down to write later.
o+y // Of the places you visited, which was your favorite and why?
KD // I loved most of the places I visited but my favorite place has to be India. I loved the people, the food, the smells, the trains—I loved all of it. I think I loved it because it was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I couldn’t make sense of anything. And because I couldn’t make sense of anything I knew I had two choices—I could try to hold on to some kind of control and hate every second of my experiences or I could let go. I chose the latter and the most magical things happened. India is the country that taught me that if I stopped trying to control everything the world wouldn’t crumble around me. In fact, the opposite might just happen.
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