Writing and traveling

Writing and traveling

Writing and traveling share a few characteristics: both take you to another world, both can make you ecstatic, and both can make you feel lost. Traveling and writing have been closely intertwined for millennia. The fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen famously penned:

To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.
– Hans Christian Andersen

The potential for inspiration is endless when you travel. New places and new faces. Yet, I have always struggled with actually writing anything during my travels. As I have taken in the smells and tastes of foreign countries, I have usually found myself overwhelmed and exhausted at the end of the day. The act of traveling is an act of observing the world whereas the act of writing, to me, is more about creating a world. The former is often fast paced, the latter usually not so much.

I am not going to pretend to have some brilliant solution, but I have thought of a few possible ways of capturing the magical inspiration of traveling.

1. Get a small notebook

When I was younger, I used to always carry a notebook around with me. It was my way of collecting ideas, scenes, moments or anything else that I wanted to keep. Some of those ideas later became good writing and others did not. You could use a phone or tablet for this too, I assume. Sometimes, you might just put a single word in your notebook that you know will spark your imagination or pull you back into that moment. Other times, you might feel the words pouring out of you and you might have a whole paragraph written out before you know it. The key component of this exercise is to set aside time after your vacation to look through your notebook – almost like going through your photos. I never discard of these notebooks because old ideas might suddenly become useful again, when you need a writing prompt or when you are developing a new project.

2. Travel slowly

Traveling used to be a lot slower. There were no airplanes or high speed trains when Hans Christian Andersen traveled around Europe in search for inspiration for his fairytales. I imagine that if you aren’t exhausted because of your need to hit as many tourist spots as possible in a day, you might find yourself ready to do some writing during your travels. It could be a diary or it could just be free writing.

3. Block off time

Some of the famous bloggers out there have chosen to travel a lot, but they still need to keep their writing regular. I have noticed that a few of them talk about blocking off time specifically for writing. If you travel in order to find writing inspiration, then I think this would be ideal, too. It does require some planning in terms of venue, time/word count, and coordinating with travel mates. I would recommend getting up earlier in the morning and writing at your hotel/hostel/room or at a local cafe for 20 minutes to 2 hrs – short and sweet. Mid-day or evening writing often get problematic in terms of carrying your laptop around or having to return to your hotel. I think leaving room for spontaneity when you travel is important, but I find that few people feel spontaneous first thing in the morning.

Writing and traveling work so well together that I am almost embarrassed how little I have actually explored that dynamic personally. The next trip I’m taking will be with a notebook. Maybe, in the future, I will be able to take a writing trip and see where the universe takes me and my writing.