• Jun 1, 2019

Travel Stories in Six Words

travel 6 word memoirs

I have been fascinated by six-word storytelling. Writing a six-word story is always more challenging than I think it will be. I sit looking at a blank page trying to figure out how I can tell a story in just six words. After multiple tries of writing too many words, I am usually able to find the right six words to share my story. I have been inspired by others who have undertaken this creative task. Legend has it that American author Ernest Hemingway, was once challenged to write a story in just six words. His famous six-word story,  “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” has also inspired many to create their own brief six-word tales. There are entire communities dedicated to writing your six-word memoirs and numerous Pinterest boards share their versions of six-word stories.

In case it’s unclear, a six-word story is a six-word sentence that is written to tell a story. It is actually a great way to share about traveling. I have traveled with groups of teens and have included writing a six-word story about our experience as part of their daily reflection time. I love seeing how they process our trip in just a few brief words. So, I challenged our team at My Rooftop Stories to do the same thing with their own travel experiences. Can you describe your own journeys in only six words? I challenge you to share your own masterpieces in the comments here or on our F acebook page.

Here are our six-word travel stories:

Without the struggle, we get bored.

Adventurers always belong to mother nature.

Wandering hearts never stray too far.

I feel my heart is full.

Peaceful is having love close by.

Climbing mountains always satisfies the soul.

Chasing dreams of far away places.

I nearly forgot to enjoy home.

Creating memories with these familiar faces.

She wanders because she is free.

A journey taken. Time well spent.

I am headed out of town.

A setting sun. Day is done.

I am curious, so I travel.

Traveling the world is my dream.

Seeing faces in far away places.

Yesterday's rooftop dreams, today's visited places.

Wanderlust I am, anywhere and anytime.

I crave new faces, sounds, smells.

The adventurous soul of an explorer.

Planes, trains, automobiles, sites to explore.

Seeing sunrises all around the world.

Nothing invigorates me like plane engines.

Elon's Six-word Poem: Traveling Alone

Traveling alone teaches you about yourself.

Teaches you trust, independence and creativity.

You take advantage of the freedom. 

You explore beyond the normal boundaries. 

You become your own life guide.

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Top Vacation Memories in Six

travel 6 word memoirs

6. “ Wanna go somewhere and find lightning-bugs. ”- JAD

5. “ Bubble bath isn’t hot tub friendly. ”- Trix95

4. “I wasn’t waving, I was drowning. ”- BanjoDan

3. “ We’re vacationing in VR this summer. “- RaisedByWolves

2. “ Sunburns were my best swimming instructors .”- ZsuZsu

And the winner is…

1. “ Watching out the window for wonders. ”- Judy_Gray

Congrats to Judy_Gary who we’re delighted to send one of our new Six-Word Memoir keychains!

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travel 6 word memoirs

20 travel memoirs to take you around the world (from the comfort of your couch)

  • BY Anne Bogel
  • IN Book Lists , Books & Reading , Literary Tourism
  • 96 Comments | Comment

travel 6 word memoirs

I love how a good book takes me places I have never been and may never see with my own eyes—whether that place is close to home or halfway around the world.

Readers have long enjoyed vicarious travel and prepared for their trips by turning to the written word. These days I, like many readers, am especially grateful for armchair travel.

When a reader recently asked for travel memoir recommendations on on our  What Should I Read Next Instagram account  as a WSIRNReaderRecs  request, we received piles of great book suggestions. We’ve gone through them all and curated this reader-generated book list for you. As so often happens, my TBR grew as a result.

Today I’m sharing some books I love and some I’m eager to read because of your enthusiastic recommendations. This list of 20 travel memoirs will hopefully provide some vicarious experiences while you dream about your next trip. This is by no means an exhaustive list so I’d love to hear about your favorite travel memoirs in the comments.

Some links (including all Amazon links) are affiliate links.  More details here .

20 travel memoirs to take you around the world

At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe

At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe

Buy from Amazon Kindle

Paddling with Spirits: A Solo Kayak Journey

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude

Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude

Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman

Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman

How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir

How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir

Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam

Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam

Rudy’s Rules for Travel: Life Lessons from Around the Globe

Rudy’s Rules for Travel: Life Lessons from Around the Globe

A Year in the World: Journeys of A Passionate Traveller

A Year in the World: Journeys of A Passionate Traveller

Waking Up On the Appalachian Trail: A Story of War, Brotherhood, and the Pursuit of Truth

Waking Up On the Appalachian Trail: A Story of War, Brotherhood, and the Pursuit of Truth

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle

Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park

Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park

Hardly Working: A Travel Memoir of Sorts

Hardly Working: A Travel Memoir of Sorts

Due North

The Singular Pilgrim: Travels on Sacred Ground

Around India in 80 Trains

Around India in 80 Trains

A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods

A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines

A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines

Travels with Charley in Search of America

Travels with Charley in Search of America

How to Be a Family: The Year I Dragged My Kids Around the World to Find a New Way to Be Together

How to Be a Family: The Year I Dragged My Kids Around the World to Find a New Way to Be Together

What are YOUR favorite travel memoirs? Tell us all about them in comments!

P.S. 20 books to take you around the world , and 20 terrific titles from #ownvoices and #diversebooks authors .

20 travel memoirs to take you around the world (from the comfort of your couch)

96 comments

‘Wherever the River Runs’ by Kelly Minter is not really a travel memoir, but it tells of her journeys on the Amazon river to minister to the people there. It’s a wonderful book!

I would suggest Notes from a Small Island over A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and my second of his travel books would be In A Sunburned Country.

Agreed!! Anything by Bill Bryson is wonderful, but Notes From a Small Island is an absolute must-read. (Perhaps not strictly a travel memoir as he had lived there for 20-some years when he wrote it and was preparing to return to the U.S.. Let’s just call it a really LONG trip!! 😁)

I loved In a Sunburned Country. I think it’s my favorite of his.

Second that, absolutely fascinating and really made me want to get Australia

I was supposed to travel to Poland in June with my mom and sister to visit my aunt and uncle. It was a much anticipated trip (I’ve never been) and I was planning to ask for reader recs! No WW2 😉 Alas, we will try again next year. Several of these look really interesting. Sadly my library does not have many of them, but I do have a hold on At Home in the World 🙂

The trumpeter of krakow is middle grade kids lit set in medieval Poland. I really enjoyed it as i knew nothing about Poland with the exception of it’s role in WW 2.

Thanks for the rec! I do love middle grade.

My daughter lived in Warsaw for 3 years, and I had the treat of visiting twice. Never got to Krakow, but Poland is so interesting. If you can, Warsaw is very worth taking time to visit, it has wonderful museums and (before COVID) a really vibrant city vibe with a much more affordable price point. I just used my fav, Rick Steves for planning (I think the guide was Poland and Hungary?). People are very friendly, but most people above 30 don’t really speak much, if any, English, so good to have some key “polite words” memorized.

Paris, Part Time by Lisa Baker Morgan is a memoir that takes you to Paris. Her book is the story of her journey to find the place she can call home – part time. Her book includes many of her recipes, her travels through France and her photos of her favorite city – Paris. Pick it up as it is a wonderful read.

I LOVE A Walk Across America and A Walk Across China by Peter Jenkins. Getting to know a country by getting to know its people is such a precious experience to me. I’ve never had the privilege except through those two books, but would love to do that in either country.

I loved Walk across America and The Walk West, also Jenkin’s book Along the Edge of America. I’ll have to try his one in China.

