Josna Rege

Reflections on Traveling Light

In Notes on May 4, 2014 at 5:20 pm


My heart sank when I remembered that the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge was coming around again. Not because I dreaded it: on the contrary, I had loved every minute of it the first time around; but because this Spring I was on sabbatical and would be on a research trip out of the country for the entire month of April. There would be work to do, continual movement, and uncertain availability of wifi. But simultaneously, my heart fluttered and rose up: what a lark it had been last year, dashing off new posts between drafts of students’ term papers and dreaming them up during tedious end-of-year meetings. I would do it!

For better or worse, I did. Choosing “Traveling Light” as a theme to match both my movement and my subject matter, I promised myself that I would neither let blogging interfere with my work nor with my interactions with real people. I’d rather not reveal whether or not I kept that promise, but suffice it to say that I completed the Challenge, if a few late posts and one hasty space-filler at the end of an exhausting day can be overlooked.

The month, my travels, and the Challenge came to an end all at once, casting me ashore safe, but strangely bereft. This past week, no longer traveling light but alternately drifting and drowning in a state of sleep-deprivation and a stack of unpaid bills, I have tried to reflect on it all, but I don’t have enough distance on it yet. Here’s what I have, such as it is:

First, no matter how often I told myself that I could and would simply give it up if it interfered with my work or my interactions with family and friends, it took on an imperative of its own. Many was the night I found myself staying up writing into the wee hours so as to be able to post the day’s story while keeping my promise to myself to focus my days on the task at hand. My family and friends were caught up in it too. Realizing that if they couldn’t beat it, they needed to join it, they came to me with suggestions for topics that could dispatch the thing as speedily as possible. My cousin Jacky, for example, came up with “Quiet” for Day Q, so that I would be able to dispense with words and simply post peaceful pictures. If she hoped that I would take the hint and simply quit blogging, she was too polite to say so.

Second, I found Tell Me Another and the blogs of other participants with similar themes and shared life experiences gravitating toward each other: a storey of stories, written by an expatriate whose daily posts expatiated on the different places he had visited or lived in; galeriaredelius, the blog of a jewelry-maker who circumnavigated the world through the Internet, visiting a different online art exhibit each day; the cross- and trans-cultural reflections of people of Indian and/or British origin in blogs like Drifting Traveller; in calmgrove, the shared childhood love of books, read in places far from the “home” of the writer; Smidgens, Snippets, and Bits, a loving, painfully honest blog by the full-time caregiver of an husband with a chronic disease; aliceinbloggingland, who chose Memory and memories as her theme; and, to my delight, saltyspring, a wide-ranging blog I responded to without realizing that the author was none other than my sister!

Third, the Challenge gave me the joy of random discovery of excellent, innovative writers I might never have encountered if not here. As a young mother, the author of abundance in the boondocks is in a different stage of life from mine, but one that I read and remembered with a pang of recognition. As a flamboyantly imaginative persona whose writing is not afraid of walking on the wild side, the author-narrator of The Essence of a Thing set off sparks in my dull, academic brain.

Fourth, at a time when I felt that my blog had reached a plateau, A-to-Z brought me new readers and followers. Tell Me Another had just under 200 followers when I first announced my intent to take up the Challenge, and now, barely a month later, it has 250 followers. The daily visits spiked, a welcome development; though they started to drop again even before the month was out (perhaps others were getting as overwhelmed as I was) and I will have to see whether there will be any long-term effects on the blog’s traffic. Still, I will be grateful if I emerge from this experience with a reciprocal relationship with even one new blog. Last year, that blog was Finding Eliza, still one of my very favorites.

Finally, it was the hard traveling of the Challenge’s co-hosts and helpers that allowed me to travel light. Thanks to Damyanti Biswas at Amlokiblogs (also doing the A-to-Z Challenge on Daily Writes), who first suggested it to me back in 2012, to Arlee Bird, who dreamed it up in the first place, and to all the others who worked eight days a week to make this global initiative, 2000 bloggers strong, run like clockwork all month long.

