March’s Book Selection ‘The Yellow Envelope’ by Kim Dinan
For our very first month as an official book club I had selected The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan. I read this book when it first came out a few years ago and loved it and wanted to share. Back before Devon and I had firmed up our travel plans, books like these inspired me to keep going in the direction I was headed.
One of the perks of doing this book club was that we were able to organize a live Q&A for club members with Kim. Today was the day! I organized a Facebook group chat and invited Kim in to live web chat with us. Our group had a lot of great questions and I think we all enjoyed the chance to pick Kim’s brain!
Our book club has members in all different time zones and some couldn’t make it. I’ve gone through and captured just the Q&A sections here for all to read.
Natalie: I read the India part twice. How long did it take you to write the book?
Kim Dinan: Ah, India was my favorite. It took me about six months of full-time writing to write the book. And a few months more of back-and-forth editing.
Alexandria: What did you find the most challenging about writing it?
Kim Dinan: Definitely writing about my marriage. During the first few drafts I left that entire part out because it wasn’t enjoyable to re-live those hard times, but ultimately included them because I knew I couldn’t really tell the whole story without them.
Natalie: Did your husband mind being in the book?
Kim Dinan: Ha, he’s used to it now! He actually helped me as I was writing those chapters, because I tried to give a fair and accurate portrayal of those times. So, he’d read each chapter as I finished it and then we’d talk about it. It was like therapy! And by the time I wrote the book those days were far in the past and the wounds weren’t nearly as fresh.
Rae Ann: How much of it did you write during your travels? Did you simply keep notes? Or write out full stories? Or just do it all when you returned?
Kim Dinan: I kept a journal and I kept a blog, so I had some of the stories written and many others I just carried with me until I put it down on the page. But the blog and journals were so important because they allowed me to go back to certain times and places and once I mentally traveled backwards I was amazed at what I remembered.
Dayna: At what point did you recognize the potential for this story? Was it when you received your yellow envelope or somewhere on your travels?
Kim Dinan: When I received the yellow envelope I felt deep down that it was more than just a gift of money and that it could evolve into a story. But I had no way of predicting everything that would happen that ultimately went into the book. So, I guess I hoped that I would live an adventure worth writing about but it took time and space for me to realize the depth of the story.
All: Your story is inspiring to read.
Kim Dinan: You know, they actually inspire me too because these days I’m a mom, living in a typical house, working 40-hours a week. I have a very normal life right now. But just knowing that I also have the freedom and ability to head out into the world again gives me such a sense of freedom… I know that adventure is just a plane ticket away.
Dayna: When you first had the idea to sell everything and travel, how did you handle any naysayers in your life?
Kim Dinan: Oh, there were so many!! I wish I had recorded my mom!! I just put my head down and ignored them. I started a blog, and writing about my dreams in a somewhat public forum really gave me the guts to continue to work for what I wanted. And I connected with other travelers– people who had done what I wanted to do and people who were preparing to do what I wanted to do and they made me feel less alone. Sometimes people feel like the decisions you make are somehow a judgement call on the kind of life they are living, which of course isn’t the case at all. I always say the naysayers are there to help us prove to ourselves how badly we want it.
Natalie: Do you keep in touch with people you met on your travels?
Kim Dinan: Yes! Lots of them. That’s one of the great things about social media, email, etc. It’s so easy to stay in touch. It’s funny because I wrote about a couple in Ecuador that we volunteered with and they weren’t getting along. I can’t remember their names in the book because I changed them from their real names. Anyway, I got an email from the man, his name is Leon in real life, and he had finally gotten his hands on the book and he sent me this nice email about it and gave an update on his life… and he and his girlfriend are still together!
Dayna: One thing our book club has talked about quite a bit is the race you went on in India. Would you ever do something like that again?
