By CHRIS MOONEY
Stylish and smiling, Errol Shaw relaxes on a bench, observing the New York City hustle as he awaits an interview. Although he sits in a park across the street from his office, his mind seems to be on everything except his job.
“Once I get home, all I do is write. I’ve always been able to self motivate and dedicate enough time to writing,” he says. Shaw recently had his sixth book published and is currently working on his seventh. He works at NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases Center, but is sure that writing is his true career calling.
“For a long time I’ve wanted to be a writer. In college I had the opportunity to read so many different works from different authors. It really motivated me to do this,” Shaw says, reminiscing on his days as a student at Brooklyn College. “There are some great teachers there and they’ve shaped me into the writer I’ve become. Brooklyn College really is a great school.”
Shaw’s sixth book, entitled The Travel Experience, is a memoir and his first travel book. He wrote it from start to finish in 2013 and it details some of his wildest adventures, such as being detained in the Tel Aviv airport for hours. It was Shaw’s opportunity to blend his knack for writing with one of his favorite pastimes.
“Man, I just love to travel. It’s always exciting, it’s always fun,” Shaw says. His positivity is contagious and his eyes gleam as he remembers his experiences overseas. He laughs boisterously as he tells about the time he was robbed by a camel driver in Egypt. “That may have been one of my worst moments traveling, but it was still a great time,” he says. He is as vivid a storyteller with his words as he is with a pen. He attributes his storytelling abilities, as well as his desire to travel, to his origins.
Born in Saint Andrew, Jamaica, Shaw grew up in a rural setting, raised at times by his godmother, at other times by his father. He speaks in metaphors as he describes his childhood, as if preparing material for a future literary work. “I remember the nights on the farm where I grew up. We used to gather and tell stories. The nights were as black as your shoes man. But we would sit around preparing peas to sell at the market the next day, and that was story time. My dad always had wild stories for us,” Shaw says.
Now Shaw shares his experiences through his own stories, sometimes through his books, sometimes to those lucky enough to have a conversation with him. “The most interesting part about marrying a writer are the many stories he has told me about the many countries he has visited, the weird food he has eaten, and the crazy encounters he has had,” says his wife, Yemellett Shaw. “Every time I pick up one of his books, his weird encounters make me laugh. I can’t wait to visit some of these places he has been to,” she says.
While his father helped make him into a storyteller, his mother played an equally influential role in making him the person he is today. For years his mother traveled back and forth between the United States and Jamaica, but she never took her son with her to New York. “I remember as a kid, watching airplanes fly overhead. I always wondered where they were going to or coming from. I wondered if I’d ever be able to travel like my mother did. Then one day, my mother finally decided to take me with her to New York. And I haven’t stopped traveling since,” Shaw says. Now he takes airplanes all over the world at every opportunity he has.
Living in the United States is another aspect of Shaw’s life that he credits as a factor that made him a writer and a traveler. “If I was living in Jamaica I may not have had the opportunity to go to college and get an education or even finish high school. Plus I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel thanks to the living I am able to make here in the United States. I am so grateful to be here,” Shaw says.
When asked if he had a most memorable moment from traveling, his answer led him to China, a place he has visited multiple times, and right back to him being a storyteller. “When I was in China, we went to a restaurant and ate dog. It was so weird, man!” Shaw says laughing. “Sometimes you need to be adventurous to fit in with the culture.”
Shaw’s travels have given much sustenance to his life. He not only has experiences, stories, and memories, but his travels have also shaped his art. The trips that he has been on greatly influence his writing. His nephew, Lionel Moffatt, has been a travel companion and first hand witness to this. “His travels give him a different perspective on how to illustrate what he sees. It is simply amazing how he puts some of his crazy encounters into writing. I always wondered how he could remember such detail from our trips together,” Moffatt says. “When I travel, I always bring a journal because those details flee fast,” Shaw says chuckling.
Shaw highly values travel, as well as sharing his stories with other people. He says that he wrote a travel book to share the experiences with those who have not or cannot see the world. “Travel is an amazing experience. It makes you richer, more knowledgeable, more spiritual, more of a people person. You learn to embrace more. It just makes you a better person; kinder, friendlier, just a better human being,” he says.