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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Traveling and Writing: Inspirational or Disastrous?

For those who may not know, I grew up within a military community. This lifestyle not only means that I’m not very familiar with civilian culture (I thought everybody knew what a commissary was), but it also means I’ve had to move around a lot. I’ve never lived in the same house for more than three years in a row. The longest I ever lived in one state was seven years, and that was in four different houses.

Let that sink in before you ask me where I’m from.

Person: So, where are you from? 
Me: Would you like the list alphabetically or chronologically?

I’m not from anywhere. Not really. I’m from the States, sure, but what do you do with the years I’ve lived in England, Italy, and Germany?

Identity crisis aside, I’ve moved around a lot. Which also means I’ve gotten the opportunity to travel, and I enjoy it. Traveling is amazing. I like getting out of my comfort zone and setting foot in a strange wildness, discovering new types of ravines, languages, and peoples. That should be incredibly inspirational for writing. Right?


When I first moved to England, I bought a used bike. I could walk everywhere, sure. I walked from my flat to the castle downtown, but it took an hour there and an hour back. With a bike, it took half the time (it was uphill, okay?). Chatting with my aunt online, she remarked that it must be wonderfully inspirational living in a foreign country and the city that birthed the legend of Robin Hood.

Of course it was inspirational. So I sat down, and typed, and!—I wrote a poem about a puddle on a sidewalk that I passed while biking. Not too inspiring, is it? (For those of you who are curious, it was my first local publication, in my university’s magazine. Check out: Puddle.)

A year or so before I moved to England, I went with a class from my undergraduate university on a study abroad trip to Oxford (read all about it in my newsletter: The Two Fandoms). When I take short trips, whether it’s for a weekend or a week, I like to leave my computer behind to focus on the trip itself. But while I was in Oxford, I was also getting a piece published on Splickety’s Lightning Blog, and they wanted me to make some edits. Which is pretty hard to do without a computer. In the end, I messaged my mom and walked her through the edits (all three rounds of them). Lesson learned—if I submit a piece for publication, even if I don’t know whether it’s been accepted or not yet, bring the computer.


“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”  
—St. Augustine of Hippo

When you travel as much as I do, you run the risk of computer damage. One time my sister and I had our backpacks in the back of a rental car, and the driver opened the trunk without watching the bags, and they fell and damaged both our computers. A piece of advice for travelers—whenever you go somewhere, only take what you’re not afraid to lose.

Another time, for my first two experiences of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), we happened to be packing up our household goods and moving to a new country. It’s a little difficult to write a novel to the pterodactyl screech of packing tape.

Leisurely travel can also be so overwhelming that I get behind on journaling. I didn’t journal half of 2017 because I didn’t want to skip over my trip to Israel, but I only got halfway through writing about it. I like to write incredibly detailed journal entries, so I couldn’t keep up with them while I was in Israel. I finally finished my journal entry back home on New Year’s Eve.

It’s especially hard to share a blog post, even if I have it scheduled ahead of time, if I have no internet access.


“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door […] You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  
—Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings

But that isn’t to say that all writing-and-travel-related experiences are negative. Some of them can be inspirational. Hiking and biking, in particular, are most inspirational for me. The exercise gets my blood pumping and my mind running. For example, I came up with novel names while hiking in the Alps from Oberammergau to Ettal. I also came up with countless poems from exploring cathedrals or biking to my local library. I even came up with the initial idea for Last of the Memory Keepers when we got pickpocketed in Rome.

And because I travel so much, I can write practically anywhere. While I prefer my desk, I can and have written in airports, in cafes, in the car, on trains, and yes, in my head while exercising.

So yes, I would say traveling can serve as an inspiration for writing. Traveling provides me with new life experiences and gives me stories, fictional and nonfictional to write about. Sometimes, it poses challenges. But that’s part of the adventure.

Let’s chat! What’s your favorite place to write? Is traveling beneficial or disastrous for your writing? Where have you found inspiration?

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Travel poetry: Bury Me, Cathedral, and The Christmas Market

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