Reasons Writers Should Travel

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I’ve always heard “Write what you know,” and “Put your butt in your chair,” if you want to write that great American novel, picture book, or short story. And there are some truths to these platitudes, but there is also something to be said about stepping out of your comfort zone and traveling.

Yes, I’m writing this during a pandemic, and you might be questioning my sanity at this juncture, but I’m hoping this post will allow you the freedom to plan for the future or check out zoom trips to historical sites. National Geographic has exciting places to visit virtually.

One reason to travel is to look for inspiration. Writers confined to their own environment are often left uninspired. It’s tough to sit in the middle of your everyday life, laundry mounting, dirty dishes overflowing in the sink, with a barking dog begging to be let out and try to write about the cobblestone streets of Munich where democracy was stolen by a mad man with a message.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine

Traveling allows a writer to step outside of society and be a fly on the wall. Watching the world go by as an observer where no one knows you will enable your creative soul to sore like a peregrine falcon traveling to distant lands.

Is there a story between these two men sitting in a pub in London? Have they known each other since they were toddlers, barely able to kick a ball? Or are they random strangers seated next to each other watching an intense soccer game. Maybe one bet his house on the outcome. Or the other just lost his wife and intends to drown his sorrows in a pint or two.

Traveling provides an opportunity to pluck inspiration from historical places.  On a tour of Munich, we discovered the story of the White Rose Resistance, a group of mostly college students, tried for treason for their silent protests of Adolf Hitler. The bronze leaflets embedded in the cobblestone sidewalk outside the university serve as reminders of those murdered for staying true to what they believed.

Garner new sights, smells and tastes.  I never would have considered eating radishes like an apple, or using a giant soft, warm pretzel as a way to scoop a bit of cheese rolled in a ball topped with red onions. It’s typical Bavarian food found at an outdoor beer garden in Munich. It was delicious!

Visit local art exhibits when traveling. You never know what you might discover. These potted lilac trees were part of an art display by Yoko Ono in Denmark. Visitors were allowed to become part of the display by writing their own wishes on paper attached to the branches.

What an interesting first line this would be for a novel.

When it’s time to return home, bring your inspirations with you and unpack them when it’s time to put your butt in your actual chair and write about the new things you’ve learned on your journey.

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