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Travel = Fuel

Travel = Fuel

It’s possible to write quality fiction without ever leaving your home turf—many notable authors have spent a chunk of their career writing about a single, specific region—but that doesn’t change the reality that, for a fiction writer, travel equals fuel.

Whether you’re flying across the world or, as we recently did, taking a two-week road trip that never ranges more than 1000 miles from home, travel fires the imagination in a way that few other experiences can. First, travel disrupts your normal daily routines and requires you to be more flexible and adaptable—while at the same time, that sense of dislocation opens you up to new experiences.

Travel forces you to observe the world around you, because it’s not the same one you see every other day of your life. When I arrive in a new place, whether in another town or another country, the first thing I do is look around. Who’s out and about? What are they wearing and how do they carry themselves? Where are they going, and why? What’s different about the food or architecture or way of life here, and what’s the history—the back story—behind those differences?

From there it’s the tiniest of leaps to the beginnings of a story. You zero in on one or two individuals and ask yourself: What is that person’s everyday life like? Where do they live, and with whom? How do they make a living? What do they love and hate and fear and desire? And what obstacles might they face in pursuing those desires?

You can do this anywhere, of course—people-watching is one of my favorite ways of passing the time, wherever I am—but doing it in an unfamiliar environment tends to sharpen the senses. There’s so much new information to take in, so many subtleties of behavior to observe and analyze. That new information leads to new perspectives and insights. And new insights have a way of leading to new stories.

So, a word of advice: if you want to write fiction, go away. Leave your familiar home turf, ride right on out of your comfort zone. Experience different places and cultures and ideas and traditions, new ways of speaking and thinking and eating and living. You might be tired when you get home—but your fuel tank will be full.

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