Ever since I was a little girl I have loved traveling to new places. I believe traveling and living in different parts of the world has helped shape me and my writing and impacted the way I see the world. Family outings and vacations were always a source of inspiration for me. Even at school, my writing projects would often be about a new adventure or a new place I had visited. It’s no wonder geography was my favorite subject. Whether it was a road trip across the country or a day trip to the lake, I would always come home with fresh ideas for a new story or setting for a story. Even a field trip to see a ballet would prompt me to write a story about a ballet dancer. Fresh out of high school, I wanted to become an air hostess, but I stopped growing at seventeen, and my being vertically challenged pretty much ruled that out.
When I say ‘travel’, I don’t mean flying to exotic vacation resorts. Traveling can be expensive, but as a child I was blessed to have parents who loved having fun the cheap and simple way – road trips, picnics in the countryside, visiting friends in a different region of the country and the occasional splurge on a beach vacation with affordable efficiency accommodations. Yes, our family wasn’t averse to sacrificing a few luxuries in the name of fun.
And when I didn’t travel, I would do so in my imagination, and still do. I become a couch surfer, or an armchair traveler, which basically means the same thing—just a more elegant way of slouching. While living abroad, when relocating to the USA wasn’t even in the books (I just had to throw that pun in there), I always had a fascination with the United States and everything American, and it became the setting for many of my stories. Of course, there’s no substitute for the real thing. To visit a place, you can sense its smell and feel, study its customs and history, the different styles of architecture. You meet new people, locals and visitors, and learn about their backgrounds. On a recent trip to the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area, I went on a self-guided tour of covered bridges, and it was such a lovely, peaceful and inspiring experience. I took a ton of photographs, feeling like the female version of Clint Eastwood in The Bridges of Madison County, although I see myself more in the role of Meryl Streep. But I digress…
I often find that in my writing I will include an element I have personally experienced, whether a recipe or a book I once read. I’ve developed a sensory memory where I associate certain smells with places I’ve visited or lived in. The smell of cut grass will propel me back to South Africa, to when Saturday was the day my father would mow the lawn, and the scent of Jasmine will remind me of the country I was born in, sunny Italy. Living in three continents through the course of my lifetime has left me with great memories. I wrote a short article once, published in a now out of print magazine, of the importance of preserving memories. It can be downloaded here.
In summary, to enrich your life and feed your imagination you don’t need expensive hotels and flights. Day trips can be socially satisfying and enriching experiences as well. You just have to make the most of whatever opportunity comes your way. And if that’s still not an option, as we saw with the safety restrictions imposed during the pandemic, in this era of virtual reality you can armchair travel to your heart’s content.