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How Traveling Can Inspire You to Write Creatively

This guest post is by Sandra Mills. Sandra is a freelance health, career, and travel writer. She enjoys writing on topics that help people live better lives. She plans on doing a lot of traveling this year to inspire her writing creativity.

Traveling the world a little bit at a time can offer life experience that no amount of internet research can bring, because you are not only seeing the world, you’re getting the opportunity to taste, smell, touch, and live in the moment.

Good writing always puts the reader right into the moment, into the location, and life experience makes a writer more capable of describing the world in a way that the reader can almost experience it themselves. To do that, it’s important that you first experience life fully. And what better way to do that than through travel?

Taj Mahal at sunset - Celebrating 150 Thousand Views - Thanks!Photo by Francisco Martins (Creative Commons)

Step outside of your comfort zone, travel to places unseen, taste things you have never heard of, and stimulate all of your senses. It will come out in your writing when you live a full life. This might mean crossing some physical, political, and psychological borders, but the life experience gained will let you know that you truly lived and lusted for life.

Ways To Use Your Vacation To Improve Your Writing

  • Step outside your comfort zone. Afraid of the woods? Try camping out. Afraid of heights? Take a mountain tour and enjoy the view and the adrenaline rush. Do not be afraid of a little fear, it means you are still alive. Go to a cemetery after dark, hold a non-venomous snake, chase away your fears and use the experience to describe them.
  • Use all of your senses. Do not just drift through your vacation as an outsider, jump in there and experience the world around you. Taste new foods, even if you are squeamish. Touch things, pet the animals, feel the pebbles beneath your feet, notice the texture of the materials around you. Jump into cold water and feel it wash away the day, contrast it with the feeling of the desert sand on your skin. You need to experience things that stimulate your senses to really know a place well enough to write about it. This will cement the place into your memory and help you to include details in your writing.  You should even smell things; this may sound gross, but scent is key to memories and it will awaken all of your senses. So smell the livestock, the food, the flora and fauna, even the city streets. Taste, smell, and touch everything and you may be surprised to discover that it adds layers to your writing.
  • Look beneath the surface. Notice the world around you. Tourists are notorious for being superficial, so look beneath the surface. What is the history of the hotel you are staying at? Why is a particular color common in a certain area? Look out for details that most people may not notice and use your knowledge to add color to your own writing.
  • Get to know the locals. Does your waiter walk with a limp? Find out why. Is there a story behind the couple that manages the inn you are staying at? Sure there is! Everyone has a story and each story will add to your own imagination and inspire your own tale. Remember that, and make it your mantra as you travel: Everyone Has a Story.
  • Value your own perspective. No one else sees the world like you do. Even if your vacation is to a spot that many have been to before you, your perspective is different. Notice things only you would. Your own perspective is valuable, and reading some ones perspective on a place can be highly entertaining if it is not exactly the same as everyone.

Time is flying, and if you don’t get out there now, it may go by too fast, and all the places unseen, the words unwritten and experiences you did not have will haunt you. Allow new cultures to put their stamp on you, and in turn through your writing, you will put your own stamp on the interpretation of the place and people.

How has travel inspired your writing?

PRACTICE

Write for fifteen minutes about a recent travel experience you’ve had, whether near or far.

When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please be sure to leave feedback for other writers.

Have fun!

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  • ruth

    The raft trip down the Snake River traversed rapids. I was nervous, watching for the changes in the water flow; rapids could be dangerous. At first the float was scenic, ducks and birds never seen before. Two bald eagles followed the raft, then dove at high speed toward the water, passed each other mere feathers apart and soared upward. Magnificient, inspiring creatures! Without warning, the water began to swirl as the oarsman pulled against the current with all his weight. Muscles across his lean frame rippled in a dispute with the tide. The raft catapulted toward the shoreline, missing it by a hair, before rounding a bend toward a placid pool. Rapid heart rates calmed in appreciation of physical skill and views beyond imagination. The sweet scent of balsam filled the air.

  • Maure

    I’ve barely traveled at all – but I’ve been having strong feelings that it would be a good idea, so I’ve been trying to get up my nerves and do research for it. :)

  • ruth

    Thanks, Sandra, for this inspiring post. I do believe travel is the best education we can find if our spirit is in it. Mingling with the locals is also a must, as well as learning at least the basics of a foreign language, if applicable. Trying different food and sharing customs is intriguing. The possibilities of future stories are unlimited for the writer.

  • http://alexbrantham.com/ AlexBrantham

    Yes to all of that. But what if you’re broke, and can’t afford to go to exotic places? Or you’re physically unable to travel very far? Here’s a cheap substitute, worked out from many happy hours spent planning holidays: just plan it, don’t actually go. Pick your destination, the more exotic the better. Go to your favourite travel advice site. Make an itinerary. Choose hotels, days out. Read about the history and culture of the place. See if you can find some local fiction that you can read. Look up the local news to see what’s getting them excited right now.

    Is all of that the same as actually being there? No, of course not. You’ll miss the smells and the sounds and the totally unexpected things that pop up when you’re really travelling. But as an inspiration for writing, it might just be good enough.

    • ruth

      That sounds like a great idea! Our minds can take us there! I’ve also found you don’t need to travel to an exotic place. An hour’s drive can take you to a wonderful state park, a beach, a historic location to take our minds away from the everyday scene and refresh our thinking.

    • http://www.finallywriting.com/ Jackie

      Love how you framed this! I have created itineraries, and love the process. I am going to try doing so as a tool to tap into my creativity more intentionally.

    • George McNeese

      I like that idea. Granted, for someone like me, it would be difficult to get away for a week. I’d miss my daughter too much. She would miss me. A tip I will add is to ask people to share their experience. It won’t be as authentic as you actually being there, but it will serve as good research material.

      • Katie Bausler

        Bring your daughter along with you!

  • http://www.finallywriting.com/ Jackie

    Your advice is so useful for traveling and also to remember when we are not traveling. We can harness our curiosity, learn about the land we are walking on and the people we run into in our towns. Doing so helps us become more grounded in our experience, as well as helps us become more inspired to write, learn and explore.

  • ModernDayNomads

    Great article! Sharing now…

  • http://rosemarywhittaker.wordpress.com Rosemary Whittaker

    I agree in spades. When I was first wondering what to write, a tutor said to start with what you know. I move countries every three years so wrote four novels set in different countries. It hadn’t occurred to me that actually being there gives a flavour and tone you can’t replicate by watching travel programmes.

    http://amzn.to/1nskbor

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