I'm definitely a travel junkie, and I spend nearly all my money on traveling or books. In fact, when I was miserable in my day job back in 2006, trying to decide what to do with my life, I wrote down the two things I enjoyed most in the world: travel and reading. What job would enable me to combine both of these?
Becoming a full-time author entrepreneur has enabled me to travel more, but also to bring my experiences around the world into my fiction. Many of the scenes in my thrillers are born out of places I have been and things I've seen along the way. I plan my travels around stories I want to write, and wherever I go, I find inspiration for writing.
Of course, that could be walking along my local canal path, or the cultural milieu of London, just as much as Varanasi in India, or exploring ancient tombs in Egypt. You can also travel virtually now via Google Maps, Pinterest, YouTube or blogs.
So I'm thrilled to bring J.H. Moncrieff‘s article to you today on how travel can enhance your writing.
Authors who travel need never fear writer’s block.
Every place I’ve explored has given me fresh ideas for settings, characters, plots, and themes. From the creepy, bricked-up house in the Caribbean which had two life-sized ragdolls slumped on its porch, to the notorious forest in Romania that made me ill, the experiences I’ve gleaned while traveling often find their way into my books.
Who knows what museum visit or bit of history will inspire a new novel?
2. Adds authenticity. When you read a novel set in a country where the author has spent some time, you can instantly tell. There’s a realness to the story that you just can’t get from studying Google Earth and reading Wikipedia articles.
3. Expands your readership. Readers love to see themselves in books, and will flock to support authors who set stories in their hometowns. This can result in all sorts of exciting opportunities. After I spent some time in Transylvania, a Romanian publisher contacted me about having my novels released there.
4. Provides endless inspiration. You never know when a great idea will hit. When I visited Fengdu, a Chinese ghost city, it was a dark and stormy day. I'd come down with a bad cold during a three-day cruise on the Yangtze River, and the last thing I wanted was to wander around in the downpour, sniffling and sneezing, while other tourists whacked me in the head with their umbrellas. But I did want to write about China, a country I'd fallen madly in love with, so I joined the tour despite my misgivings.
It was easy to see how spooky Fengdu would be at night, once the tourists went home. This got me thinking…what if someone got trapped in the ghost city overnight? What if they wanted to get trapped there?
5. Deepens your themes. Say you write about vampires. There are villages in Romania where people are still very much afraid of them—but why? Exploring their traditions and learning about these beliefs can help you add a new dimension to your work. The same applies to almost any subject you can think of.
6. Broadens your network. Writing is isolating work, and traveling forces you to get out of your own head and meet new people. Attending a writers’ workshop or retreat in a foreign country or different state is a great place to start. You’ll make new writer friends while experiencing all the other benefits of travel.
7. Takes your readers on a journey. One of the most common regrets people have is not traveling more. By featuring exotic settings, people, and cultures in your stories and making them authentic, you’ll give your readers a glimpse into another world without their having to leave home.
Each story is a chance to take them somewhere new.
What if you’re not independently wealthy? Good news: it isn’t as expensive to travel as you might think. Over the past few years, I’ve visited Curaçao, China, Egypt, Cuba, Hawaii, Greece, Italy, and Romania…on a freelancer’s salary.
The trick is setting priorities.
Decide where you want to go and what you’d like to see. Give yourself a deadline and figure out how much you need to save.
Always budget for a bit more than you think you’ll need. You’ll probably have to sacrifice a few things. (I don’t have a cell phone or a car, which some people think is crazy. I think it’s totally worth it to be able to travel more often.)
Is there anything you can do to earn extra money on the side?
I increased my travel budget by taking on more freelance journalism, editing, and publicity work, and by selling items I no longer need. Goodbye, stiletto heels!
If traveling isn’t in the cards for you right now, try playing tourist at home. There must be some neighborhoods you haven’t explored, or a new restaurant you haven’t tried. Can you join a meet-up group to connect with new people?
Adventure isn’t location dependent. Whatever gets the inspiration flowing counts.
Does travel inspire your writing? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
J.H. Moncrieff writes psychological and supernatural suspense novels that let her readers safely explore the dark corners of the world. She won Harlequin's search for the next Gillian Flynn in 2016. The first two novels of her new GhostWriters series, City of Ghosts and The Girl Who Talks to Ghosts, will be officially released on May 16, 2017.
When not writing, J.H. loves visiting the world's most haunted places, advocating for animal rights, and summoning her inner ninja in muay thai class. To get free ebooks and a new spooky story every week, check out her Hidden Library.