Wanderlust: The Case for Writing and Travel

As some of you know, I’m kind of a travel nut. Becca is used to me abandoning her for several weeks to backpack around Malaysia or Vietnam, or attempt to not get eaten by wild critters in Tanzania. For me, travel is therapeutic, both for filling my creative well and helping me find balance within a busy life.

This year I am trying a different sort of adventure by going on a writing cruise in September. Seriously, I can’t wait. Hang out with writers, work on our craft together, and visit some new places at the same time? DONE.  Christina Delay is the organizer of this terrific retreat, and she knows all about the benefits of travel for writers.

For many, travel is something we categorize as luxury or special or something that happens only if our bonus check comes through. For others, it’s a lifestyle.

From an early age, I had a case of wanderlust. I started saving up for a trip to Italy when I was sixteen years old. Ten years later, my husband and I took a dream trip to Venice, Tuscany, Sorrento, and Rome.

I knew we’d see beautiful sights and experience new food and culture. What I didn’t expect was this overwhelming thrill that welled up inside me and filled and fed parts I had forgotten existed.

I came back from that trip to Italy and picked up my writing—something I’d let slide since I’d started adulting.

Why Authors Should Travel

See, travel fulfills in a way that nothing else can. It’s not just for wanderlusters or for people with big budgets. Travel is imperative to anyone with a creative drive. And it can be worked into any budget.

The rush of newness, of discovery, of having your eyes opened to things and ways of life you never knew existed…delivers writing fodder for years. And for some, like me, it can reignite a spark long buried by the ashes of the years.

I believe with every fragment of my heart that authors must get out of their familiar settings and discover something new…as a lifestyle. Our job is to deliver stories and messages in fresh and unexpected ways. We simply cannot do that from the same chair that has looked out the same window on the same tree year after year after year.

Travel Impacts Story

On one of my recent cruises with Cruising Writers, I and one of our wonderful writing craft coaches, Margie Lawson, went to the ship’s helipad at midnight. The helipad was mostly empty. The lights were off and the night was silent except for the hum of the ship’s engine and the splash of the waves far below. But the sky—oh the sky! It was filled with shooting stars.

A meteor shower in the middle of the Caribbean, on a silent, dark ship at midnight.

It was one of those singular experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life. In part, because I memorialized it in a story.

Travel is one of the most immediate and effective ways to impact your writing. If you’re looking for depth, travel. It affects your setting, your characterization, how your characters problem-solve, belief systems, language…it affects everything.

If you’ve ever gotten one of those critiques or rejections that said, “Loved the story, didn’t connect with the characters,” go travel.

Or how about this one? “The writing felt a bit flat to me. I wasn’t as engaged as I’d hoped.” – Go travel, because it will add a richness and depth to your writing.

Practical Tips to Enrich Your Writing

No matter where you are going or what purpose you are traveling for, get into the habit of making the trip work for your writing.

  1. Carry a journal: This is one of my favorite tricks. A small notebook fits easily into a purse or a pocket and can be pulled out and used much easier than a laptop or a phone. Plus, it breaks down barriers. When you have technology in front of your face, there is a wall between you and what you should be experiencing. People tend to avoid you because it looks like you’re working. However, journaling leaves you open to approach and to be approached. Writing with pen and paper reaches a different part of your brain and opens your mind to new discoveries that have been previously sucked away by the almighty power of the screen.
  2. Go somewhere by yourself: Even if you are traveling with a group, find time each day to go somewhere and breathe. Listen to the waves crashing on the shore without interruption. Go to a French café and let the beautiful French language take you to another time and place. Hike somewhere, zipline over a mountain, experience. But do it by yourself. Later, you can regroup. But for your writing’s sake, go and experience something each day, alone.
  3. Meet someone new: Here’s the real secret to deepening character. Strike up a conversation with someone you would have never talked to before. If they don’t speak your language, even better! Magic happens when two people communicate with that language barrier in place. You find creative ways to make yourself be understood, and you’ll pay closer attention to that person’s body language and facial expressions and inflection than you would ever have before. All of that is usable in your writing. And after you’ve had this amazing conversation, write down the things that stuck with you in your journal; a turn of phrase, the way his mouth ticked up slightly on the left before he smiled, how her voice turned high every time she made herself understood.
  4. Do something daring: It could be hiking, it could be skydiving, it could be trying out a new phrase in French. It could be requesting a song from a pianist who speaks a different language, but shares your musical taste. Dance in St. Mark’s Square. Eat fish straight from the fisherman’s boat. Drink what the locals drink. In short, experience life.

