Editor’s Note – Brian Rueb is a photographer, educator, author and contributor to Resource Travel. His hilarious story about the fear he encountered when photographing a wedding on Half Dome in Yosemite was picked up by major news outlets such as Huffington Post and My Modern Net. Rueb has taken his dry brand of humor to the long form, documenting a solo three month hitchhiking trip through Iceland in his book, Me, Myself, and Iceland. I am only 3 chapters in, but can’t put it down as I find myself constantly laughing at the ridiculousness that is Brian Rueb’s adventures. Brian took a slightly more serious note and told us about the hardships of producing this book, and the fears that kept him from publishing it for nearly 6 years. You can buy the book on Amazon and see more from Rueb on his website, Facebook, and Instagram.
I nearly failed my junior high school English class. I think in large part because I was always more interested in the story I wanted to tell versus the project that was actually assigned by a teacher who I felt I was smarter than. I love to tell stories and when I started getting into landscape photography, I found that there was always a story to tell that was as good or better than the photos that I was capturing. I wrote a lot of short stories that took place over the span of a day or two that were well received by the people who read them, but I wanted to do something bigger. Enough folks enjoyed the short stories and I hoped if I wrote something longer they’d enjoy that as well. I just needed something interesting enough to write about.
In 2010, I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Iceland for nearly 3 months, before most of the influx of tourism that has occurred in the last few years. I left with the intention of taking amazing photographs and having the experience of a lifetime along the way that I could write about. I planned some of the adventures, but purposely left plenty of time and an open mind to be able to experience ANYTHING that came my way. I opted to travel alone specifically so I would be forced to meet new people, and push myself out of my comfort zone.
The trip surpassed anything I could have imagined both photographically and in terms of the story I would be able to tell. The challenge really started when I got home. How was I going to write a book? I figured it would be time-consuming, but I was in no way prepared for how long it actually took. A lot happened in three months. I found that some of the experiences I could translate to text immediately, but others took days or rewrites to really convey what exactly was unfolding. I was able to look over my notes and accurately portray what happened in an entertaining manner, but only if I was in a good mood when I was writing. Days that I was less than thrilled to write were tough. I found I would just regurgitate information in a very staccato, boring tone. I went here. I photographed this. I slept here. Who cares?
I also found that the longer the book became, the more I forgot what I’d already talked about in earlier chapters. There was some historical and social commentary I wanted to make sure I added, but I’d forget whether or not I had already written it. The brain isn’t as sharp as it used to be. This meant I had to re-read the book, and I almost certainly never liked what I had done in previous chapters, and that led to rewriting. The first draft took two years to complete…writing only in my spare time, which was limited, being as I am a teacher by day and a father by night. I kept re-reading and made numerous re-writes of specific parts. I let a couple others read it, and help with some of the editing mistakes, even though I am sure there are still plenty. I am no Shakespeare.
Strangely, I found myself working at omitting any offensive language in my re-writes. This isn’t a huge deal, but it’s not how I normally talk or think, especially while I was on the trip. I’m aware that swear words don’t necessarily make writing better, but it was how I thought, and described things to folks when I returned. So, true to my indecisive nature, I found on my 3rd re-write I was reinserting some of the most colorful verbiages. I wanted the final copy to read the way it would if I were telling it to someone.
More time passed. It felt like I was reading and rewriting all the time. I added, I changed, I subtracted, and it was finally getting closer to what I had hoped. The problem was the closer I got to the end, the more I began to realize how personal it was. Part of the reason I wasn’t finishing it was because I didn’t want people to hate it. For me, it was a huge deal to have done what I did. It wasn’t dangerous or anything, but it was my story, and I think deep inside I was fearful it might not be well received, especially because of the hype I created by talking about it for 5 years.
A couple things finally pushed me to finally finish it. The first was about two years ago, a completely random occurrence in Iceland went down that wouldn’t have been in the book had I released it earlier. I figured it was a sign the book needed to be finished. You’ll have to read it to find out what that was…but trust me it’s awesome. That event triggered the final read and re-write and gave the whole project a sense of closure.
The last thing I realized is that I’ve got no promise of being around from one day to the next. I did something I was proud of, I wrote a book about it …if I kept procrastinating it wouldn’t ever get out…and I might die and all that work would just vanish. Good or bad I had to at least let it see the light of day, and allow that story to be completed, even if the only reason was so I could move on to another project. In the end, I am very proud of the book. I am very proud of what I accomplished. The stories that I tell in the book will always be at the forefront of my mind. The photos were great, but to me, the experiences I lived, the people that I met, that is what travel is all about. We only live once, and we don’t have that much time here on this earth. I was determined to tell those stories, even if no one listens, the stories mean everything to me, and I can sleep at night knowing that I finally told them to everyone who cares to listen.
Get the book today on Amazon.