I realized that Ernest Hemingway and I have a lot in common.
Not only did Hemingway make his living as writer, something I strive one day to do, but he also traveled the world and shared his global experiences with readers throughout the course of his brilliant career. As he once said, “Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up.”
During the course of his life, Hemingway lived all over the world. Born in Illinois in 1899, he was only 18 when World War I erupted and he was deployed to Italy to work as an ambulance driver. It was this experience, along with other events in his life, which inspired his novel A Farewell to Arms. After his military service, he worked as a journalist for various newspapers and spent time living in Toronto, Paris, Key West, and Cuba. His time in Cuba eventually inspired perhaps his most famous work, As the Bell Tolls.
With his writing, Hemingway became a great success. Although his stories often took place beyond the American frontier, the characters, plots, and themes resonated across global borders. The author once remarked that, “There are events which are so great that if a writer has participated in them his obligation is to write truly rather than assume the presumption of altering them with invention.” It is this obligation that has been my motivator for recording and sharing my personal study abroad adventures.
Through my storytelling, I have done my best to channel one of America’s greatest writers. I have shared my stories of eating foreign proteins, falling in love with the city of Paris, attempting to create an Italian meal, watching Italian women protest the government, and cringing at the sound of an American asking for a coffee to-go. Although these stories do not compare to Hemingway’s stories of the Italian war front, the battles of the Spanish Civil War, or safaris in Africa, both he and I valued the power of word to expose others to foreign cultures, stereotypes, and history.
In writing my blog for the past four months, I have learned a great deal about my writing and myself. There were many days when I longed for the opportunity to sit down with my computer and recount a conversation or an event from the day. This blog became my outpost for expression, my medium through which I could share new lessons learned or to communicate new ideas. Over the course of the semester I began keeping a notebook with me so that I could instantly record something that struck me. Today I have transferred that the notebook to my new bag and I will continue to carry it with me as I search for new inspiration for my blog.
And though there were some days I had much to write, there were others when I spent equal time simply staring at the computer screen and deleting typed sentences. “There is no rule on how to write,” said Hemingway. “Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.” Over the course of the semester, I probably had more moments of drilling rock than writing perfection, but such moments were a valuable learning opportunity. There were many experiences and stories to tell that sometimes I just did not know how to express in words. There were other times when I simply had so much on my mind that I did not know how to make sense out of a certain subject. Even so, eventually I found bouts of inspiration to strike down my writer’s block and record some of the most spontaneous and ambitious stories.
At the beginning of this blog, I made it one of my goals to challenge foreign stereotypes and to immerse myself in foreign cultures. Reflecting back, I am happy to say that I think I was successful. By traveling to Paris, I learned that the French reputation for rudeness and arrogance is an exaggeration; for the English, though their food might be less than satisfying, they are friendly and enthusiastic; and, of course, the Italians do in fact love to talk with their hands and sip cappuccinos and glasses of wine, but their spirits are also warm, inviting, and kindred. From my travels, I have realized that Americans have promoted many false stereotypes of foreigners as a means of elevating their own national pride. The fact is, however, that every nation and its people are unique and diverse in their own way. Though there might be some French who bark at the English accent and there may be some Italians who get by on the GTL, “gym, tan, laundry,” lifestyle, accepting such stereotypes endorses misleading ideas about other cultures and nationalities. By following in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, I hope I have challenged stereotypical assumptions and encouraged dialogue about national, global, and cultural issues. As the author perfectly put it, “My aim is to put down on paper,” or in type, “what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.” Perhaps in the future my travel experiences will inspire the publication of my own novellas, so that my name might join Hemingway among the list of great American novelists.