Kim Dinan: I would, because I absolutely loved it but I also wouldn’t because now I know what I’d be getting myself into But whenever anyone emails me and says they’re thinking about doing it I tell them I think they should absolutely go for it. The funny thing about that race is that what made it so hard, the fact that our rickshaw broke down all of the time, was also what made it so magical.
Natalie: Well, do you ever think back and feel scared that you could have…had an accident?
Kim Dinan: No, because I felt safe as I was living it. But I also distinctly remember having the thought that I was so glad it was me experiencing it and not someone else I loved, because I would hate knowing that someone like my sister was doing it because I’d be so worried.
Dayna: Sometimes that’s the best thing about travel. Having to have faith in strangers.
Kim Dinan: Yes, absolutely. And then afterwards you’re like— what was I thinking?! I am so, so glad I did it. That experience flipped my world on its head.
Dayna: You mentioned India was your favorite. Was it the people, culture, experiences? Or was it the most enjoyable section to write?
Kim Dinan: Both. I loved the country, the culture, and the people of India. I also loved writing about it. But I loved the people the most. They were so open in a way I feel like people in the US aren’t. And I love that God and religion are just intertwined with life. There’s no barrier between the two, as far as I could tell. Plus the way things work there are just so completely different than what I was used to in the states. I couldn’t make sense of anything and when I learned to just embrace the chaos it changed my life. Plus the way things work there are just so completely different than what I was used to in the states. I couldn’t make sense of anything and when I learned to just embrace the chaos it changed my life.
Natalie: Do you miss the freedom of being out traveling?
Kim Dinan: Hmmm… I don’t really miss the freedom exactly. By the time we came home I was ready to come home. I was so sick of moving around all the time. I wanted a place of my own. I guess what I really miss the most is the feeling that travel gives me, how it allows me to see with fresh eyes. How I feel like I’m REALLY learning and REALLY living when I’m traveling. I’m just never happier than when I am in a new place. So, I miss living a life where that feeling is at the center of everything I do.
Dayna: How did you adjust to being back at home once you decided to go back?
Kim Dinan: Well, it was a crash course in adjusting. I mean, we went back and everything changed. I was four months pregnant for one thing, so little did I know how much things were REALLY about to change. We landed back in Cincinnati, where both Brian and I grew up but we hadn’t lived since leaving for college. In a matter of a week we had rented a house, bought two used cars, filled our house with furniture and Brian started working full time. It was nuts. The hardest part of all was that sometimes it felt like the whole thing had never happened. And I struggled a long time with my identity, because for so long I’d been the girl who dreamed of travel and then the girl who was traveling… and who was I now? It’s so weird. I was glad I had Brian to share my memories with because I would have felt extremely isolated otherwise.
Rae Ann: The book is a huge accomplishment. You have the blog as well to remember. But do you tell stories to your children too?
Kim Dinan: Well, my daughter is only three so there haven’t been a lot of opportunities to tell stories. But we tell her often about the world, what a certain place is like, and we tell her we will take her there someday. We took her to Spain last summer and when we landed after a 19 hour travel day she turned to me and said, “lets do it again!” We talk about Spain a lot, because she was there and she remembers.
Rae Ann: So what is your next book going to be about?
Kim Dinan: That is a very good question. I wish I knew! I have an idea for another memoir but it doesn’t have a thing to do with traveling. It will get written someday… but I’m not sure when. I have a hard time finding time to write creatively right now. I write for work, 40 hours a week, so I don’t always want to sit down and write after a long day of writing.
Dayna: Well, that’s nearly it for our Q&A timeslot and I want to make sure we respect your time. Thank you so much for joining us and of course you’re welcome to stick around if you want!
Kim Dinan: Thank you all for your great questions and for reading “The Yellow Envelope.” This writer appreciates it!
To Learn More
If you’d like to learn more about Kim Dinan you can visit her blog here!
If you’d like to take part in next month’s book selection you can find more details here.
I hope you enjoyed this as much as we did. It was a great experience.