Added A Cook’s Tour to my list – thanks! There’s another one that’s on my TBR you may be interested in: Four Seasons in Rome by the same author as All the Light We Cannot See.

Four Seasons in Rome is great by Anthony Doerr. Loved this book.

I read Four Seasons in Rome 11 years ago when I was on bed rest in the last few weeks of my pregnancy. I have such fond memories of being “in” Rome when I couldn’t go anywhere but my couch. (I also read all four Twilight books in that same stretch, lest you think I was all classy travel memoirs! ha!)

I loved Four Seasons In Rome!! It’s on my all time favorite list!!

Thanks for this!! I’ve added two more books to my ever-growing TBR list. (I will never live long enough to finish it!!)

Lands of Lost Borders, by Kate Harris. A story of biking along the silk road.

A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins, as well as his Across China.

J. Maarten Troost – my favorite travel writer -is missing from this list- his books titles alone inspire interest!

Falling in Love with the English Countryside by Susan Branch I read it over a rainy weekend on the couch and felt like I had actually been to England!

Oh yes! I love this one and, in fact, all of her books. They do make you feel as if you have been on a holiday somewhere else.

That one is a delight! It would be a great one to read right now. Very light and enjoyable!

I had the same experience with this book. I loved it and have recommended it to several friends who felt the same. We are planning to take this same trip!

I love all of her books! I like her approach to her visit – visiting homes of authors, National Trust sites, walks about the countryside – I’m in!!

Absolutely agree with all these comments. I read this during quarantine and it was so delightful. Also loved her book about Martha’s Vineyard (Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams)

I loved The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. It gave words to my experiences in Denmark and taught me some new info that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I can’t say enough good things.

I loved this book! It was hilarious and informative.

I love this list because I feel like there are so many books (almost all of them) that I haven’t heard of!! And love that there are so many backlist options I can probably find at the library 🙂

Love With a Chance of Drowning was really funny and interesting- the author and her then boyfriend live on a small sailboat for a period of time.

Really enjoyed The Salt Path about the author and her husband and their walk along a sea path after losing their home. Her husband has a chronic disease and their journey is really interesting.

Loved The Salt Path. Listened to it on audio, fabulous.

Does anyone have a suggestion on a travel memoir that is based in Spain? Going there for the first time next year and would love anything that would give me some insights.

Driving Over Lemons, by British writer Chris Stewart. I haven’t read it, but my British sister-in-law loved it.

I hope it is okay drop a link to a different page… But this was JUST in my Google feed: https://bookriot.com/books-set-in-spain/

A lesser known memoir that’s fabulous reading is Miles From Nowhere by Barbara Savage. She and her husband did a round-the-world cycling trip in the late 1970’s, and her descriptions are at times funny, at times truth-is-stranger-than-fiction, and definitely adventurous. The memoir is made even more poignant because she died not too many years later from a triathlon accident, if I remember correctly.

Loved this one too.

Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone by Mary Morris. She’s written several other travel memoirs, but this is my favorite of hers. She’s also a wonderful fiction writer – I would recommend her most recent work – Gateway to the Moon.

Susan Allen Toth wrote a wonderful series of travel memoirs about England, beginning with “My Love Affair with England: a Traveler’s Memoir.”

I love her books – so comforting – and her approach to travel.

I love her books and have all of them.

I just loved “A Year in the World.” I’ve read several on this list and am thankful for the reminder of how much I love good travel writing. Also, may I suggest anything by Jan Morris and “Italian Days” by Barbara Grizzutti Harrison.

I loved “The Yellow Envelope” – so did my book club!

From Scratch by Tembi Locke was lovely when we were considering a move to Italy.

I loved “Travels with Charley” by Steinbeck!!!! I have a standard poodle so that’s one reason I loved this travel book!! And thank you for this list. Many more titles to add to my TBR list!

Travels With Charley is one of my all time favorite books, and one I’ve read several times. I rarely do that.

Where do you buy the book- Hardly Working a Travel Memoir of Sorts by Zukiswa Wanner? I can’t find it anywhere.

Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon is a classic but still so good!

Anything by Paul Theroux

The Cat Who Covered the World by Wren Even my cat hating son liked this when I read it aloud to the children.

Free Country, by George Mahood, is one of my favorites. George and his friend, Ben, have three weeks to cycle 1000 miles from the bottom of England to the top of Scotland. But they start with only their boxer shorts, and rely on the British public for everything else for their journey. It’s an amazing story about the goodness of humankind, and it’s a hilarious read about a beautiful journey.

Am noting alot of these TBR. I loved McCarthy’s Bar which I read years ago. An English comedian travels from Cork to Donegal visiting bars with him name (McCarthy)

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle made me fall head over heels in love with Provence before I had ever visited! It’s an oldie, published in 1989, but a wonderful member of his first year in this idyllic spot in Southern France.

I loved all of his books, for his humor and the eye openers about the French people in the countryside. Re-reading that one right now.

Loved it! I think I’ve read all but one of his books now.

What an amazing list and more in the comments!! I shall be able to travel through the eyes and experiences and words of these authors, to places I can only now dream of from the comfort (and safety) of my arm chair. I am reminded of Dr Seuss…..’Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’

I must add my enthusiasm for Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. I read it years ago and still think about it.

Road Trip Rwanda. by Will Ferguson. He is a Canadian author, often known for his humour. He and his friend, Jean-Claude Munyezamu, who left (escaped) Rwanda just before the genocide travel to Rwanda in 20 years after. It is hopeful, often funny, beautiful book about a country that because of its horrific history, we only know the tragedy, not the beauty and vibrancy of its people and how the country has been reborn. Highly recommend.

I LOVED the memoir The Traveling Feast: On the Road & At the Table with my Heroes by Rick Bass. The author travels around the world, thanking writers that have influenced him, and cooks them a meal in gratitude. (while bringing along some of his own writing students for mentoring.) Its fascinating for the travel, the food and the writing life. Also want to echo the sentiments in the comments of the BRILLIANCE of Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. It definitely is one of my favorite travel memoirs. A great list here, as always.

I have so many, but this year liked “ A Paris All Your Own” ( various authors with notes on their trips to Paris). Also, “We’ll Always Have Paris/ A Mother-Daughter Memoir” by Jennifer Coburn telling of trips to several countries with her daughter. Thanks for the list!

I loved To the Field of Stars: A Pilgrim’s Journey to Santiago de Campostela by Kevin Codd. Actually made me want to do the long walk!

Not a travel memoir but I highly recommend the audio version of A Year in Provence. It’s dlelightful — so much so that the author had to move because he did not disguise the actual area and people came from around the world to see his home

I love travel memoirs! Alice Steinbach’s Without Reservations is my favorite book ever, not just for the travel writing but also for how she discusses the seasons of women’s lives. The sequel, Educating Alice, is also fantastic. I also really enjoyed Mark Adams’ Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love.

Yay, another Alice Steinbach fan!

I’ve read both of those multiple times – they’re so great!

Give Me the World by Leila Hadley. She truly had crazy adventures–with her six year old son!–and writes about them so very well.

Anything by Paul Theroux- The Great Railway Bazaar, The Old Patagonia Express, Riding the Iron Rooster… All are lovely to read and re-read!

I’m currently reading Thirst by Heather Anderson. This is another memoir about a solo hike on the PCT. I like this better than Wild because “Anish” Is an experienced hiker with the audacious goal of breaking the record for fastest time. Still all the ups, downs and triumph over adversity themes and compelling insight into how she got to this point in life.

