Words are wonderful. I love their power. I love their descriptive abilities. For as long as I can remember, words have infatuated me, and I like using them. I love to write. I wrote a novel in high school (it was as cringy as you’d expect). I was always in accelerated English courses and was drawn to creative writing — you can make people feel and see things they’ve never known before.
Towards the end of college, I got a “big-kid job” that frequently required me to travel, and often sent me to destinations I wasn’t particularly excited about. On these trips, I started freelance writing to make some extra dough and pass the time spent on planes and trains. Over the years, I learned to love travelling, even to less-than-sexy destinations (my favorite town is tiny map dot in the middle of Nevada).
Some people venture out seeking revelations. Experiencing new places often comes with lessons in spirit, character, and constitution. Putting yourself in the thick of it triggers the flashbang of inspiration and just like that, your next book is written, or your work problem is resolved, or you know what you need to change about life.
It never happened like that for me. As I travelled more and wrote more, the two began to influence each other in a way I never would have anticipated. My yen for travel never subsided, but I didn’t start seeking fantastic destinations that looked like the fantasy worlds I used to build. Instead, I began seeking deliberately average destinations, turning down tour services and wine trails, and looking for the “normal.” I also stopped writing fiction.
Seeking Something New
I used to think my travel was selfish. I wanted to taste and see and smell and experience all the things I couldn’t at home, but I have come to see it as a journey of discovery. I want to meet people and tell their truths. I want to write what I feel and experience, and I want to share that. To some, it may feel like prose or read like a fantasy, to others it may sound like a memoir, but to me, it is the truth. I am writing directly, putting the world down on paper, and reacting to it.
Words and writing and artistry — creativity — have this notion of being inspired. People travel and see new things and find a muse. A connection is formed in the brain, a light goes on, and suddenly they know what they have to do. The problem with inspiration, though, is that it’s fleeting. It leans so heavily on time and context that it can’t exist eternally or be conjured on demand. Without discipline, inspiration is useless, and seeking a perpetual cycle of creative genius is not only unsustainable, but short-changes your abilities.
-Without discipline, inspiration is useless-
In order to effectively use inspiration when it does come around, you must learn to not need it. You have to throw your creativity in the trash and replace it with truth and discipline. By reducing your reliance on inspiration, you open up the door to seeking something honest, and experiencing and understanding more.
Rather than travelling to be indulged and waiting for inspiration to strike, I now ask for the whole truth — and I look for the beauty in it. I seek people and their knowledge and culture. I look for rejuvenation among the landscape, and truth in the language. Travel brings me authenticity, and teaches me how to be within the world without interrupting it, and that is all I seek when I leave my home. I look for truth to write, experiences to have, and the wild of the world.
Shifting My Priorities
As what you seek from the world changes, so does how you choose to live. We have a limited span on this beautiful rock, and how we choose to spend it is up to us. Precious hours are the currency of priorities — look at how a person spends their free time, and you will see what is important to them.
-Precious hours are the currency of priorities-
Making this realisation changed my life. Work will always be a priority because I require income to live, but beyond that, each decision I make about my time shapes what I experience, what I get from the world, and who I grow to be.
At first, that was daunting. I felt pressure to be productive constantly. There was so little time in which to do all the things in the world. Therein lies two critical mistakes: believing I could do all the things in the world, and putting myself in a panic over it. There is no way to reach every experience. You can’t do it. But you can appreciate the ones you get, and live your life in a way that makes you naturally open to new experiences and truths.
Each time I came home from a trip with a new knowledge tucked in my back pocket and scribbled in my notebook, my apartment felt more claustrophobic. I started stripping everything I didn’t need. I embraced minimalism — each item I kept either served a functional purpose or brought me joy. Decorative trinkets were unceremoniously donated, and I enhanced my surroundings with meaningful souvenirs from my journeys; reminders of life lessons lined my walls and served as intentional reminders.
-I embraced minimalism-
I spent more time in new places, even if it was as simple as ordering from a different coffee shop or wearing an outfit that I wouldn’t have dared to previously (a new mindset is also a new place). I ate up experiences like they were about to expire, and I learned, constantly.
Even now, whenever my bank account allows, I run away. I find a budget flight, a cheap bus ticket, or a friend’s road trip and I jump on board with little regard to the destination. It will be bright, shiny, new, and authentic, and that is all I want.
Guiding What I Create
Each destination has taught me something new or offered a new scene to describe. I continue freelance writing, and it is largely informed by my travel. I am lucky to have work that allows me to be productive from anywhere I can get internet, and I take advantage of that. I practice writing, no matter where I am, and I no longer need to wait for inspiration to carry my pen. I do not worship at the altar of a creative genius, but I cultivate the kind of creative discipline that looks more like work than anything else.
True greats will tell you that talent is only half the equation; you need discipline and practice to be exceptional. Stephen King and Ray Bradbury both advocate writing every day, no matter what. Just do it. Sit down and write what you know.
And that is exactly what travel taught me — how to throw my creativity away, write what was in front of me, and be better, through learned experiences and practiced skill. Each country brought new colors and sounds to write about. I didn’t need to embellish my trip to New Zealand; there was more than enough there. Writing about the North and the South Island proved to be a study in contrast, and putting the populous, culture-rich experience of the North next to the vast, rugged drama of the South gave me a bigger challenge than my imagination ever could.
These skills bled into everything — content creation, ad copy, even editorials. The beauty of writing the real world generates an authenticity that cannot be faked, and there are so many people and places who deserve to have their stories told. Besides, who doesn’t love a good human interest piece? There are so many who cannot travel who deserve to see what the coastline of Greece looks like on a summer morning. I cannot imagine creating a new world when the one in front of me offers more material than I can touch in a lifetime.
-There are so many people and places who deserve to have their stories told-
I will always travel, and I will always write, and the two will continue to inform each other until I run out of places to see — an impossible feat if you’re looking closely enough.
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