A Southern Indiana “Inserimento”

Inserimento in Italian means “settling in.”

It describes the process travelers go through when arriving in a new location. it happens at the beginning of the trip, and again with each change to a new locale. Inserimento is that gateway between the transition and the new “here and now.”

It is equivalent to the Hero’s Journey step of the gateway (“he finally crosses the threshold between the world he is familiar with and that which he is not”) or, if inserimento goes badly, the beginning of tests, allies, enemies (“out of his comfort zone, the Hero is confronted with an ever more difficult series of challenges he must overcome on the journey towards his ultimate goal.”)

As I wrote in Write Your Travel Memoirs (shameless plug), “How do you sync up with the place you’ve reached? What is its story, and what is your place in it? When expectations crash into reality, how do you handle the impact?…On a short vacation there’s a lot riding on inserimento.”

In my last post, I invited you to send my travel stories. How about we share tales of  inserimento? Here’s mine.


I went to Indiana over the 4th of July weekend for a reunion with my closest friends from college. These people are my chosen family, dearer to me than life itself, and we haven’t all been together in one place since roughly 1978. Thanks to the miracle of social media we’ve stayed in touch, and were able to align on staying at a lake cottage down in the hollows of Brown County, Indiana, not far from Bloomington where we hung around Indiana University all those years ago.

Before I could reach the calm still center of that lake cottage vacation, I had a lot of inserimento to get through.

My route was circuitous, a plan designed to get me there with time to do some necessary work on the way instead of behind the steering wheel for the 7+ hour drive. I took a bus to O’Hare airport where I caught a flight to Cincinnati. There Friend Marty and his wife would pick me up as they passed through en route from West Virginia to Bloomington.

Arriving in O’Hare, my troubles began. The airline wouldn’t let me carry on my carry-on bag. A short two hours later, waiting for it at the baggage carousel in Cincinnati, texting with Marty waiting in the cell-phone lot, my iPhone went “brick.” Dead to the world. I had my laptop–but its battery had run down to zero while working during the flight.

Then I noticed my flight had cleared the monitor–no bag. And no contacts. Everything was on those devices.

I went to the customer service desk, got the delayed-bag report started, used the nice man’s phone to call my husband back home and have him look up Marty’s number, then call Marty with the update. The nice baggage man promised United would forward the bag, even though my destination was over 2 hours and a state away. Marty came, I met his wife Diane for the first time, and off we went.

That’s about the time I realized the asthma inhaler I need twice daily was in that delayed bag.

We arrived in Bloomington about 5pm, went to the house of  Friend Donna and her sweetie Tom, and I explained my dilemma. “The bag might make it yet tonight,” I hoped. But Tom insisted, “The stress of worrying about it could bring on an asthma attack. I want you to have that inhaler,” proving to be a take-charge, take-care kind of guy. We drove to Bedford 20 minutes away to fill the prescription.

That evening, I opened the bag I’d picked up at the pharmacy. Wrong inhaler.

In my panic (I am surprisingly flappable when plans go awry, to my own dismay) I had told the pharmacist the name of my rescue inhaler, not my daily maintenance drug. I spent an uncomfortable night worrying about when I would stop being able to breathe. In the morning, Tom went back for the right inhaler. In my Hero’s Journey, I had found my ally.

By noon the next day my bag still hadn’t left Cincinnati. We left in several cars for the lake. Donna gathered some hotel mini personal products for me and took me to Target to pick up a bathing suit, coverup, and hat. We arrived at the cottage, opened the window to chase the mustiness out, changed into bathing suits and Inserimento was over. I had everything I needed–and my friends.


Soon the rest of the “family” arrived–Victor,  Rick, Colette. We welcomed their “plus-ones”–spouses/lovers and Colette’s sister Suzie, whose urge to return to Indiana had set this whole Rube Goldberg machine of a reunion in motion.

Then the delight of downtime enveloped us. The weakest whisper of a cell signal reached down in that valley, and I used it to tell United “forget delivering my bag, I’ll just pick it up on my way back.”

We powered down and story-told instead. The convoluted tale of how we all met, the combinations and recombinations since, co-creating the myth of our shared past.

And so passed several days. We migrated and morphed in small groups conversing on the deck, down on the dock, and in the water hanging out on our swim noodles. In the Hero’s Journey, we had reached Reward. (“After defeating the enemy, surviving death and finally overcoming his greatest personal challenge, the Hero emerges a stronger person and often with a prize.”) As I wrote in Write Your Travel Memoirs (shameless plug, now available for Kindle and iBook), “If insertion goes well, you are living a new life you were always meant for.” I only wish I could have stayed there a whole summer, living the life my friends and I were always meant for.

But for the Hero, the journey has a return leg. He must make it through more ordeals to return to the Ordinary World, bearing the Elixir that “represents three things: change, success and proof of his journey.” For me it was back to Cincinnati, reunion with my bag, a flight and a bus and a short drive to home. My other home, because in my heart, like Rick and Ilsa have Paris in Casablanca, we’ll always have that lake.


Now, send me YOUR stories of inserimento! Submission guidelines here.

– Sarah White




About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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2 Responses to A Southern Indiana “Inserimento”

  1. Doug Elwell says:

    Sarah, I have had numerous inserimentos in my life, but only one or two which I have written about. It is an interesting concept worthy of exploration. Is what you’re looking for limited in length by the usual TSWT format ? I haven’t seen any submission guidelines suggested above.


  2. thanks Doug for pointing out I forgot to add the submission guidelines link! Fixed now, and here it is for good measure. https://truestorieswelltold.com/guest-writers-guidelines-for-submissions/
    Stories around 800 words hit the sweet spot, but longer or shorter have been known to appear on TSWT. – Sarah


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