Footprints is also on my TBR after a friend recommended it. We plan all family vacations around visiting national parks. I’m excited to armchair travel with that one!

Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks and Traveling With Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd are two I enjoyed. Just read Leave Only Footprints and truly enjoyed that as well.

My favourite is Le Road Trip by Vivian Swift. Illustrated with beautiful watercolour sketches, this travel journal follows her journey through France as a newlywed. I love her sense of humour, travel tips and how she draws comparisons between travel and relationships.

Last year I read “Dear Bob and Sue” by Matt and Karen Smith and really enjoyed it. Matt and Karen Smith, a recently empty nester couple, set a goal to visit all the National Parks in the United States. This book chronicles those trips. It’s interesting, informative and funny. I thoroughly enjoyed Matt and Karen’s personalities and the way they interacted with one another. Travel + Nature + Humor = a winner!

Yes! I was going to say the same! I’ve been binge reading the three books in the “Dear Bob and Sue” series and have their book “Dories Ho!” on my nightstand now.

One Room in a Castle by Karen Connelly.

This is a great list and I really appreciate all the comments as well! I LOVE travel books and have read many, but there are definitely a few on this list and in the comments I had never heard of! So now my TBR has grown again…thanks!

I have to suggest my favorite travel book – Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman. At the age of 48, the author decides to leave her pampered life and embark on a lifetime of travel. What makes this book so special is that she isn’t content to merely be an observer, she meets the people and learns about their cultures. This book is inspirational – she is living a lifelong dream, beginning in her middle years. It caused me to lift my head, look around at my life, and make significant changes. Thanks to everyone who enlarged the original list! My TBR list has grown by leaps and bounds.

I love this genre! A few I’ve enjoyed immensely: Dove, by Robin Lee Graham. An account of a hippie kid in the 1960s who sailed around the world alone. A Thousand Days in Venice, by Marlena de Blasi. Her account of falling in love with a Venetian and moving to Venice in her 50s. Sometimes her writing is a bit much, but she describes the city beautifully (and makes me want to add velvet wall hangings and crystal chandeliers to my house!) The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain. His super-sarcastic sense of humor is perfect in this, as he travels and complains his way around Europe in the 1800s. It was interesting to read about what international travel was like, 150 years ago, as well. Learning to Bow, by Bruce Feiler. A man’s adjustment as he moves to Japan as an English teacher.

I loved all of Marlena de Balsi’s books. Agree the writing can be a little ‘flowery’ to say the least but she has a certain style!

My Love Affair with England & others by Susan Allen Toth

Absolutely loved WILD, also enjoyed A WALK IN THE PARK. Several of the others are now on my TRB list, TX!

My favorite is A House in the Sky – true story following Amanda Lindhout – 19 year old cocktail waitress who saves every penny to go on adventures around the world. If it sounds like a bad idea to travel the world along as a young teen, it is. She gets kidnapped in Somalia and becomes a hostage to a young militant group. It might frustrate some but I could really relate. I was hooked from the start of the book.

I would add:

*anything by Michael Palin, former Python and English traveller extraordinaire *Guy Delisle’s graphic novels ‘Shenzhen’, ‘Burma Chronicles’ and ‘Chroniques de Jérusalem’

Thanks for this great post. Like most people I love to travel, but we can’t right now due to the pandemic. This is a way to satisfy my wanderlust for the time being. I just ordered Without Reservations and At Home in the World and can’t wait for them to arrive!

The two that I still think about to this day are No One Goes to the Ice Alone (which is a memoir of a National Geographic author’s research trips to Antarctica to write about it for the magazine. Faaaaansinatinating look at life on the Antarctic. )

The other is Lost on Planet China- a reporter/memoirist decides to travel along the only highway in China that goes from the coast to the Eastern border. He explores different themes and people’s everyday life along the way. It’s less about his journey and more about the people and everyday life realities of China. But still fascinating.

Tales of a female Nomad by Rita Gelman is another great book if you’ve ever been a guest in other cultures and miss making friends abroad during this time of lock down. Speaking of Bryson, I also laughed out loud at Bill Bryson’s Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe book. Looking forward to finding some of these mentioned, thank you!

One of my first travel memoirs was “Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven.” This is from Amazon: In 1986, fresh out of college, Gilman and her friend Claire yearned to do something daring and original that did not involve getting a job. Inspired by a place mat at the International House of Pancakes, they decided to embark on an ambitious trip around the globe, starting in the People’s Republic of China. At that point, China had been open to independent travelers for roughly ten minutes.

Found it fascinating!

When I think of travel writing I immediately think of Paul Theroux’s many books, particularly those focusing on his travels in South Africa. His writing style always draws me in and keeps me going. I enjoyed Dark Star Safari and The Last Train to Zona Verde in particular. The Great Railway Bazaar is his best known but I haven’t read it yet.

On the Noodle Road: from Beijing to Rome by Jen Libn-Liu!! It’s still one of my favorite memoirs. Recipes included.

This is concerning Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley.” I remember the days written about in New Orleans with the desegregation of the New Orleans’ public schools. I was young but I knew the man who walked his daughter to school every day. Fifteen years later I would meet him and 2 years later I would marry him. He died back in 2005. But those days were always fresh in his mind. He and his daughter appeared on the Oprah tv show. He talked about writing a book about those days and calling it the Longest Walk. He was a Methodist minister and his church in the French Quarter district was damaged and his young family(first wife and kids) had to be moved and protected by the FBI. It was a dangerous time for those who chose to protect kids’ rights to get an education.

I love travel books which transport you to different places, times and cultures. Some of my favorite books are: Roughing It–Mark Twain Poisonwood Bible–Kingsolver Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight–Fuller Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town–Theroux Iron and Silk–Hessler Ice Bound–Nielsen Skeletons on the Zahara–King

Several years ago I read and loved Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman.

One of my favorite books is ‘Japan: In Search of Wa’ by Karin Muller. The author lives with a Japanese family as she becomes acquainted with the country and discovers another side of it. Unfortunately, they expect more of her than she bargained for. The writing is beautiful and has a thoughtful cadence to it, if that makes sense!

Sorry, I wrote the title incorrectly. It’s ‘Japanland: A Year in Search of Wa’

Bad Tourist by Suzanne Roberts.

Trying to find the title of a memoir written in (I think) the 1950s. Possibly by a young man who subsequently became a successful ad guy. About his travels to Mexico (I think). Can anyone help?

I loved “The Turkish Embassy Letters” (Mary Wortley Montagu), I read it in full years ago, but keep going back to re-read some parts. It gives an exceptional insight of traveling through Europe and the Ottoman Empire as a woman in the 18th century.

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travel 6 word memoirs

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14 Amazing Travel Memoirs to Read When You're Stuck at Home

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Sarah Schlichter

Deputy Executive Editor Sarah Schlichter's idea of a perfect trip includes spotting exotic animals, hiking through pristine landscapes, exploring new neighborhoods on foot, and soaking up as much art as she can. She often attempts to recreate recipes from her international travels after she gets home (which has twice resulted in accidental kitchen fires—no humans or animals were harmed).

Sarah joined the SmarterTravel team in 2017 after more than a decade at the helm of IndependentTraveler.com. Sarah's practical travel advice has been featured in dozens of news outlets including the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Budget Travel, and Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor .

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "A journal. Even years later, reading my notes from a trip can bring back incredibly vivid memories."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Road tripping and hiking through the rugged mountains of Patagonia."

Travel Motto: "'To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.'—Freya Stark"

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle. I get restless on long flights and like to be able to move around without disturbing anyone else."