If you get the opportunity to travel and incorporate some of these tips, I guarantee your writing and your readers will thank you.

Christina Delay is the hostess of Cruising Writers and an award-winning author represented by Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency. When she’s not leading retreats, she’s dreaming up new destinations to take talented authors on or writing the stories of the imaginary people that live in her heart.

ChristinaDelay.com | Facebook | Twitter

About Cruising Writers

Cruising Writers brings aspiring authors together with bestselling authors, an agent, an editor, and a world-renowned writing craft instructor together on writing retreats.

Join us in the beautiful Languedoc of Southern France this April and stay in a historic chateau with world-renown writing craft instructor Margie Lawson, NYC-based literary agent Louise Fury, Publisher Liz Pelletier with Entangled Publishing, Amazon bestselling author Shelley Adina, European Manager for Kobo Writing Life Camille Mofidi, and President of Literary Translations Athina Papa.

CruisingWriters.com | Facebook | Twitter

Do you love to travel? Have you ever gone on a writing retreat? Tell us about your experience!

 

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About ANGELA ACKERMAN

Angela is an international speaker and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also enjoys dreaming up new tools and resources for One Stop For Writers, a library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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13 Responses to Wanderlust: The Case for Writing and Travel

  1. Claire says:

    Great post – makes me want to pack my bags and jet off right now!

    I think even travelling locally – visiting and exploring places closer to home, perhaps on weekend or day trips – can be just as beneficial and inspirational. And it helps stave off that wanderlust while you’re saving up for a bigger international trip!

    • I so agree, Claire. Just a few weekends ago my husband and I went to a national park about 45 minutes away and played tourist by going on a ice cave and canyon ice walk tour. It’s right in my backyard, but we’ve never been. Besides the amazing beauty of this canyon, it was fun to have all these people asking questions about the landscape, animals, weather, history and all that stuff as locals we know. The day trip was like a mini vacation, which we both needed while we wait for our next big trip to arrive. 😉

  2. ‘Carry a notebook…’ definitely! I have notebooks all over the place, but I keep a special one in my suitcase for when I travel. It’s an old visitors’ book, bound in red leather, and it’s the notebook I write in when I’m a visitor (an idea that amuses me for its Douglas Adams logic). I find I use it in a different way from my other notebooks. My daily notebooks are snippets of life, but my travel notebook is longer narratives of arriving at a place, exploring, meeting singular people, and the experience of being a stranger in a strange land.

  3. Love this post and completely agree with everything you say! I’m fortunate that my husband has always worked in travel and we’ve been to many wonderful countries and cities. I’ve used a few in my writing and am about to start using more places and experiences in new work. I sometimes need time and distance from the actual event before writing about it – perhaps the memories focus me! Yet for all my travels, I now intend getting to know my own country even better (Scotland).

  4. Carol Baldwin says:

    Great idea. I may even find a reason now to take a cruise. Thanks for sharing this…now to put it into practice.

  5. LM Preston says:

    Traveling is a great adventure in itself for authors who like being in their cozy writing spots. Also, with author travel packages you are around other authors and a new place that may inspire writing in a way not experienced before. Great post.

  6. Thank you for having me on today, Angela and Becca!

  7. Sara L. says:

    Love this post, Christina (and Angela)! I’ve never done much traveling for various reasons, but in April I’m going to Iceland for a writing retreat. It will be my first trip abroad, and Iceland is already meaningful to me as the northern latitudes of my story worl are based on its geography / wildlife (or, rather, the photos I’ve seen and the research I’ve done). But having the opportunity to actually set foot in Iceland and witness it with all of my senses… I can hardly wait. 😀 So I’ll definitely keep these tips in mind when I go. In fact, I’ve already picked out my journal for the trip!

  8. Sheri Levy says:

    Wow! This sounds like a fabulous adventure! My husband and I have traveled around the US for one month with our two dogs. We enjoyed the trip so much, we reversed our direction the next year, and saw new sights. Then we started traveling in Europe by car, or train, and we now do cruises. I’d love cruising with other writers! This month we are moving to the coast of SC, and will begin a new life. I will check out one of these cruises after we get settled.
    Have fun!

  9. I’m an American expat living in Germany, and the new culture has given me so much fodder for my writing. Great post!

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