Traveling is one of the few things in life that I truly love. This is true for a number of reasons, the first of which is because I’m a big believer in broadening your horizons. One of the major draws of travel for me is that I get to see and experience so many new things. Writers need inspiration and what better way to find it than by traveling to a place completely different from where you are now.
Many other writers say similar things. As I’ve been reading books about writing I’ve run across passages on travel, inspiration, and where ideas come from. These are just a few of them.
“For me, a vacation isn’t appealing unless it involves unfamiliar activities that are potentially useable in a book.” ~David Morrell
“Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts to the solid ground of black soil.” ~Natalie Goldberg
“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” ~Ray Bradbury
All of these quotes say similar things. We collect our experiences. Our minds are cups being filled and our experiences are fertilizer for something amazing to grow.
I’ve had the privilege to travel quite a bit. I’ve eaten live and wriggling octopus in South Korea, explored the massive temples in Cambodia, stood in the amphitheater in Ephesus, watched water flow through the drainage system carved into the rocks at Machu Picchu, and lived with a family in Kenya learning the rhythms of life. All of these experiences add up and marinate in our minds.
A constant refrain in the writing community is to write what you know. Well, the more you know, the more interesting you and your writing will be.
Travel shifts your focus outside of yourself. You realize how big the world is and how small you and your problems are. Sometimes I need to be reminded how insignificant my problems really are compared to the rest of the world.
Shifting your focus outward allows you to take more in, strive to be more, and to learn more. There’s a famous quote by Mark Twain that says, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Traveling exposes you to new ways of thinking and approaches to problems that are completely different. People from different cultures view and interact with the world in unique ways and spending time in these cultures helps create new pathways in our brains.
There’s a concept called the “traveling mindset” in which your mind is more open to new things, and your curiosity is stimulated. When you’re traveling, you have to be always “on” because everything is new and different. You can’t just go through the motions because the motions are completely different. You have to pay attention in a way that you don’t when you’re at home. Your routine is broken and you need to approach each activity with a freshness and curiosity that will allow you to learn and adapt to whatever you’re seeing.
So as we start the New Year, make a plan to go somewhere that you’ve never been. And then go, and see what you find.
By Melissa Blakely