Email Sarah at [email protected] .

Travel Smarter! Sign up for our free newsletter.

At times when you can’t travel, the best travel memoirs can transport you to far-away places, helping to feed your wanderlust even if you’re currently confined to your couch. The travel memoirs below capture destinations as far-flung as India, Australia, and Antarctica, and are all worth adding to your to-read list.

Travels with Charley in Search of America , John Steinbeck

Travels with Charley in Search of America, John Steinbeck.

This classic travel memoir follows John Steinbeck and his French poodle Charley across the U.S. from New York to Maine to California and back again. Travels with Charley offers a striking portrait of early 1960s America, from dramatic natural landscapes and simmering racial tensions to quirky characters he meets along the way.

travel 6 word memoirs

The Singular Pilgrim: Travels on Sacred Ground , Rosemary Mahoney

The Singular Pilgrim: Travels on Sacred Ground, Rosemary Mahoney.

From Spain’s 500-mile Camino de Santiago to the Ganges River in Varanasi, India, Rosemary Mahoney follows in the footsteps of religious believers on some of the world’s holiest journeys. The Singular Pilgrim blends humor, curiosity, and keen insight as Mahoney confronts her own Irish Catholic heritage and finds grace in unexpected places.

10 Engrossing Audiobooks for Travelers

From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home , Tembi Locke

From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, Tembi Locke.

“In Sicily, every story begins with a marriage or a death. In my case, it’s both,” writes Tembi Locke on the first page of this moving memoir . Locke, an African-American actress, falls in love with a Sicilian chef whose family disapproves of their union. But after her husband’s untimely death, Locke brings their daughter to Sicily and slowly forges a relationship with his family that helps them all heal.

In a Sunburned Country , Bill Bryson

In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson.

There’s a reason Bill Bryson is one of the most popular travel writers in the English language, and his signature wit and insight are on full display throughout In a Sunburned Country . As Bryson travels across Australia, he peppers fun facts with wry observations and conversations with cheery locals, bringing the country to life in his own inimitable style.

All the Way to the Tigers , Mary Morris

All the Way to the Tigers, Mary Morris.

The newest travel memoir in this list, All the Way to the Tigers is well worth a preorder. It covers two journeys in one: Morris’ recovery from a devastating injury and her subsequent trip to India in search of tigers. Morris offers both inspiration and insight in this beautifully written book.

The 10 Most Anticipated 2020 Books

Comfort Me with Apples: A Journey Through Life, Love and Truffles , Ruth Reichl

Comfort Me with Apples: A Journey Through Life, Love and Truffles, Ruth Reichl.

In Comfort Me with Apples , readers can eat their way around the world with food writer Ruth Reichl, sampling dry-fried shrimp in China and truffles in France. Reichl’s conversational writing style makes it feel like she’s talking to a friend—and her food descriptions will leave you hungry.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail , Cheryl Strayed

travel 6 word memoirs

You might not expect a story of a woman hiking alone to be a page turner, but this international bestseller proves that wrong. Strayed writes about a period of crisis in her 20s, following the death of her mother and the dissolution of her marriage, when she made the brash decision to hike more than 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Washington. Her journey was as much emotional as physical, and Strayed writes about it in raw, visceral prose.

Ice Diaries , Jean McNeil

Ice Diaries, Jean McNeil.

In Ice Diaries , Jean McNeil combines personal stories from her childhood in the Canadian Maritimes with vivid descriptions of her four months in Antarctica, as well as journeys to other icy destinations such as Svalbard and Greenland. Whether you’ve traveled to Antarctica or it’s still on your bucket list, McNeil’s book offers fascinating insight into the continent’s history and landscape.

10 Days in Antarctica

Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria , Noo Saro-Wiwa

Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria, Noo Saro-Wiwa.

Though she grew up mostly in London, Noo Saro-Wiwa made frequent visits to Nigeria to visit her father, an activist who was later executed by the government. As an adult, she returns to the country for a deeper exploration of its corruption, culture, and unexpected charms. Looking for Transwonderland uses insight and humor to paint a multifaceted portrait of Nigeria.

The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto , Pico Iyer

The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto, Pico Iyer.

Pico Iyer intended to spend his year in Kyoto studying Zen Buddhism at a monastery and learning about Japan’s traditional culture—but his plans are upended when he meets a woman named Sachiko. The Lady and the Monk details their relationship, marked by cross-cultural misunderstandings and Iyer’s deepening appreciation for Japan in all its complexity.

All Over the Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty Theft , Geraldine DeRuiter

All Over the Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty Theft, Geraldine DeRuiter.

Geraldine DeRuiter leads off the aptly titled All Over the Place with a wry disclaimer, noting that her book is not particularly informative and confessing, “If you follow my lead, you will get hopelessly, miserably lost.” But that only makes this book even more fun to read, as DeRuiter and her husband careen around the world, getting sick, getting lost, and falling even more deeply in love.

The 10 Best Books of 2019, According to Amazon

Wild Coast: Travels on South America’s Untamed Edge , John Gimlette

travel 6 word memoirs

If you’re drawn to the unfamiliar, Wild Coast is well worth a read. Gimlette takes readers to three rarely visited countries in South America—Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana—to reveal their colorful history, rare wildlife, and remote jungles.

The Snow Leopard , Peter Matthiessen

The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen.

A masterwork of nature writing, The Snow Leopard details the author’s trek into the Himalayas in search of one of the Earth’s rarest and most elusive creatures. Matthiessen was a Zen Buddhist, and his memoir also includes his own internal journey toward a deeper understanding of the world around him.

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle , Dervla Murphy

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle, Dervla Murphy.

The ultimate adventure story, Full Tilt follows an Irish woman in the early 1960s on a solo bicycle expedition across Europe and through Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, accompanied only by her .25 revolver. Murphy encounters snow, sunstroke, stomach trouble, and other discomforts, but her struggles are offset by the fascinating people she meets and the magnificent landscapes through which she rides.

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Six Word Memoirs

Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk perkodhuskurunbarggruauyagokgorlayorgromgremmitghundhurthrumathunaradidillifaititillibumullunukkunun klikkaklakkaklaskaklopatzklatschabattacreppycrottygraddaghsemmihsammihnouithappluddyappladdypkonpkot bladyughfoulmoecklenburgwhurawhorascortastrumpapornanennykocksapastippatappatupperstrippuckputtanach thingcrooklyexineverypasturesixdixlikencehimaroundhersthemaggerbykinkinkankanwithdownmindlookingated lukkedoerendunandurraskewdylooshoofermoyportertooryzooysphalnabortansporthaokansakroidverjkapakkapuk..

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The Pandemic in Six-Word Memoirs

“The world has never felt smaller.”

By Larry Smith

Mr. Smith is the creator of Six Word Memoirs.

Since 2006, I’ve been challenging people to describe their lives in six words, a form I call the six-word memoir — a personal twist on the legendary six-word story attributed to Ernest Hemingway: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

I’ve found that some of the most memorable six-word stories arise in the extremes — during our toughest and most joyous moments. So over the past several months, I’ve asked adults and children around the country to use the form to make sense of this moment in history: one person, one story, and six words at a time.

