Brandi Dawn Henderson is an international story seeker currently living in Alaska. She writes for First City Magazine in New Delhi. Her personal essays have been published in Mason’s Road, Lost, Urbanite, and First City Magazine. In addition, a personal essay of hers will be featured in the fall nonfiction issue of jmww. jmww nonfiction editor Dario DiBattista talked with Brandi about her blog Stories About Being Alive
Dario DiBattista: What is Stories About Being Alive? What compels you to write publicly about your life’s journey?
Brandi Dawn Henderson: I guess it kind of started with trip on a Greyhound bus from coast to coast. I realized that there were some things to be learned about the journey I was making. I was really scared by the Greyhound demographic when I first got on the bus in Portland, Oregon. But when we made it to Silver Spring, Maryland, I found I really had become quite close with a lot of the people who were sitting next to me. I began to film them and created short videos with anyone who would let me. I posted them as a short film that I put up on YouTube. And I got a really good response from that; it I felt like I was sharing what I learned about a people and demographic that doesn’t really get a good rap—and it’s really what I aim to do. I travel to places like India and Alaska—and other places Americans don’t typically go, and places that have a certain stereotype about their people—and I try to change my own mind about the people. Through writing my experiences, I try to lessen the gap between the reality and the stereotypes.
DD: What is the Greyhound demographic?
BDH: The person who rides Greyhound is generally a specific character. I learned quickly in trying to gather personal information so I could follow up if necessary after my video shoots, that these were people who had no homes, no phones numbers, no email addresses—they were really just people who are extremely transient, and usually transient for a tragic reason.
DD: What lessons do you think people can take from your experiences thus far?
BDH: I think there are lessons about other people, and how we can learn and grow from people who are different than us. And I think that there are stories in there about self-discovery; and also, lessons about being too confident with yourself. Many times I’ll go places and I’ll think that I’m behaving as I should be behaving. But I discover a bunch of my own downfalls because of these journeys that we all really need to be reminded of. And a lot of times meeting other people and discovering other ways of life, and other opinions, and other ways of living, can really highlight ways in which we might be moving in ways that we can change. And so, most of the time I think that I’m on a pretty righteous path, but sometimes meeting other peoples shows me my own mistakes. And I try to point those out in my blog—I make light of my own mistakes through my own writing.
(Author’s note: See Brandi Dawn Henderson’s blog post “Different Here” for a specific example of a lesson learned.)
DD: For your blog summary, you mention that you travel in large part because the typical American life “devastated” you. Why did the thought of working for corporate America make you feel that way?
BDH: Oh, man, I just can’t do it. When I was in college, I would work in corporate restaurants in waiting tables. And in graduate school, I actually had a couple good jobs that people would consider good career paths. And I just hated the idea of dedicating so much of my time to something I wasn’t passionate about—something where I wasn’t learning something new every day, or meeting new people every day. And just, for me, work is like jail. Corporate America was not for me. I need space to move around to make my own discoveries and keep it fresh all the time.
DD: What tips do you have for other writers who would also want to write about their travel experiences?
BDH: I would say, just do it often. I feel like I’m kind of forcing myself to blog when sometimes, maybe, I don’t really have a story to tell. But, I start writing and I think that anytime that you’re traveling or doing anything out of your own norm—whether you’re discovering something, or you’re learning something about yourself, or whether it’s a thirty-minute drive to some place you’ve never been to—you’re seeing something through fresh eyes. It’s going to do something for you. It might take ten of those times to make a good story but I think that there will be one there. I find that my typing fingers know stories that my brain doesn’t know. So, by the end of sitting down and trying to write a blog, I’ve got a story that not only is appropriate for posting on Stories About Being Alive, it teaches me something that my brain wasn’t yet aware of.
DD: So what is the ultimate destination of your journey?
BDH: Self. (Laughter) Where ever that is.