Why I Write

Barbara Weibel at the Jinshanling portion of the Great Wall of China, where she was permitted to camp overnight atop the wall

In 2023 I listed this blog for sale. I was done with it. I was tired of the constant struggle to stay on Google’s good side in order to be listed high in the search rankings. I was irritated by blogs that focused on the “top ten things to see or do” stories, when many hadn’t even visited the destinations about which they wrote. Yet their content always showed up on page one of Google searches. I was immovable about my refusal to write at a sixth-grade level, as suggested by the search engines. English literary critic and writer Cyril Connolly nailed it when he said, “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

Several people were interested in buying Hole in the Donut, but I was persnickety about the kind of person I wanted to turn it over to. Eventually, I found a great candidate. We were in the contract stage of the sale when my potential buyer had a family crisis and chose not to proceed.

For more than a year the blog sat, neglected and unattended. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with it at that point. I was and am quite content with my life in Thailand and no longer have the insatiable desire to travel that drove me for so many years.

More than 30 years after the Choeung Ek Killing Fields were abandoned, shreds of victims clothing still rise to the surface every day
More than 30 years after the Choeung Ek Killing Fields were abandoned, shreds of victims clothing still rise to the surface every day

My measure for whether or not I should do something has always been quite simple. If I keep hitting brick walls, I am not meant to do the thing I am pursuing. I can exert my will and make it happen, but if I do, I am almost always sorry later on. On the other hand, if everything falls into place, it is something I am supposed to do. In this case the Universe seemed to be telling me that I’m simply not done writing.

I know that this is true. Even during the fallow year when I wrote nothing on the blog, I continued to pour my thoughts out in my daily journal. I write because I can’t not write. I have no choice. If I don’t get the words out of my head, it will explode. (Check out the following examples of stories that I had to write or my head would have exploded: the Killing Fields in Cambodia and the Mayan Ruins in Palenque, Mexico).

Templo de las Inscripciones at The Mayan Ruins in Palenque, Mexico
Templo de las Inscriptions a funerary site at the Mayan Ruins in Palenque, Mexico

Like so many other authors who came before me, my travels and the stories that have sprung from them represent my spiritual and philosophical journey. As a writer, I am not alone in this regard. Not only have authors from Twain to Melville to Orwell told great stories, for more than a century their words have transported readers to other dimensions, where they experience unfamiliar cultures, customs, and beliefs.

Good travel writing gets a bad rap. We entertain. We educate. We make people think. We transport readers to unknown lands and force them to examine casually-arrived upon conclusions and biases. Above all else, I am a storyteller. And my story is not yet finished.

Perhaps I needed this hiatus in order to understand that I am not finished with the blog. Will I still travel? Of course, and I hope I can do so for many years to come. But my travels (by necessity in some cases – I can no longer hike strenuous mountain trails) are increasingly focused on cultural immersion and spiritual connection. So while I may not write as often as before, it looks like you will continue to occasionally hear from me.