Traveling and Inspiration

I recently returned from a trip to North Carolina, and every time I get the opportunity to travel outside of my home state I feel so inspired. Let me start by explaining that I live in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains, which is a cute way of saying that we get a lot of harsh weather coming off the mountains, without the beauty of said mountains. It’s windy here, most of the year, which creates some of the most beautiful sunsets. The view of which is never obstructed by pesky things like trees, or mountains, or much of anything green. I actually love it here, I’m just suffering from envy because it’s actually spring in North Carolina (note the green grass and blooming trees in the photo above) and although it’s supposed to be spring here, it’s really more like an extended winter. Winter around here is really like a guest who’s overstayed his welcome and no matter how much you try to hint that it may be time for him to mosey on his way to somewhere else, he just won’t budge.

Back to traveling. I started, what I hope to be a new tradition on this trip by buying a book from a local author. I bought Rosecrans Baldwin’s debut novel You Lost Me There from Letters Bookshop. If you’re in Durham, you should stop by, tell them I said hi. Of course, they’ll give you a strange look and ask who I am, mainly because I’m really shy and quietly bought a book from them before slinking out the door, but it’s the thought that counts. One day, I’ll be confident and start conversations with strangers and then when I tell people to stop by and tell the person hi, there will be a chance they’ll remember me. Until then, I’ll move onto what drew me to You Lost Me There.

When I entered Letters Bookshop and came up with my plan to buy a book by a local author, I scouted the store and was so excited when off in a corner, slightly behind the counter, I found a whole section dedicated to local authors. I landed on You Lost Me There because it’s about a neuroscientist who studies Alzheimer’s (you may remember my interest in Alzheimer’s from a story I wrote called “Be Here with Me” that comes out in print in June, you can click here for instructions on how to view it early). So this neuroscientist whose lifework revolves around memory recall and degenerative cognitive impairment stumbles upon note cards written by his late wife recounting their life together. And while he remembers their marriage as being relatively perfect, her account of their time together is quite different. He must reevaluate his memories when faced with the different way she perceived the same moments they shared. It’s like this book was written for me, so hopefully it won’t disappoint.

There were so many fun experiences I had on this trip. Like listening to the enormous songs of these birds to find out they were coming out of little birds about the size of a finch. Or the awesome carnivorous plants collection in the botanical gardens of the University of North Carolina.

There was also a trip to Duke University where I listened to an a capella group practicing in a small hallway next to the photography gallery in the Perkins Library (of course I went to the library). Went on a hike in Eno State Park where there was not one, but two torrential downpours where I could have jumped in the river and been just as dry. The rain was warm though, so it turned out to be a really great hike.

There is something about traveling, getting out of my regular routine and going somewhere new, that fills me with inspiration, new ideas, and replenishes my creativity. Are there any writing/reading-related activities that you like to do when you travel? Perhaps attending poetry slams or writing groups, visiting bookstores (I visited four different bookstores on this trip), etc. Do you feel inspired from traveling?



  1. // Reply

    That book sounds terrific. Just the thing I love. But I get too emotional now–don’t know what happened to me. Life, I guess. Sounds like you had a great time. NC is beautiful any time of year, but you went at a good season–before summer’s humidity.

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      I was wondering about the humidity. It rained so much while we were there, but it wasn’t really humid. Well, it wasn’t humid in the miserable type of way. It was certainly more humid than here where I think the air actively tries to suck moisture out of your skin. I was expecting a little bit more of the type that feels like a weight around you. Like you’re breathing in water.
      I know what you mean about the book. I have to be in the right frame of mind to tackle certain books.

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    I find local coffee shops and try to interact with people. Sometimes I meet other writers and authors.

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      That is a really great idea. I love coffee shops, and I hope that’s not too cliché being a writer and enjoying coffee shops. I particularly enjoy the ones with poetry readings or slams, live music, or art exhibits.
      I’ll have to give this talking to other people in coffee shops a try. It’s way outside my comfort zone, but I think I’m missing out on a lot by not doing it.

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        It’s easy to start with a crowded place (even if it seems intimidating) and take your laptop. There are few wall outlets and people sharing them. “Hi, do you mind if I plug in here?” is a good way to at least get off to a friendly start. It shows that you are there to work, and not to bother them, but then sometimes conversations naturally spring up from little breaks with “so, what are you working on?” 😉

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          Haha This suggestion is exactly what I needed. Like a handbook on how to communicate with other humans. I’m really not that bad at it, I swear. But I think my instinct is to get out of the conversation quickly, not to explore it.
          I have been in some great conversation with people who I didn’t know, but it’s usually out of their insistence, not out of my own doing.

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    I get my best inspiration when I’m living out of a suitcase. I love being on long train journeys, there’s something about being in that inbetween place (neither here nor there, just on the move) that gets my mind whirring with story ideas. I haven’t been able to travel for a while and I really miss it. I hate the feeling of being tethered somewhere (or to someone/something)…it kills my creativity.

    I’ve never even thought of checking out work from local authors though…I’ll try that when I start travelling again.

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      A long train journey, that sounds fun. I used to feel stir crazy all the time, and I honestly didn’t realize until your comment that I haven’t felt that for a long time. I think since I started writing full time. I still enjoy traveling, but I don’t feel confined anymore when I’m not on the move.
      I hope you get a chance to travel again soon. And you’ll have to let me know if you find any great authors during your travels.

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        Absolutely…although the funny thing is, I’m not much of a reader. I know that’s a terrible thing for a writer to say, but I’d much rather be writing than reading!

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    I love traveling. My husband and I are both writers, although he has a day job, so when we can travel without the kids, we write. We recently went on a cruise to the Bahamas. We spent about three hours in Nassau, and most of the rest of our time went toward writing! We plan and take weekend trips just to write. I think being in a new environment gives us that spur of creativity plus not being at home keeps us from remembering to do the laundry!

    On the topic of train journeys, we’ve actually been talking about taking the train from here in TN down to NOLA, then back up to Chicago, before coming home. Just so we can experience a longer train ride and have time to write.

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      You and Scarlett are really making these long train rides sounds like fun. I always envy people who can read in the car or on the plane, or work on a train. I get so motion sick, and that’s without trying to look down at a book or laptop screen.
      Your trip to the Bahamas sounds like great inspiration. Traveling and writing not only gives you that creative boost, but it’s giving you more life experiences to weave into your writing as well.
      Oh, and the comment about the laundry, yes! Knowing you’re not home to take care of the usual household duties frees the mind leaving more room for creativity.

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    That book you bought sounds interesting. I think traveling is great for writers. Have you been to Georgia? There are lots of good places for hiking here.

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      I have not yet had the opportunity to travel to Georgia. I hear it gets pretty humid there in the summer. If I get to travel there, I hope it’s in the spring so I can check out some of the hiking trails.

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    Right. You don’t want to come here in the summer. Fall is nice,here. My name is Jeff. I look forward to reading more of your writing.

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