Travelling is great fun, and fun helps us be more creative. So, the next time you’re packing your bags, don’t forget this blog post. Why? Because this article will show you how travelling can boost your creativity.
How Travel Can Boost Your Creativity
Writers always generate new ideas. Where do your ideas come from? What fuels them? Mostly, ideas come from our own experiences. But there must be other sources. Otherwise, writers would churn out only autobiographies. That’s rather limiting, isn’t it?
The trick is to find new experiences. The easiest way is by travelling. All you need to do is leave your home and go to a place you haven’t been to. No need for expensive remote locations. The next village will do.
Your most important accessory: a notebook! This blog post will hopefully give you lots of ideas on where to find inspiration.
1. Leave Your Comfort Zone
Your home is cosy and safe. That’s important to creative people because you want to put all your bravery into your writing. But feeling cosy and safe also means there are no surprises. If it’s adventures you want, you need to leave your comfort zone. So, go travelling!
Have you ever noticed that when you arrive at the airport or the train station that the atmosphere seems to be charged? That’s anticipation in the air. And excitement. Everybody around you is outside their comfort zone.
Top Tip: How does your body feel when you’re excited? How can you detect other people’s excitement in their looks, in their behaviour? Imagine what surprises could happen outside your comfort zone. Are they good surprises, or bad? Take notes.
2. Travel Makes Things New
When we’re in that travelling state of mind, everything looks new. That’s because geographical distance gives us a fresh perspective. We notice things about ourselves that have been going on for a while. Now, with more distance, we have a new opinion about them. That’s especially true if we notice our routines.
Travelling, these routines suddenly seem much more interesting. Like having breakfast. Suddenly you realise that at home, you always have porridge. But when you‘re in Rome (Italy), you have breakfast like the Italians, with just an espresso and a sweet biscuit. Well done! You have left your comfort zone. Didn’t hurt, did it?
Travelling itself also comes with routines, like checking in our suitcases at the airport. Or filling out forms at the front desk of your hotel. What happens if something upsets those routines? If things don’t go as they should? Now that’s material for a story.
Top Tip: Write down whenever travelling forces you to leave your comfort zone. Keep a list of the routines you observe. What could upset them? There might just be a story in that.
3. Travel Lets Us Collect Settings
This is probably the most obvious benefit of travelling for writers. We’re in exciting places and we simply write down what we see. Honourable writers have done that before us. You can do that, too. Remember that setting can be anything. It can be that famous castle or the tiny restaurant in a secluded village. Or an overgrown garden. Anything that appeals to you.
Top Tip: Keep a list of places that enchant you and why. Remember to take photographs!
4. Look For Odd Things
Visiting the sights can serve writers in two ways. First, we collect the experience and describe the place as a setting (see above). Second, we can look for things that we find strange and out of place. We need to let them trigger our imagination. How could you make the odd things fit in?
Here’s an example: There’s a castle in Palma de Mallorca (Spain) from which you have a spectacular view of the city. I went there and noticed that someone had carved his name and a date into the rocks of the castle’s tower, ‘Alvarez 1930.’ That’s 90 years before my time! What view must Alvarez have seen in 1930? The city must have looked different. Just like that, I had a story.
Top Tip: Anything that strikes you as odd must go into your notebook!
5. What’s In A Name?
Many writers complain that they never know how to name their characters. Oscar Wilde solved this problem by travelling. He would take the names of places he’d been to and use them for his characters. For example, Lady Bracknell from The Importance Of Being Earnest is named after a town 60 kilometres southwest of London. Clever, isn’t it?
Top Tip: Take a place name and imagine what kind of person could be bearing it. Pay attention to the sound of the name. Here’s an example: Frimley is a town close to Bracknell. What could a ‘Mr Frimley’ look like?
6. Don’t Forget To Travel In Time.
Don’t forget to take in some of the history of your travel destination. Folk legends and historic figures are a rich source of stories. Look at statues of local heroes. Who or what do they remind you of? Draw comparisons to what you already know.
I once saw a statue of a Spanish monk that looked like Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter. I started to imagine freely and finally came up with a story about how and why the monk and the wizard could be the same person.
Top Tip: Collect some random historical facts about your travel destination. See what kind of associations you can come up with.
7. Language Defines Culture
Listen to what people say (even if you don’t speak the language or the dialect). Notice that some words come up more often than others. Write them down. Use these words to give your characters a foreign touch.
Top Tip: Write down greetings, and everyday phrases like ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ in foreign languages. These titbits go a long way in establishing a rich background for your characters.
8. What’s Your Own Culture?
Travelling reveals as much about yourself as it does about a foreign country. It will make you realise just how deeply you are rooted in your own culture. We often take for granted that others have the same values. That most certainly creates surprises, if not also conflict.
Germans, for example, are meticulous about punctuality. Other cultures are much more relaxed about this.
Top Tip: Note where and when your expectations weren’t met. How long did the disappointment last? What did you learn?
The Last Word
We always knew travelling was fun, didn’t we? Now, having read this blog post, I hope I have provided you with a few ideas on how travel can boost your creativity. Enjoy your vacation, look for story ideas, and just write it all down!
By Susanne Bennett. Susanne is a German-American writer who is a journalist by trade and a writer by heart. After years of working at German public radio and an online news portal, she has decided to accept challenges by Deadlines for Writers. Currently she is writing her first novel with them. She is known for overweight purses and carrying a novel everywhere. Follow her on Facebook.
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