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Wanderlust: The Case for Writing and Travel

Thursday, February 23, 2017 4:09
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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. | 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. | Facebook | Twitter

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







The Bookshelf Muse is a hub for writers, educators and anyone with a love for the written word. Featuring Thesaurus Collections that encourage stronger descriptive skills, this award-winning blog will help writers hone their craft and take their writing to the next level.


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