My Literary Spring Break
By Ana Marina Alcantara, SR Spring 2016 Editorial Assistant
As a last semester senior I decided to spend my last spring break with the people responsible for making my college experience a rewarding, memorable, and successful one. My three friends and I wanted to go somewhere special—a true spring break college destination. After much deliberation, fighting, and hundreds of group messages later we decided on the obvious: Miami, Florida. Miami was—to say the least— an exotic and intoxicating experience. Everything about it spelled out paradise. From the white sandy beaches, to the breathtaking sight of schools of fish swimming around your feet, and to the refreshing decorative cocktails Miami was everything Plattsburgh is not. A true escape.
Upon my return to SUNY Plattsburgh I was asked to write a travel blog for Saranac Review. This is when my trip rating went from a ten to a three. My trip had been everything but literary. I could probably have easily written a blog on mathematic applications in Miami, Florida—considering all of the tipping and budgeting I had done on this trip—but a literary blog seemed impossible. I hadn’t even brought a book to read on the plane ride over. Embarrassment washed over me. I called myself a writer… I was an English major; how could I not have anything to write about? As I sat in front of the computer screen I began to panic. Majority of my trip consisted of sipping flavored drinks out of cool bottles while enjoying conversations I couldn’t hear in dim light establishments. Occasionally, I would wake up early, roll out my hotel towel and relax by the ocean as the sun kissed every inch of my already tan skin.
I let a couple of days go by ignoring my blog topic until I was reminded of it again. At that moment I figured I could write about the Music Week—but I didn’t go to Music Week. Then, I realized I was only thinking of the “literary” in terms of books—reading books, writing books, authors, etc. I did quite a bit of writing during my week in Miami without realizing it. Picture this: It’s midafternoon, on a cloudless sunny day, and the temperature outside is a comfortable 80 degrees with low humidity. I’m sitting out by the hotel pool under an umbrella with my notebook and favorite pen. My fellow vacationers are living their lives as I observe their actions and write them into scenarios. I could certainly blog about this if it was true; but my vacation writing was so cinematic. My writing experience was much more chaotic and unconventional, but just as affective.
Looking back now I can say that from the minute I landed in Miami I began to carefully observe my surroundings and record it as much as I could. I didn’t have a notebook/notepad or a pen but I used my cellphone for the same purpose. Every time I would see, hear, smell or feel something that I haven’t experienced in Plattsburgh I would pull out my phone, click the “memo” application on my phone, jot down my observations and initial reaction. The first time this process happened was when I was in the cab on my way from the airport to the hotel. The cab had stopped at a red light and I happened to be looking out the window when I noticed two women coming out of what looked like a classy restaurant in nothing but a bikini top and bottom. No cover up, no towel, just bathing suite. It was strange to me because I was sitting in a cab with my three friends in leather boots, pants, and long sleeve shirts. Everyone on the street was dressed in the same manner. It isn’t that I didn’t expect people in Miami to not be wearing bathing or little to no clothing outside, its mostly the attitude they carried themselves in and the atmosphere of the area as a who that I found very different from Plattsburgh. From that moment on I had to record everything I found interesting.
As a writer your senses are your greatest strengths. They fill your creative arsenal with all the elements needed to create a successful story. I didn’t think I was going to Miami to better my writing skills. In fact, I specifically chose the location in order to turn off my brain and take a break. I’m grateful that my subconscious need to write surfaced even during my vacation. The blurbs I recorded during my week in Miami one day will serve as the foundation of future characters and stories. This is a really exciting realization. No matter where you are in the world or what you are doing, the literary world is present if you are a writer. This gives to meaning to the phrase #writingislife