School is letting out. The weather is heating up. And millions of us are firming up plans for our family summer vacations. Somewhere amid those get-away plans and the get-aways themselves we’re also likely to find ourselves having snapshot memories of vacations past. That’s an excellent time to not only pull out the snapshot photos and other momentos but to start writing down the stories we recall.
When I teach my classes on Writing Your Life Story and Autobiographical Writing, or when I interview women and men in my role as life story ghostwriter or personal historian, I make sure to spend time covering favorite vacation stories. Even if you don’t remember a whole lot about some periods of your childhood, there’s a very good chance you can call up images of what you and your family did, and where you would go, on summer vacation. As we head toward summer, this is a natural time to invite yourself to revisit those times and to record all the details that help them come alive to you again.
You may benefit from asking the basic questions, the 5 W’s and H: who, what, when, where, why and how? Who went on that vacation with you? What did you do that was especially fun? When did you start looking forward to the vacation? Where did you go? Why was this vacation more memorable than others? How do you feel now as you rekindle the memories?
To help you zero in on specific details, you can consider these questions: What is the one moment that tells the whole story of what that vacation was all about? What did you find yourself saying about it when you were heading home? If you tried to repeat the same vacation experience today, what food or activity would you most need to include?
You may find memories of several vacations splashing to the surface of your mind. That’s great. Write about as many as you’d like. It doesn’t matter if some come from early childhood, others from later childhood or adolescence, and others from those adults years when you were calling the shots on vacation destinations and adventures (and paying the bills for it!). As a bonus, these vacation reflections often prime the pump for many more stories that you will want to integrate into your accounts of writing your life story. If you need help choosing which vacation to focus on, try these guiding questions:
Which one vacation perfectly captures what your family’s typical vacation would be?
Which vacation was the most different or unusual?
Which vacation stands out because things did not go exactly as planned?
Which vacation took you furthest from home?
Which vacation do family members most like to talk about when they get together today?
Which vacation included the largest number of people along for the experience?
Which vacation, if you were given a magic wand, would you go back to right now?
So dust off those memories of beaches, mountains, crowded cars, exciting airplane rides, new states visited (and new state license plates to check off your list!), new countries explored. Tell us the facts, paint the pictures, and share your feelings experienced along the way. Capture those moments when everyday life was suspended and something different emerged. The life story you are writing will really start to heat up when you do!
– Kevin Quirk, life-story ghostwriter and author of Your Life Is a Book – And It’s Time to Write It! An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story.