It only takes a new setting to send those creative juices into a tizzy. I know my imagination kicks into full gear when I’m traveling, and my brain buzzes endlessly. For those of us whose souls live and breathe artistry, travel is air. It sets us up immediately to run into inspiration, and begs to be a piece of the puzzle. Most times, I’ve learned, it’s the missing piece. And the grand “Aha!” moment when you find it coats the world in gold. If you’re ever in a writing rut, do this: travel.
As a creative writer, characters and stories manifest in crossing paths with different cultures. Writer Anna Quindlen once noted, “Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” So, too, is travel. Combined, they are magic. Writing entails observation, and I believe we are most attentive when we are out of our comfort zone, and when we are surrounded by novelty. Description- and setting-wise, travel sets you up for indefinite fascinations to jot down in your notebook.
Then there are the characters. My BFA thesis in my final semester of college was inspired by a visit to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, where a few young protesters caught my eye and led to the start of an eventual historical fiction novel. (48 pages, woo!) Short stories I have written have taken place in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania during the Civil War, and present-day on a cycling trip in Dingle, Ireland (loosely based on my own five hour ride). And I have a slew of novel ideas that encompass experiences I’ve had both individually and with my family and friends. You know the old adage write what you know? Knocking off of personal moments, especially those out of your comfort zone, add another dimension to your work.
I like to think of it like this, too: write what you feel. Write what it feels like to be in the midst of the know. Travel makes it exceptionally clear that humans are fundamentally the same. We don’t need to share the same skin, or religions, or traditions, to desire the same emotions and milestones. Engage in conversations with new people, and learn as much about your destination as possible. Understand it as both an outsider and an insider.
Swallowing up mouthfuls of museums, sunsets, and local activities will lend to historical and cultural insights. Sometimes, inspiration strikes at the sight of a personal artifact, or on a guided tour. Even what appears to be the perfect morning will linger in your mind. It’s these sensations of newness that alight the senses and allow your creativity will flourish. Eat specialty desserts. Drink locally produced wine. Take a hike. Do what takes you out of yourself but keeps you so presently grounded.
Writing, it seems, was made for the traveler. It is narratives of humanity, a mirror of ourselves. It opens even the smallest window inside of us to climb through and explore an entirely foreign side of us. Whether to another continent or to your neighboring town, shake away your routine and expose yourself to a whole new world. Carry a journal and scribble down everything. Remember all you can, for yourself and for the stories your imagination begs to be shared.
Returning home from your travels provokes ideas, too, because your perspective on your own customs and truths has shifted, even slightly.
It means that your givens have become whys, your past framed differently in the present. Even if unconsciously, your stories will have that much more meaning because you have grown without trying. But think about the process: how has it affected you? Who are you, the one shedding layers to unveil what’s always been waiting to come out? Where will you go from here? Travel is soul-searching, widening your endless horizons.
I know how much my mind grinds to a halt when nothing new is being produced. Travel sparks creative writing because it demands you to reconcile all you know with all that you want to and should know. It flips your ideals on their heads, or confirms what you believe in greater context. It leaves you reeling in its wonder, inviting thrilling stories to take the stage that move beyond your ordinary. It is art all at once.
How does travel inspire your creative writing? Let me know in the comments!