In one of my stories the heroine climbs Mt Kilimanjaro. I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and wrote about each breathless step from my visceral memory, but my story, "Push," (published in Peeks and Valleys) is about my character's climb, not mine.
I traveled to India, and the sights and sounds and impressions of that immensely colorful country are re-created in my story "A Hard Place for Soft Women," (published in the Evening Street Review). But the story is not about me; it's about a daughter, her mother and her aunt and how their different ways of experiencing the world impact their relationships.
I take Bikram Yoga twice a week, sweating for ninety minutes in a room heated to close to one hundred degrees. In my story "A Normal Man," my character sweats through his first Bikram class while reliving his marriage. His marriage, not mine. You can read that story in The Blotter, coming out August 1 at www.blotterrag.com.
My novel in linked short stories is about multiple generations of a large extended family. I come from a large extended family. Am I writing about my family? No--with reservations. Some of the events in the novel were triggered by events in my family, but the people are made up and so, ultimately, are the stories themselves. If, as Tolstoy said, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," then, since the stories are often about unhappy families, or troubled families, or families going through a crisis, each family is different from the others, and also different from mine.