Wednesday, August 3, 2011

7/31-Dr Carol Scott talks to Doris Gallan

Doris Gallan - Baby Boomers

Writing comes fairly naturally to someone who grew up buried in books, magazines and newspapers – anything I could get my eyes on. Some of the readings were classics – Steinbeck, Austen, Dickens, Cervantes – while others hardly rated on that scale – Seventeen Magazine and The Timmins Daily Press.

I grew up in small, isolated towns in Northern Canada where the best escape from six months of winter was found in the pages of novels. Books provided me with proof that there was life ‘out there’ and that I was more suited for it than I had come to believe. The limited opportunities and world views of my town had boxed me in but the writings of others released me.

Reading gave me a good excuse to burrow in a warm bed and ignore the cold stream of air passing through the cracks of our house’s old-fashioned wood-paned windows. At any time of day on weekends, you could find me under as many blankets as I could locate, my feet ensconced in thick socks, reading about warmer lands I would one day visit. Australia, Tahiti, California and Mexico became my weekend destinations while my sisters complained that I never wanted to go ice skating or sledding. I preferred to bake in the sun of a palm-shaded beach, explore the streets of Sidney and Melbourne, surf the beaches of Orange County and eat empaƱadas and tacos in Mexico City. And all at no cost.

If it hadn’t snowed so much, you could have traced my path between our house and the public library. The older children’s section was quickly read through and, at the age of twelve, I asked the librarian for special permission to borrow from the “Adult Section”.

I had already exposed myself to books for far more mature audiences sneak-reading volumes brought home by my mother and older sisters. Our small bookcase – it’s cheap aluminum frame sagging under the weight of novels, dictionaries and encyclopedia – took pride of place next to the front door in the living room.

How much of writing and traveling is pre-programmed in our DNA is still up for discussion. Is it instinctual or maybe cultural memory? Books created in me a love of the written word and of wandering the world. Or, perhaps they simply awakened an already-existing passion and presented me with an outlet for my own loves.

My first writings were suicide-inducing, teen-angst poetry which, for some inexplicable reason, I kept for over 35 years and only recently typed into my computer. I also began writing short stories as an outlet for dealing with the ups and downs of life and discovered that I could make people laugh and cry. And so, at 15, I decided I was going to be a writer.

There is nothing better than to be paid for doing something you love and so writing went from a part-time pursuit to a career when I became a news reporter. When I couldn’t get steady work, I would write freelance. I finally left the low-pay-no-benefits-lousy-hours world of news and joined the well-paying-great-benefits-super-hours of the corporate world. Jobs included employee communications specialist, public policy analyst and economic development director: an almost-unnoticeable transition from full-time writing to very little occurred over a couple of decades.

Thirty years of working for others led to burnout. It was now time to work for myself: my husband and I quit our well-paying jobs, sold our house and 99 percent of our worldly possessions. On April 1, 2006 – April Fool’s Day – we began a 26 month ’round-the-world trip. I also returned to my first love: writing.

We traveled to forty countries on six continents – including Antarctica, learned the polite words of some two dozen languages, ate foods we didn’t know existed, used practically every mode of transportation still in use and learned a lot about ourselves and the world around us. With this much experience to write about I had no excuse not to start putting some of this down on paper (okay, on computer screen).

I started off slowly by creating a blog (

that served many purposes: kept people informed about our whereabouts, provided me with a regular outlet for memories and photos, and – most importantly – disciplined me into writing every week.

After the trip, we settled in Mexico in the summer of 2008 where I began writing more regularly. I’m writing essays, short stories and a book about our world trip. This, while getting down to learning the craft of writing and improving my art.

In April of 2009 we moved to Costa Rica with a quick trip to Guatemala for a week before settling in our new home where we stayed for six months. We then traveled across Europe for three months (Portugal, Spain, France & Gibraltar) on our way to China. We spent a week in Thailand as well for some R&R at a beach and spent a few days in Bangkok before flying to Hong Kong. We moved to Wenzhou — on the east coast of China, south of Shanghai — where my husband teaches English as a foreign language while I write my book.

Returned to North America in the fall of 2010 after completion of The Boomers’ Guide to Going Abroad to Travel * Live * Give * Learn and now touring the United States selling my book, speaking to boomers, travel and tourism industry players. Also providing coaching to individuals interested in traveling more and consulting services to organizations seeking to improve their offerings to baby boomers traveling.

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