Here’s an annotated list of my A-to-Z posts:

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

Travelling Light: A-to-Z April Challenge Theme
in which I introduce my theme

Air Travel The start of a month-long journey and also the A-to-Z April challenge

Baggage About excess baggage, both literal and figurative (Written in transit)

Culture After 24 short hours in a new country, some observations about the culture as I see it as well as on Culture in general.

Deutschland (or Germany?) On stamp collecting and nationalism, by no means just the German version.

In the Eurozone Decentering Europe (is it really a continent?) and reflections on the EU

Food, Bremen-style lavishly illustrated post on the German—or at least the Bremer—diet, as I have been experiencing it

(On not knowing) German The embarrassment and unevenness of this for an English-speaker, when so many Germans speak English so well

Holidays, religious and otherwise, and the cycle of life and death

Interior Design The joys of beautiful, functional, and human-friendly design

(Leaving on a) Jet Plane On this song, others like it, and the two different senses of “jet”

Kuchen a German institution: no explanation needed

London without Lily contemplating returning to a London without this dear person in it and realizing the magnitude of her influence on me

Monuments The problem with monuments and why I prefer markets

Nostalgia When is it harmless and when toxic?

Oh, to be in England For the English colonials, “Home” was always England; the beloved (and clichéd) original and the hilarious send-up

Pardon the Liberty (but I plead pure exhaustion) Unable to write a new post, I beg pardon and list previous ‘P’ stories

Quiet The rush and tear of travel is graced with moments of peace

Railways, Real and Imagined Chasing trains, in reality, and in my mind’s eye

Swagmen While I hit the road by choice, I have a home to return to; these people, past and present, do not.

Tea While I’ve been known to be a bit of a tea snob, in the end it’s all about the company

U and Non-U Images of nature and reflections on class, occasioned by a visit to the royal estate of Sandringham

Variations, Variety, Vocab As Doris Lessing once wrote, we’re all made of the same stuff

Walls Do they really keep the peace? For whom, and at what cost?

The Challenge of X The beauty of x is that a) it’s unknown and b) it can be what you want it to be.

Yellowcake and other Euphemisms The nuclear power industry is both global and local, as are the production of yellowcake and the (ab)use of language to dress a wolf in sheep’s clothing

Zindagi Here’s to life! Let a thousand flowers bloom!

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents


  1. What a well-written, comprehensive reflection! Congratulations on completing the Challenge against all obstacles! I am visiting on my post-Challenge road trip. I met such terrific writers during April and are meeting more on these visits, too. I look forward to reading more of your posts, but now I must go to sleep!


    • Thank you, for your visit and your kind comment, as well as for reminding me about the post-Challenge Road Trip, which I must admit I’ve neglected, having gotten bogged down with other work post-Challenge. I will try to follow your example, starting with yours. And Congrats right back to you!


      • It’s tough to get back in the groove after April! I forget,too, then stay up way too late on the occasional night reading really good “stuff”. Don’t put pressure on yourself you don’t need!


  2. I’m late! Is the party over? Well, a hearty Congratulations! and a Bravo! anyway, Josna! For all your jet-setting, research-collecting and relative-visiting, you most assuredly pulled off this A to Z Challenge with finesse.
    And a most excellent recap, this! I experienced many of the things you did. One was the runaway train effect: once I’d signed onto A to Z, it soon became all important to me. I worked myself every which-way and into the wee hours to carry it off as best I could, and I attribute that to the power that I felt in the project. Also, most interesting was the peaking and waning of followers and comments, and I think even the brightest A to Z stars experienced that to a degree, because I noticed fewer and fewer comments on the blogs I did manage to follow.
    And finally, I am beside myself with delight to have made the Tell Me Another hall of fame! Thank you so much for mentioning me, Josna! Mwah! Really, it’s the most wonderfully articulated fanfare I’ve ever received. I may have to find a place for it on my site somewhere. If you don’t mind, of course : )


    • Now it’s my turn to apologize for lateness–I think I can safely put it down to the aftermath of the runaway train effect—the train wreck effect! Thanks so much for your generous comment. And of course you can use mine on your page or however you want–I’d be honored. Here’s to May, Summer, and writing!


  3. You were much more diligent than I was in visiting the other blogs. Thanks for mentioning some of those here so I can go sample them. Finding Eliza was a favorite of mine also.

