How traveling helped me be a better writer
How traveling helped me be a better writer
I spent this past week in Rochester, Minnesota, at the Mayo Clinic campus with my parents. This is the third time I’ve been up there this year, and it was a lot easier this time around. Back in March, when we went up the first time, it was really intimidating. The place is really enormous, but this time it wasn’t so scary.
I’ve done a lot of traveling this year. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I have.
The other half of my brain and I went to Colorado Springs to spend a few nights at Glen Eyrie in early May. Over Memorial Day, we went up to Philadelphia, PA, for the amazing Realm Makers conference at Villanova University. Then, in June (I think) we popped up to Nebraska to visit one of our fellow Crosshair Press editor and make a stop at the Omaha Zoo. Oh, and don’t forget at the end of July I ended up making another trip up to Colorado Springs because my mom had to have emergency surgery while she and my dad were on vacation. In August, I was back in Philadelphia for a training conference for work, but I stopped off at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey to visit our other Crosshair Press partner. Now, early September I’ve been in Rochester, MN, and in a few weeks I leave for a trade show in Chicago.
Travel is always exciting
I love traveling. Seeing new and different parts of the country is one of my favorite things to do. Even just driving somewhere unexpected is fun.
One of the best vacations I’ve taken to this day was a family trip to Washington D.C. That was in 2009, but it still stands as one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever taken.
But I also love traveling internationally. Going to visit my amazing missionary friends in Guatemala has been a highlight for me every year I’ve been able to go. I’m praying the Lord makes it possible for me to go back next year. And then, of course, my trip last year to England and Scotland was legendary…. well, legendary for me, at least. For the poor folks over there, it might have been traumatic.
I know people, though, who don’t enjoy traveling. They find it too uncomfortable, and that’s completely understandable. But for me, there’s something really awesome about leaving home to see places you’ve never seen, to eat food you’ve never eaten, to listen to accents you’ve never heard before.
Traveling, especially out of the country, puts you in a position to learn more in a week than you ever thought you could learn in a month. You can walk into a situation in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, and–by necessity–you’ll have to learn it. You probably won’t be fluent by the end of the week, but you’ll know how to say some things.
The best lesson one of my professors at college ever taught me was this: “If you want to be a good writer, you need to know a little about a lot of things. If you want to be a great writer, you have to know a lot about a lot of things.”
What I’ve learned about traveling through the years is that I learn so much more when I’m outside of my comfort zone than I do when I’m hunkered down in it. I truly believe that all of the traveling I’ve been blessed to be able to do has helped me become a better writer, because I’ve been forced to learn things I never would have learned otherwise.
Travel is a useful tool
If you don’t like traveling, that’s cool. I can tell you I do love my old house with my bed and my bathroom and my kitchen. The comforts of home are comfortable, which is why we love them.
But if you do like to travel, even if you only get to travel for work, make the most of it. Take photographs. Take notes. Pay attention to where you are going and how you get there, especially if you’re a writer.
If you’re a writer who is blessed with the opportunity to travel for work, write it all down. Keep a mental notebook. Because who knows when you’ll get the chance to write about the giant statue of Rocky Balboa outside the Philadelphia Library? Who knows when you’ll need to know what the housing development just off McGuire Air Force Base looks like? And who knows when you’ll need to know what the albino alligator in the Kingdoms of the Night exhibit at the Omaha Zoo looks like?
So if you’re traveling any time the rest of this year, enjoy it. Take steps to make the most of it. And use it as a resource for the next story you tell, whether it’s something you’re writing down or something you’re relating to another person through speech.
If you’re not traveling, do yourself a favor and find someone who has. Because I guarantee they have stories to tell. They just need somebody to listen.