Not a criminal, but running masked. — Stella Kleinman Every day’s a bad hair day. — Leigh Giza

Home ec: rationing butter, bourbon, sanity. — Christine Triano

travel 6 word memoirs

Can’t smell the campfire on Zoom. — Melanie Abrams

Deserted crowded Manhattan, my own island … — Elisa Shevitz Eighth hour of YouTube. Send Help! — Leela Chandra

travel 6 word memoirs

Messy hair, messy room, messy thoughts. — Lily Herman

I regret saying, “I hate school.” — Riana Heffron

Read every book in the house. — Francesca Gomez-Novy

travel 6 word memoirs

Never-ending, but boredom doesn’t faze me. — Lily Gold Required school supplies: screens, screens, screens. — Darshana Chandra

Won scrabble; smile breaks through mask. — Abby Ellin

travel 6 word memoirs

Tuning out parents, under my headphones. — Lukas Smith

This is what time looks like. — Sylvia Sichel Bad time for an open marriage. — Rachel Lehmann-Haupt

travel 6 word memoirs

Sun-kissed lips? Not kissed this year. — Twanna Hines Avoiding death, but certainly not living. — Sydney Reimann

Social distancing myself from the fridge. — Maria Leopoldo

travel 6 word memoirs

Dream of: heat, limbs, crowds, concerts. — Amy Turn Sharp Teacher finding inspiration through uneasy times. — April Goodman

Slowly turning into a technological potato. — Jad Ammar Cleaned Lysol container with Lysol wipe. — Alex Wasser

travel 6 word memoirs

Hallway hike, bathtub swim, Pandora concert. — Susan Evind

Numbers rise, but sun does too. — Paloma Lenz

Afraid of: snakes, heights, opening schools. — Michelle Wolff

The world has never felt smaller. — Maggie Smith

travel 6 word memoirs

How do you make sense of this moment in history?

Share your own six-word memoir in the comments . We’ll feature some of our favorites in a future article.

Larry Smith is the creator of the Six Word Memoirs . Illustrations by Nicholas Konrad.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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An earlier version of this essay misspelled the given name of a memoir writer. He is Jad Ammar, not Jade.

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The Six-Word Memoir: An Exercise on Short, Powerful Stories

POSTED ON Jan 22, 2024

Nicole Ahlering

Written by Nicole Ahlering

Have you heard of the Six-Word Memoir? Exactly what it sounds like, it’s six words that sum up your life, a phrase that was officially coined by Larry Smith in 2006 and has become a global phenomenon.

Sounds challenging, doesn’t it? 

Smith, editor of SMITH magazine , asked his readers to describe their life in six words, and the idea stuck. Since then, thousands of folks have submitted their own Six-Word Memoirs.

Need an example? Perhaps the most famous Six-Word Memoir is “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” often attributed to Ernest Hemingway.

We think you should try writing a Six-Word Memoir too.

This guide to the Six-Word Memoir includes:

Why should you write a six-word memoir.

In short, it can be a great tool for helping you hone in on your message, purpose or self-perception—all critical to writing a full-length memoir of your own. Consider it an essential exercise for understanding how to start a memoir .

Here are a few other reasons to do it: 

  • It helps you figure out the core theme of your experiences. When you have so few words to summarize your entire life, you’re forced to look at the commonalities between everything you’ve experienced. Therein lies your core book theme . 
  • It encourages clarity. It's easy to get verbose when we’re writing—especially about ourselves. With six words, there’s no room for extra prose. Every word counts. 
  • It can act as a foundation for your larger memoir. Is there anything more intimidating than writing your life story? A Six-Word Memoir can create a jumping-off point for you to get started on your narrative and develop your memoir outline .
  • It can help with marketing your book . Just like professionals are encouraged to have an “elevator speech” for networking opportunities, it’s great to have a shorthand way to describe your memoir. 

How to write a Six-Word Memoir in 3 steps

Unlike some writing prompts that encourage long paragraphs, this writing exercise is meant to encourage depth yet simplicity. Don’t overthink it! You'll inevitably start with more than six words – but you'll get there in the end.

YouTube video

Step 1: Reflect on your story so far

Think about significant events that have happened in your life. Ponder the emotions you’ve felt, the lessons you’ve learned, and the core themes that have occurred.

Maybe pick one particularly pivotal moment or memory.

Out of those reflections, what has had the most impact on you? What are you most inspired to share with others? These are sparks of your initial memoir ideas !

Step 2: Choose your six words 

Now is the hard part. Condense your discoveries from step one into just six words. Focus on your writing tone , the emotions you want to evoke in your reader, and the words that resonate with you most. 

Obviously, this is not the time for filler words. So make sure each word carries weight. We have a free tool that helps you improve your writing skills by rephrasing your sentences in a more concise way. Leverage tools like these!

Remember that you’ll likely have to write several Six-Word Memoirs before you land upon one you really love. That’s a very normal part of the process. 

Step 3: Edit and refine your memoir

After writing your Six-Word Memoir, take some time away from it to give your brain a break. Here at Self Publishing, we always tell our authors to “never edit while writing.”

But when you come back to it, do so with a critical eye. 

Are there words you can remove or replace with more evocative words? Are you aptly conveying your message? Is your short memoir clear and impactful? 

What are some Six-Word Memoir examples? 

Looking for some inspiration to write your Six-Word Memoir? We’ve got you covered. Here are a few: 

  • “Dreamed big, stumbled often, never stopped.” 
  • “Loved, lost, found strength in healing.”
  • “Embraced flaws, painted life with authenticity.” 
  • “Rainbows followed storms, light after darkness.” 
  • “Built bridges, burned some, found peace.” 
  • “Whispers of yesterday, echoes shaping today.” 
  • “Found true love, married someone else.”
  • “Wanderlust-filled, finally found home within myself.”
  • “Raised by wolves, now leading pack.”
  • “Failed often, succeeded where it mattered.”
  • “Danced through life's storms, found sunshine.”
  • “Lost keys, found purpose, changed locks.”
  • “Dreamed big, stumbled, rose stronger.”
  • “Broke rules, mended hearts, embraced chaos.”
  • “Quiet rebel, loud thoughts, silent victories.”
  • “Chased dreams, caught flights, built reality.”

Wow. Did reading any of these evoke some serious emotion for you? They did for me.

As you can see, many Six-Word Memoirs err on the side of poetic or esoteric. They are not literal summaries of your life in six words. That would be pretty hard to do. 

Instead, the idea is to evoke a little curiosity but have a clear intention behind your words. You can expand them into a full book later – or even publish a book of poetry !

Related: 31 Memoir Examples

What famous people have Six-Word Memoirs?

While looking for Six-Word Memoir examples, I was delighted to see that multiple well-known celebrities and famous people have accepted Larry Smith's challenge to write a short story. I loved these and I think you will too!

  • Stephen Colbert: “Well, I thought it was funny.”
  • Jane Goodall: “Motherhood, activism, discovering the unknown together.”
  • Joan Baez: “Still searching for that perfect note.”
  • Dave Eggers: “Fifteen years since last professional haircut.”
  • Joyce Carol Oates: “Revenge is living well, without you.”
  • Donald Trump: “Big hands, big hair, big ego.”
  • Whoopi Goldberg: “Everything in life is beautiful. Y'all.”
  • Sherman Alexie: “Despite illness, wife, dog survived me.”
  • Al Roker: “Loved meteorology, but storms pass by.”
  • Nora Ephron: “Secret of life: marry an Italian.”

As you can see in these examples, a Six-Word Memoir doesn't have to be deep and thought-provoking. They can be fun and silly as well.

By now the creative juices should be flowing. Now it's time to write one for yourself!

