Open Mic Friday! featuring travel journals from my past

Welcome all to Open Mic Friday! The format is simple. Every week there will be a featured “reading” in the body of this post (this week, it’s my work, but guest posts recommence next Friday). In the comments, you’re warmly invited to share some work of your own — and it doesn’t have to be text. To keep conversation and creative spirit flowing, please applaud and cheer for others’ offerings just as loudly as you would at a physical reading — by commenting on their work and giving props to everyone.


  • Writers, if your work is lengthy, I recommend posting it elsewhere and including the link in the comments (with a sentence of description so we know what we’re clicking for).
  • Comments are threaded, which means you can reply directly to each reader by hitting the “reply” button within that comment box. Converse!


Me in 1996

Me in 1996

No guest post today, which usually means I share some of my own writing here. But given today’s Tisha news, I’m feeling a little escapist. While cleaning out the car earlier I realized I had a cache of my old journals, so for my and your amusement, I present to you some glimpses of my past. These entries are from a travel journal I kept while I was in middle school and high school.

Travel journal by Lisa Hsia

Monday, 8 April 1996, en route to Jamestown Settlement

I sit here on the bus wondering what we’ll do today. We’re supposed to go to DC this afternoon — winter storm warning, 8 inches of snow expected. Yesss! That’ll be exciting, if nothing else…

All the trees here are tall, thin, and straight, growing close together. When I look out the window I can see the clear white-blue sky through the dark interlaced branches of these trees, and layers and layers of leaves with interspersing puddles upon the “forest” floor. It’s all so different from California’s thickly set redwoods.

Jimmy, our driver, has the radio tuned to a jazz station. It’s all right, except now there’s a song with words, and it sounds very sad. Unlike the lighthearted sax on a few minutes ago.

No wonder the trees are so different from California’s… this is the first time I’ve seen so many deciduous trees all at one time in one place.

Friday, 3 May 1996, en route to Columbia, CA

The trees are like those of any California hills: long-branched small-shiny-leafed, dusty-looking firs. The ground is dirt-covered and rocky with lupine-lookalikes and poppies, with other wild flowers, growing out of the sides of the hills. When you look across the Stanislas River to the mountains, you can see a large, bulky mountain sparsely dotted with broccoliesque trees, but on our side the mountains are green with tall bushy evergreens sprouting out at odd intervals. I often wonder if the hill areas of other states look like those here.

I would not like to live up here. It’s too dry-feeling and dirt-looking. (Not dirt, as in dirty dirt, but dirt, as in dusty dirt.) Hills cannot be “rolling” unless they are treeless. Trees seem to impede the rolling! Sometime I would like to see mountains without trees, only grass, green grass. Trees are glorious, but on hills, they get in the way and stop the mountains’ angles and curves.

Friday, 23 August 1996, Crater Lake, OR

Something else about the water in Crater Lake: it’s covered with billions and billions of small ripples. The ripples create a difference of shading in the dark of the water — instead of being straight ultramarine, it’s [??] with little rings of an inexplicably beautiful incandescence, an indescribable light bluish shade, and circles of royal blue. It’s dizzyingly fascinating to watch and so refreshing for tired feet!

The mountains that surround the lake are tall (dark, and handsome — just kidding!) and patched with spots of chartreuse colored lichens, bushy green shrubs, and desertlike red-pink areas of rock. At the bottom the rocks look knobbly and are evergreen-clad with a few snow-formed thin trickly waterfalls, and at the peaks the stone is flaky looking, like some giant scratched off big slabs with his fingernails.

The water is just so amazing. Close, it’s that ripply navy, far away it looks like the flat cerulean blue of the East Coast. The sky, a light blue on any sunny day, abounds with large, fluffy white/blue/grey clouds.

Hey, the sun came out all of a sudden!

Sunday, 29 June 1997, en route by plane to Los Angeles

From the plane the mountains and valleys look like scratches made by a toothpick on a tablet of wet clay. A huge expanse of farmland is composed of squares and circles of different colors. I wish I had a magic zoom lens to zoom in on what I’m seeing, so I can know if my guesses as to what everything really is are correct.

We descend slowly… now I can distinguish buildings from their surroundings… I see streets now, and houses. 13,000 feet. Clouds below us, on our right. Strange that I should see clouds on one side and buildings on the other.

Thursday, 5 August 1999, en route to Holyoke, MA

New Hampshire is really lovely. After three wonderful days in frenetic New York City, I must admit I didn’t think I’d ever like anything/place else anymore, but something in New Hampshire just touches me.

The highway is surrounded by thick tall trees, evergreen and deciduous alike, which cover the little mountains all around. All across the landscape, for miles and miles, all one can see is bright blue sky, dazzling fluffy white clouds that look like something off the inside of the Sistine Chapel [which I’ve never seen], fascinatingly textured grey walls of craggy rock, and all those glorious trees, stretching out forever over and over and over those mountains.

Sometimes there is a shimmering blue pool or a river along the side of the road, or a green-clad swampy muck claimed by dozens of bare trunks, but mostly everything is just tall and green and grey and blue, acute contrasts of light and dark… no houses, no billboards, and practically no other cars. Nothing but wide open spaces…


Thank you for reading! I hadn’t looked at that travel journal for years; I realize now that my road trips (and road journaling) have a long, rich history.

I’m now taking guest posts for October — will one of them be you?

The comments are open for your work, your thoughts, your offer to guest post next month. 😉