    I like your annotated list with links to your A to Z posts. I might copy that idea for my blog.


    • Thank you, Virginia. I should have mentioned yours, too, since I visited it quite a lot over the month. I hope to keep returning to it going forward. I’m glad you liked the annotated list; thought it might be useful. I noticed that many other A-to-Z participants kept their hyperlinked list of posts separate, and simply linked to it in their final reflection; that might have been better, since it made the reflection really long. And yes, Finding Eliza is a pleasure and a model. What a labor of love!


  4. Congrats on finishing, especially amid all that work.


    • Thank you, Sonia, and Congratulations right back to you. Now I have much of that un-done work starting me in the face!


  5. You are actually quite brave to have completed the challenge with so much work in hand! Congratulations!


    • Thank you, Nats! Brave is a kind way to put it; foolhardy might be more accurate. Thanks for commenting, and giving me a chance to discover your blog, which I’m really enjoying. There were so many to visit during the month of the challenge that I barely scratched the surface of them. Now I will be able to browse the at my leisure and find the treasures and the like-minded bloggers. Congrats to you too and all the best!


  6. What a wonderful trip! Congratulations indeed to have completed it under such challenging conditions.


  7. Hats off to you…you could actually manage the challenge on the go?! I’m sure it was the addictive edge of the challenge that kept you going 😉
    Great to have you popping by my blog earlier and am glad to see yours too.Will keep dropping by!


  8. Looks like you did a good job, in spite of the challenges of traveling. Thanks for visiting Rantings and Ravings.


  9. I didn’t notice any weak spots in your A-Z challenge posts. And Thank you for mentioning me! I count you as well and although I enjoyed visiting around, I don’t think I found any that affected me the same as yours and a few others did last year. Maybe I wasn’t in the moment as much this year.


  10. How could a travel theme go wrong for A to Z? Good job! I love *seeing* places that I’ll never actually see, LOL.


    • Thanks very much—for your visit and for commenting! I had no choice but to choose a travel theme and hope that in some small way I offered a fresh perspective on the places I visited and on the idea of Traveling itself. Yours was one of the many blogs I didn’t discover during the Challenge month (when, try as I might, I barely scratched the surface of those 2000+ blogs), but will now have the chance to visit and read at my leisure. Congratulations right back to you!


  11. Hi Josna – I am so delighted that you found me so that I could find you back 🙂 I love your Wall post and I’ll get a chance to read back over the others in the coming weeks.
    There will be a strange gap in my life after such an intense month of blogging. Now just looking around to see how to follow


  12. It’s wonderful to see that you were committed to the challenge and you didn’t disappoint yourself – and I may be sure that this exercise has helped you become a more learned writer. Keep it up, and cheers!


  13. I think we will be perusing the A to Z library for some time. I too got quite hooked on the whole process. I’m going to create a new page on my blog to preserve the month’s work. There’s too much of me in there to let it slide.


  14. Great reflections post! I’m in awe that you were able to do the challenge, in the midst of being away from home/normal routine-great job!!


    • Thank you, Jayne. It was probably foolhardy, but for better or worse I did it! Now back to my normal rate of writing a new story once or twice a week.


  15. woah! that was no less than a challenge in itself! so much work to do and yet completing the challenge. i can totally understand how it might have felt! as tiring as it might have been, the happiness we get in the end wen we post the last post knowing we finally completed the challenge, its totally worth it 🙂 congratulations n kudos to u on completing the challenge 🙂


  16. I enjoyed your posts, Josna; and thank you for mentioning me. I feel honoured to be in such company


    • Thanks right back, Keith. What I enjoyed about your posts was that many of them started off quite matter-of-fact, then questions and comments revealed fascinating details that brought them to life. What experiences to look back on!


  17. thanks, josna, and i enjoyed putting some kuchen into it… smiles… hope you get some rest now from all the travels and travails, even if light(hearted), they do exhaust you. bine


    • Heartfelt thanks, bine. You put much more than kuchen into it–though the kuchen was not negligible, by any means! More traveling on the near horizon, but still, re-territorializing and having a little chance to process all the riches (counted mostly in conversations) of the past month. x J


  18. Congratulations on this amazing journey from A to Z!



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