Related: The Best Celebrity Memoirs

Creative writing exercises using the Six-Word Memoir 

Why stop at writing just one Six-Word Memoir? You can write multiple of them and use them as tools to help formulate ideas for your larger book. Just like no one's life experiences are the exact same as yours, there are no rigid rules for how to write a memoir .

Try one (or a few) of these exercises to get the creative juices flowing: 

A memoir for each chapter of your life

We all have different seasons of our lives, so why not turn each into a mini-memoir? This can help you clarify what you’ve gotten out of each life phase, like your school years, your first job, a serious trial like an illness or the birth of your child. 

A memoir for each of your identities

To paraphrase Walt Whitman, you contain multitudes. You are not just a mom or just a sales representative. Your identity is tied to your culture, passions, relationships, and more. Write a Six-Word Memoir to express each facet of your identity. 

A memoir using metaphors 

Ah, the metaphor, one of the most beloved literary devices . If you’re up for a challenge, try writing your Six-Word Memoir using metaphors. Pick a theme, like nature, food, or sports, and see what you can convey. 

A memoir about change 

What if you reflect on the biggest periods of transformation in your life? Whether traveling the world, becoming a parent or taking on a big challenge, the events you’ve experienced changed you. Challenge yourself to write six words about that. 

Need more prompts to get your creativity flowing? We've curated a collection of 75 memoir writing prompts to help you craft your narrative.

What's your Six-Word Memoir?

If you intend to write your own memoir, crafting a six-word version (or a few) can be a beneficial and beloved part of your creative process. 

Of course, the process of expanding those six words into an entire book is significant. If you’re feeling intimidated by getting your life story onto the page (and getting it published), we’re here to help. 

At selfpublishing.com, we coach you with the strategies you need to get your book written and published, and we’re there to support you the entire way. Just schedule a book consultation to get started. 

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Six Word Memoirs: Words Are Magic. Start with Story.

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Words are magic. Start with story

First days of school can be tricky. There are routines to learn, relationships to build, and foundational skills to review. Students also need to prime their brains for learning. During my first decade of teaching middle school English , I tried something different nearly every first day of school and was still never satisfied. And then, I discovered the power of beginning with Six Word Memoirs. 

six word memoirs

“ For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn ” is perhaps the most legendary six-word memoir. Though often attributed to Ernest Hemingway—along with a tale that he wrote the six-word memoir as part of a high-stakes bet—experts say the link to him is highly unlikely. And yet, the famous six words that tell a story of grief and loss have become well known. Perhaps the original six-word memoir, it is a perfect example of how just a few words can pack a punch. In just six words, readers learn much more about a life story than one might expect could be possible.

travel 6 word memoirs

Because it’s helpful to students writing as soon as possible in the new school year, and because six-word memoirs provide a great lens to better understand student personalities and passions, six word memoirs became the first assignment I’d give students — and myself — each fall. Students would start to flex their writing muscles, and in the process, we’d learn more about each other. 

Writing Six-Words Memoirs

There are many approaches to having students write six-word memoirs, but here is one that worked for me as a middle school teacher.

travel 6 word memoirs

1. Analyze examples

Examine several six-word memoirs written by other young writers. As you introduce these examples, use the opportunity to discuss the layered meaning behind the memoirs and what the six words revealed about the author.  

  • This life is sweeter than fiction.
  • Brand new shoes, same old life.
  • Should shoot for moon. Stargazing instead.
  • Sarcasm really grinds my gears. Seriously. 
  • Don’t tell me I’m not important.

2. Model vulnerability

Next, teachers can share a six-word memoir of their own. One of mine is:  “ Words are magic. Start with story, ” a memoir that allows me to reveal my values as well as preface how I believe we’d be accomplishing much during the year thanks to the power of reading and writing stories— including growing empathy, increasing understanding, and gaining insight. In his book, Arabian Nights , author Tahir Shah writes, “Stories are a communal currency of humanity.” (Seven words, but still powerful!) 

travel 6 word memoirs

3. Brainstorm and draft

Writing requires thinking – and limiting students to six words will require them to do some brainstorming. What topic will they focus on? What are the key words they most want to include? How can those six words be linked together to do more than just make a statement, but to tell a story about them or their life? 

travel 6 word memoirs

This can be done in many ways. I’d ask my students to fold a piece of paper into a nameplate and write their six-word memoir and their name. Then, I’d take a picture of each student, which I’d use to memorize their names. Students can also share their memoirs with each other to begin to weave the important fabric of classroom culture.

travel 6 word memoirs

Other ideas for six word memoirs :

Rather than just writing their own memoirs, six-word memoirs can be used in a variety of different ways. Throughout the year, students could also write six-word memoirs for characters in books or stories to show their understanding of characterization and theme. When reading nonfiction, students could craft a six-word synopsis as a way to practice their summarization skills.  Returning to six word memoirs at the end of a school year could also be a way for students to reflect on their growth as people and as writers. 

Six words can tell a story.

travel 6 word memoirs

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Literacy Consultant, Writer

Dana VanderLugt is a literacy consultant from Michigan. Her novel, Enemies in the Orchard: A World War 2 Novel in Verse, releases on September 12, 2023. She can be found at www.danavanderlugt.com.

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How to Use 6-Word Memoirs in the Classroom

Activities in which students have six words to collect their thoughts can help build community and get classroom discussions started.

Elementary student writing at her desk

I launched the Six-Word Memoir project in 2006 with a question on what was then a strange new platform called Twitter: “Can you describe your life in six words?” While I suspected that the constraint of six words would fuel creativity, it wasn’t until I was invited to my nephew’s third-grade classroom to talk about six-word storytelling that I got my first glimpse of the format’s powerful possibilities in school. That morning, a few dozen elementary students shared stories of identity (“Born to be a spy, unnoticeable”), self-worth (“I live bigger than your labels”), agency (“Brainy, talkative, will never be quiet”), and more.

Since then, Six-Word Memoirs has become a valuable tool in many teachers’ toolboxes because it takes away the pressure of a whole blank page while helping kids focus on what’s important in writing: honest and specific storytelling. And what’s important in any young life: an understanding that no one knows or can tell your story better than you.

The six-word form is simple and adaptable and provides a great entry point for almost any subject, grade level, and topic. Below, I share six steps that apply to any Six-Word Memoirs lesson, followed by three classroom lessons.

Teaching Six-Word Memoirs

1. Introduce the Six-Word Memoir concept as a way students can describe their life using just two rules: one, they must use six words exactly, and two, they should be words that the students believe to be true and are exclusively their own.

2. Pick a topic or prompt. “How would you describe your life in six words?” is a great first prompt for any grade level.

3. Show examples of Six-Word Memoirs so students can see a variety of ways to think about the topic.

4. Give them time—either 10–15 minutes in class or as a homework assignment—to write their six words, and have each student read theirs aloud. Remember to share your own.

5. Leave time for discussion, either in small groups or with the whole class. Ask:

  • How are your experiences and perspectives similar to or different from those of your classmates?
  • What are you noticing about your favorite Six-Word Memoirs? Are they funny, inspiring, surprising, or something else?
  • What common themes do you see in these memoirs?

6. If possible, display student work.

Six-Word Exercises

1. Playing the “how well do you know your classmates?” game: Two key values of Six-Word Memoirs are that anyone can do it and everyone plays by the same rules. Taylor Swift gets six words (“My diary is read by everyone”), Nora Z., an 11-year-old from Indiana, gets six words (“Mom just revoked my creative license”), and the creator of the Six-Word Memoir Project gets six words (“Big hair, big heart, big hurry”).

