Monday, January 30, 2012

alternative storytelling: compulsively oversharing a unique roadtrip

 In 2010, Mark Baumer walked across America in 81 days and blogged the whole way. One afternoon in 2011, when I undoubtedly had more pressing concerns, I read every post.

Upon discovering the blog, I learned all about the trip: what Mark brought with him, his favorite foods on the road (Subway, Skippy Naturals peanut butter), the legal gray area of walking on interstates, how many pairs of shoes he went through (4), etc. Because he was able to post so frequently with his cellphone, what this blog unveiled to me wasn't a banal assortment of travel photos, but rather a very honest and frequently amusing documentary of endurance.

While blogs are an obvious form of alternative storytelling, I feel that Mark's blog (hosted on Tumblr) is a unique piece of nonfiction because of the process he used to craft the narrative. If Mark had written a heartwarming memoir after returning from his trip, it's unlikely that I would have even read it. But I clicked through the whole trip (>500 posts) in a single afternoon and I did because it really felt as if I was walking next to the guy; laughing at the same litter and sleeping in a lawn chair off the side of the road.

I've heard a lot of criticism of individual bloggers and new media platforms that condemns personal 'oversharing'. To the contrary: The Library of Congress has archived every public tweet since March of 2006. Barack Obama has personal Tumblr and Instagram accounts. There are over 800 million people on Facebook (more than twice the US population) scrolling through endless status updates. It seems that the seemingly trivial details of the lives of others really are interesting.

If you're interested, you can read the blog entries about Mark's trip here:
(counter-intuitively, you click the left arrow to move forward in time)


  1. There's certainly a more aesthetic appeal to it than what you would typically consider nonfiction, and sort of an ADD quality.

  2. I love the way we can digest endless little chunks of info, but if it's given to us all at once we freak out. We now have the attention span of a gnat, I guess.

  3. Although, I've never been one to be easily intrigued by the mundane details of someone's personal story, I can appreciate this as a truly alternative form of storytelling! Stories come in all forms—including the routine and the mundane details of packing for a cross country trip.