Adventure storytelling blues
I’ve spent so much of my time over the last nine months reminiscing and sharing stories of my time walking the TCT, not just in the form of presentations but also with friends. As with any story that’s fresh in your mind, the first few times you share it you’re clearly retelling the story as it happened (or at least you think you are). Your role in the story is evident, it really did happen to you. You might occasionally exaggerate something, but more or less, the story is told as it occurred and as the storyteller it feels as if you’re reliving your experience. For me that’s where my enthusiasm comes from.
I’m not a particularly natural storyteller as I’ve always been someone who prefers to listen to stories and my inclination is not to speak out in a group and share my own. The sharing part is something I’ve only started to work at (and have a long way to go). I found the act of telling the story of my TCT thru-hike in front of a crowd actually quite enjoyable. Although I was certainly nervous the first few times, the nervousness evolved into excited anticipation as I found my confidence upon realising that because these were first-hand experiences there was nothing to memorise and risk forgetting in front of a crowd. I simply had to choose which stories to tell and offer my personal reflections on those situations. There is of course something to be said for remembering a good way to tell a story, but that’s something else.
Part of why I’ve got better at public speaking this year (at least I think I have - I’ve certainly still got a long way to go) was because of my desire to relive those experiences and communicate them in such a way so that the audience can get a glimpse of the feeling of that same experience. Part of the ability to do that properly is the memory being fresh in my mind.
I locked down for about 6 weeks around New Years to work on my January exams and so wasn’t doing a whole lot of talking at all, let alone sharing stories of the TCT. Those six weeks put some distance between me and that expedition - something I didn’t realise I needed to be able to wholeheartedly move forward onto the next projects. That distance made the storytelling difficult for me though. When I returned to doing talks, I found recalling the intricacies of the experiences more challenging – that’s understandable as your memories fade over time.
More significantly, the time-off introduced a degree of separation from the stories, they no longer felt like they were something I had lived through but were instead just stories I was telling. They still make me smile when I share them but the proximity to the experience and therefore the intimacy with it, is lost. The enthusiasm lessens and is harder to summon, and so the talk becomes less entertaining and impactful. Therein lies a vicious circle within the vicious circle of post-expedition blues.
I’ve been back in Armenia for almost a month now. Just being here has reinvigorated my fondness for the memories of last summer by reminding me of certain intricacies whilst maintaining the distance that time has put between myself and those experiences allowing me to move on.
I think that’s all just a long-winded way of saying that although it’s fun to remind yourself of fond memories from past adventures, going down the rabbit hole of attempting to relive those experiences in some way that lacks the authenticity and characteristics of the original experience (such as by storytelling) ultimately provides little return. That’s not a knock against the act of storytelling through public talks but instead, perhaps it's a realisation that to continue to progress, my purpose of sharing the stories will have to shift.