Have your students write their six words and then read a memoir aloud and ask the class to guess whose it is. It’s fun and a good way for the class to connect. When students hear, “Life is better with headphones on,” there are sure to be a lot of mental “likes” and classmates saying, “Yeah, me too.” Hearing, “Three schools, three years, what next?” is relatable for anyone who’s been the new kid.

2. Engaging more deeply with curriculum: Once the ice is broken, the six-word format offers a chance to go deeper. You may be looking for a reflection activity for the 100th day of school, an innovative way to explore Black History Month, or an entry point to the study of history, literature, or current events.

Almost every grade studies nonfiction, and if your students are learning about historical figures, you can invite them to write a Six-Word Memoir from a historical person’s point of view. Writing only six words helps students get to the essence of the figure they’re studying and helps them identify with someone who otherwise may seem larger than life. After reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, for example, students at South Side High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, put themselves in the shoes of the narrator, writing, “Rain fell hard; Momma never flinched,” “Dad, put down the bottle, please?” and more.

If your classroom explores current events—transitions in our global economy, emerging political movements, debates about climate or technological advancements—ask your students to write six-word predictions about where they see these trends heading. This exercise helps students get started thinking critically about the issue or trend, and can be used to generate conversation or catalyze independent reflection.

3. Introducing difficult conversations: Teachers know that students arrive at the classroom as members of a complicated, ever-changing world and that they need to process this world and their place in it. One way to make these conversations easier is by breaking down big ideas into small, digestible chunks.

Andrea Franks, a fourth-/fifth-grade teacher in New York City, asks her students to reflect on social justice using just six words. Students have written, “Freedom for all, freedom for everyone,” “Small acts can make big differences,” “Dark skin, light skin, all equal,” and “Ready or not, time for change.” Franks then asks her students to think about how these memoirs reflect what they’re learning about civil rights and which historical figures might approve of these messages: Ruby Bridges? Diane Nash? Martin Luther King Jr?  Students then engage in deeper conversations, connecting their own experiences to the experiences of those who fought for all marginalized people.

Many students have struggled during the pandemic, and many educators tell me they have utilized the six-word format to help their students process this shared experience. Hundreds of these were compiled in a book I edited, A Terrible, Horrible, No Good Year: Hundreds of Stories on the Pandemic by Students, Teachers, and Parents . Memoirs like “Graduated fourth grade from my bedroom” (Leo F., fourth grade), “Hey Siri, give me social interaction” (Nate M., sixth grade), and “For sale: prom dress, never worn” (Caroline R., 12th grade) helped students express their emotions and gave the adults in their lives a window into their interior world.

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Six-Word Nuggets From Famous People

For me, six words is a way into many other worlds, communities and causes.

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For someone who has worked with words all my life, I do a lot of counting. Mostly I count to six.

I run the Six-Word Memoir project. Why six? Six-Word Memoirs is a personal twist of the form that, according to literary lore, Ernest Hemingway started when he was once challenged in a bar
 bet (where much literary lore happens) to write a novel in just six words. As the story goes, Papa wrote, “ For sale: baby shoes, never worn .” Could be true; it’s probably not. Still, it’s a good story and I ran with it.

What in 2006 my co-editor Rachel Fershleiser and I thought would be a one-month contest on our fledgling storytelling platform, smithmag.net (now SixWordMemoirs.com), has taken on a life beyond our wildest dreams. Nine years after we launched the challenge in collaboration with what was then a little-known company called Twitter, more then with one million six-word stories have been shared on the site—and countless more across the web and in real space.

No shock that summing up your life in six words works well in the age of Twitter. Yet what started as challenge to a small, online literary community turned into a tool for classrooms and boardrooms, churches and synagogues, veterans’ groups and speed-dating as this simple, creative constraint creates conversation, sparks imagination, or helps anyone get to the essence of who they are and what matters most to them. For me, six words is a way into many other worlds, communities and causes: In the last month alone I’ve taken six-words into a residency for the formerly homeless; a men’s medium security prison; the Zen Hospice Center fundraising gala; and led “six-word slams” at a number of hipster storytelling events and half a dozen schools.

The latest chapter in the six-word story is our seventh book, The Best Advice in Six Words. How to choose some of my favorites among the 1,001 morsels of six-word advice to share here? Impossible. So I decided to create the first-ever Six-Word Advice Awards.

MOST PRECOCIOUS: Both these bits of advice were shared during a third-grade classroom I was invited to talk to.

“Life is better in soft pajamas.”—Emily C. “Look mean, be nice to everyone.”—Kevin R.

MOST IN NEED OF A BACKSTORY: “Don’t set your brother on fire.”—Jodi Picoult, bestselling novelist, most recently of Off the Page, written with her daughter.

MOST WELL-TIMED: “Fear not, live in the now.”—sent by Goldie Hawn, and arriving on my phone moments before I was walking into a yoga class as I was feeling extremely stressed about this book. (Also: I love Goldie.)

BEST WORDPLAY “Intercourse is easy. Discourse is hard.”—Abby Ellin, Observer contributor and author of Teenage Waistland: A Former Fat-Kid Weighs in on Living Large, Losing Weight, And How Parents Can (And Can’t) Help.

BEST COUPLE: “Do I look fat?’

‘NO HONEY.’”—Jason Biggs, actor

“Live far away from your in-laws.”—Jenny Mollen, actor and author of I Like You Just the Way I Am

BEST REMINDER: “Most powerful words: ‘Thanks’ and ‘Sorry.’ ”—Jennifer Egan, Pulizer-Prize-winning author of A Visit From the Goon Squad

SECOND-BEST REMINDER “Your phone does not love you.”—Scott Alexander, former gadget editor, Playboy

MOST RELIABLE NARRATOR: “Don’t put that in your mouth.”—Morgan Spurlock, director of Super Size Me.

FUNNIEST: “Hands where I can see ’em.”—Gary Shteyngart

BEST REASON TO DATE A JEWISH GUY: “At least you know he’s circumcised.” (from Six-Word Memoirs on Jewish Life) — Amy Schumer , actor, comedian

MOST LIKELY TO LAUNCH A NEW RELIGION: “Secret of life: family, friends, bacon.”— Katie Couric

SIX WORD I HEARD ON A TED TALK I MOST WISH I COULD HAVE PUT IN THE BOOK: “Divorce your story, marry the truth.”—Tony Robbins, motivational speaker

Want more Six? Check out Six-Word Memoirs

The Best Advice in Six Words Cover

The Best Advice in Six Words: Writers Famous and Obscure on Love, Sex, Money, Friendship, Family, Work, and Much More

Larry Smith is the founder and editor of Six-Word Memoirs from SMITH Magazine (sixwordmemoirs.com), a bestselling book series, board game, live event series, and global phenomenon that’s found a home in classrooms and companies across the world. Larry speaks on personal storytelling all over the place, including Levi’s, Dell, Shutterfly, ESPN, and in classroom of all ages.

Six-Word Nuggets From Famous People

  • SEE ALSO : How Opera’s Crisis Can Become an Opera Renaissance

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travel 6 word memoirs

Made-To-Travel.com

Smile File-Six Word Memoirs…of Kids

I’ve gotten quite addicted to reading TED Books on my commute. My latest read is Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated: Illustrated Six-Word Memoirs by Students Making Sense of the World.   The inspiration of the Six-Word Memoir comes from the combination of Larry Smith’s grandfather (Smitty) and the legend that Ernest Hemingway was once asked to write a novel in just six words…according to this legend Hemingway’s response: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Larry Smith joined forces with a then 6 month young company called Twitter (yeah, :)), and created SmithMag.net and it was a hit, getting press from everyone from the NY Post to Oprah being praised for the beauty in its brevity.

