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.
1. Increases your story bank. Once you’ve lived in a city for some time, you’re probably familiar with its dark secrets and concealed corners. When you travel, the world opens up.
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.
Bill Cokas says
Literally my two favorite passions: travel and writing! I always make sure each new book takes me–and my readers–to a different locale. One thing I’d like to add to your list: when you set your work in a different place (or time), it allows YOU to visit there as well while you’re writing, almost like a mental vacation.
Yes, it does enable you to visit those places you are writing about. Without jetlag but beware the homesickness when your story writing is over and you leave and move on!
Travel has created my writing. I could spend hours explaining that, but a couple of examples. I lived in a near-city rural area in Australia for 13 years, and wrote fiction informed by that life and that community. I moved to Pakistan and began to write about the expatriate life as I experienced it, and the imagined life of a child living and going to school there. This was partly inspired by my teenage years in Singapore. After Pakistan I moved to Central Asia and the story I was writing about the child in Pakistan gained added depth, texture and features from Central Asia, and was now set in a (partly fictitious) Central Asian nation. I visited Uzbekistan and my growing story got new features. I took a cruise in the Mediterranean and my fictitious “Old Medieval City” in the center of my story’s Central Asian capital city gained a cute bakery from a Greek island and a more vivid sense of winding cobbled streets. I could go on. Now I have been to Ireland for a month, and have a deeper appreciation of the impact of prehistoric peoples on the landscape, and of their artifacts. Who knows what I will now add? That’s only the physical landscape, of course. What I have learned about people and culture – grandmas in traditional dress talking on the latest iPhone, shifting dialects and regional differences, is so much more. If I had not traveled, I probably would not write.
Sukhi Jutla says
A really interesting post. I used to think no one would be interested to hear about what its like to grow up in a certain town or a certain place (because it’s so familiar to me).
But of course, it could be completely new to someone who has never been there before or experienced what it’s like, even if you may think it’s quite ‘normal’ and ‘boring’!
This post has given me a prompt to revisit some original ideas I had which I had shelved, thinking it wouldn’t interest anyone but am now thinking can be used as material for a book. As Derek Sivers says ‘what is obvious to you is amazing to others.’
Meredith Bond says
I’m just grappling with how to incorporate my travelling into my writing. I’ve done some intentional travelling for my writing — going someplace where I had already decided to set a story; and I’ve done some travelling and then decided to try to incorporate what I learned on my trip into what I’m writing (or could write). It’s tricky! In fact, so much so, that I’m just about to write a blog post of my own as I try to figure this out! Oh, and to make matters just a touch harder — I write historical romance, so what I see on my travels today most likely isn’t how how a place looked in the early 19th century. Sigh…
A great post! I love the suggestion about being a hometown tourist. There’s an exercise in photography where you limit yourself to shooting only one small area: a city block, a yard, etc. It’s amazing how much goes on in our own backyard that we don’t think about. Perhaps the same idea can apply to travelling.
Hi, I just finished writing a book called tapping into divinity . It will be free on Kindle July 16 -21.
I had a spiritual experience in my early 20s which changed my entire life.
I would like to now put together an audiobook but I don’t know how to incorporate my artwork .
Does anyone know how I can do this?
mathenge maina says
I love travelling. I am yet to start doing it but it is still something that is in my to do list. What I have just read is totally true. I have written short stories before. People loved them when they could relate with them. Being able to relate your readers with whatever you write is only available as an option when you have the knowledge of their culture.
Andrew Hills says
You have surely brought forth the beautiful ways to enhance the experience of travelling and augmenting the skill of writing. For writers and authors, there can be no better combination than the charm of travelling and writing. Writing is all about putting thoughts into words and by travelling wide, the news ideas simply get added with each day.