Teachers started using the Six-Word Memoir as a writing exercise for their students and discovered that children are brilliant and these memoirs made classmates feel closer to one another.

I found the illustrated Six-Word Memoirs of these kids really tender in a profound kind of way and was instantly inspired.

Look below the illustrations to see artist’s name, age and school. Enjoy!

Some of the memoirs read sweet and funny and some are a bit more serious or sad, but all of them feel personal and I love them!

I also think the Six-Word memoir is a great and super fun writing exercise. Secret time!- as soon as I finished the TED Book all I could do in my head was think of Six-Word Memoirs that described my week. It kind of felt weirdly satisfying when a phrase worked itself out!

Today I think can be summed up best with this one :).

Three day weekend…let’s cabbage patch.

click for source

Ha! Possible new little feature on made-to-travel :). TED Books are available for iPhone, iPad, the Nook and Kindle HERE . Have a wonderful wonderful long weekend.

P.S. How great is the cabbage patch with James Van Der Beek ?!?!

travel 6 word memoirs

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Smile file-junk mail, smile file 3.6.2011-more mondo on cnn, smile file-ballerina project, smile file: cloudreporter.

travel 6 word memoirs

Oh wonderful! I hope she finds it useful. It was really amazing what these kids came up with.

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COMMENTS

  1. Travel

    A Travel Diary, Six Words at a Time. SMITH community member who goes by the name Mianderingis taking six-word memoirs across the world, writing a new one with every country she visits—greeting the likes of Thailand with these six words: "Sticky rice at every meal. Yum." Like so many of the six-word memoirs, her bite-sized dispatches reflect a ...

  2. A Travel Diary, Six Words at a Time

    SMITH community member who goes by the name Miandering is taking six-word memoirs across the world, writing a new one with every country she visits—greeting the likes of Thailand with these six words: "Sticky rice at every meal. Yum." . Like so many of the six-word memoirs, her bite-sized dispatches reflect a rollercoaster ride of emotions and impressions, from "Hidden gems make ...

  3. Travel Stories in Six Words

    Here are our six-word travel stories: Abbi: Without the struggle, we get bored. Adventurers always belong to mother nature. Wandering hearts never stray too far. I feel my heart is full. Peaceful is having love close by. Climbing mountains always satisfies the soul. Stokes:

  4. Top Vacation Memories in Six

    Hands up if you need a vacation? While some of us are lucky enough to not need a vacation ("I live where you vacation.Miami." - Amanda1016), most of us look forward to a little escape ("Anticipating the vacation was better, actually. "-MBK).But no matter how long you plan and prepare for a trip, something will always slip your mind ("Suitcase unpacked.

  5. 33+ Best Travel Memoirs (True Story Travel Books)

    MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY — GREEN LIGHTS. I read all my picks on this list of the best travel memoirs via the written word in books on paper, but with McConaughey's signature southern drawl, this one might be even better to experience via audiobook! 13. Have Mother, Will Travel: A Mother and Daughter Discover Themselves, Each Other and the World.

  6. 12 Best Travel Memoirs to Read

    Amazon Woman: Facing Fears, Chasing Dreams, and a Quest to Kayak the World's Largest River from Source to Sea by Darcy Gaechter. The most life-changing and inspiring journeys often seem to be ...

  7. A Cavalcade of Six-Word Travel Memoirs

    Announcing the First Monthly Winner of Our Six-Word Travel Memoir Contest. We launched our Six Word Travel Memoir Contest last month as part of the kickoff to our 35th Anniversary Celebration, and, at the outset, we weren't sure what kind of response to expect. We were excited to hear more of your perspective on travel and intrigued to find ...

  8. Six-Word Memoir: What It Means and Best Examples

    Example #2: Try, try again. We fell head over heels for Erica Jong's take on not giving up on love, which was also published on PEN America: "Much married, fourth time is charm.". We don't ...

  9. 20 travel memoirs to take you around the world

    Author: Alice Steinbach. This is a wonderful guide for anyone contemplating solo travel. Journalist Alice Steinbach took a four-month sabbatical from work to travel to London, Oxford, Paris, and Milan when she was in her 50s. Her memoir is as much about the places she goes as it is about the people she befriends.

  10. 14 Amazing Travel Memoirs to Read When You're Stuck at Home

    The Singular Pilgrim: Travels on Sacred Ground, Rosemary Mahoney. Amazon. From Spain's 500-mile Camino de Santiago to the Ganges River in Varanasi, India, Rosemary Mahoney follows in the ...

  11. Six-Word Memoirs

    Six-Word Memoirs. By: Larry Smith April 27, 2015. This piece was submitted by Larry Smith as part of the 2015 PEN World Voices Online Anthology. Larry Smith's event: Six Words for My Mother. Since 2006, I've been asking people to sum up their lives in exactly six words on the storytelling community I founded, Six Words from SMITH Magazine.

  12. Six Word Memoirs

    There is an imposter among us. Mohamed Ayy. live, love, learn, repeat the cycle. Jeanette P. Miller. Couldn't cope; in recovery from addiction. Tegan Moss James. Her heart and mind never agree. Lilinoe Sheridan. Open heart prickles with unmet expectations.

  13. Opinion

    The Pandemic in Six-Word Memoirs. "The world has never felt smaller.". Mr. Smith is the creator of Six Word Memoirs. Since 2006, I've been challenging people to describe their lives in six ...

  14. Six-Word Memoir: An Exercise on Short, Powerful Stories

    Step 2: Choose your six words. Now is the hard part. Condense your discoveries from step one into just six words. Focus on your writing tone, the emotions you want to evoke in your reader, and the words that resonate with you most. Obviously, this is not the time for filler words. So make sure each word carries weight.

  15. Six Word Memoirs: Words Are Magic. Start with Story

    2. Model vulnerability. Next, teachers can share a six-word memoir of their own. One of mine is: " Words are magic. Start with story, " a memoir that allows me to reveal my values as well as preface how I believe we'd be accomplishing much during the year thanks to the power of reading and writing stories— including growing empathy ...

  16. How to Use 6-Word Memoirs in the Classroom

    3. Show examples of Six-Word Memoirs so students can see a variety of ways to think about the topic. 4. Give them time—either 10-15 minutes in class or as a homework assignment—to write their six words, and have each student read theirs aloud. Remember to share your own. 5. Leave time for discussion, either in small groups or with the ...

  17. Six-Word Memoirs Series by Larry Smith

    Six-Word Memoirs Series. 8 primary works • 8 total works. Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. by Larry Smith. 3.89 · 3,375 Ratings · 480 Reviews · published 2008 · 12 editions. Deceptively simple and surprisingly addictive, Not…. Want to Read.

  18. Six-Word Nuggets From Famous People

    Check out Six-Word Memoirs. The Best Advice in Six Words: Writers Famous and Obscure on Love, Sex, Money, Friendship, Family, Work, and Much More. Larry Smith is the founder and editor of Six-Word ...

  19. Smile File-Six Word Memoirs...of Kids

    Some of the memoirs read sweet and funny and some are a bit more serious or sad, but all of them feel personal and I love them! I also think the Six-Word memoir is a great and super fun writing exercise. Secret time!- as soon as I finished the TED Book all I could do in my head was think of Six-Word Memoirs that described my week.