Travel Writing: How to get inspired by your vacation

Vacations. They’re a time that we so desperately need every once in a while to de-stress, relax, and unwind. And that came come in various forms for people, depending on their personal tastes. Some of us like to veg out on the beach for two weeks straight with a daiquiri in one hand and a mojito in the other; some prefer to get lost down the winding streets of some charmingly medieval European town; others prefer to get up at the butt-crack of dawn to go on a sunrise hike followed by morning yoga then another several other high-intensity activities throughout the day. Whatever your vacation style is, there is one thing we can all agree on: as writers, vacation time can be the perfect inspiration for writing – so long as you can find the time.

I recently returned from a trip to Malta, and as I was sipping my morning latte while watching the sun rise, the thought occurred to me: how exactly do you make your vacation work for you? A writer’s work is never done. Plain and simple. While other professions can easily clock out while enjoying vacation, those of us who are writers – either paid or unpaid – are constantly on the clock. The Muses have no concept of vacation time apparently. Here is a list of everything that I discovered while on break that will hopefully inspire you fellow writers to use your vacations to fuel your writing progress:

Set a schedule

I know, I know. This is probably the last thing you want to do, but hear me out. Setting a writing schedule during your vacation is actually a good thing – it means you get actual writing work done. And there is no need to carve out a whole two hours of your day, 20 minutes is totally fine. I personally found that 20 minutes over breakfast in the morning, then 20 minutes before bed was plenty. It was more a way to organize my thoughts and ideas each day. And of course, if you do happen to have a free day where you can just hole up for a couple of hours in a picturesque café or beneath a beach umbrella to write, that’s even better. But if you’re constantly on the go during your vacation, 20 minutes is plenty.

Keep a travel diary

When I go on break, I like to keep a diary where I document everything I saw, ate, smelled, heard, felt, and experienced during my day. For one, even if you don’t do any work on your manuscript or short story, you’re at least keeping your writing muscles flexed. Plus, going back and re-reading your travel diary when you’re home can help you get back into that feeling of awe and inspiration in order to do some creative writing. I have also found that sometimes you describe things in such a nice way, you want to recycle those descriptions into your writing – and that is totally fine!

Learn about the local history through a guided tour

Local history is a great source of inspiration. In Malta, we did several guided tours and day trips and they definitely helped to get the creativity flowing. Learning the history behind that cool-looking building or discovering more about that historical figure will definitely be of benefit to your work at a later point. Some of the stuff I learned about the founding of Valletta and the Knights Hospitaller definitely had me writing down plot ideas for several projects I’m currently working on.

Take in the scenery

Besides being fantastic backdrops for selfies, picturesque places can help inspire ideas. Whether natural or urban, different panoramas can evoke all types of inspiration. I suggest that if you have the time, take a small notebook with you and just start to jot down whatever comes to mind. If you’re in a particular place that you find thrilling, then imagine a scene playing out. It doesn’t have to be a fully realized story concept or anything; just something that can be a starting point for you. And neither setting, either city or countryside, is more beautiful than the other. They both have different kinds of inspiration to give. In addition to taking in the scenery, don’t underestimate the power of people watching. If you’re out to dinner, or on a tour with different people, or chilling on the beach/poolside take some time to observe the scenery between people – those are potential stories waiting to be written.

Airports are the perfect place to write

Unless you’re going on a cruise or planning a road trip, most of us travel to our vacation destinations by plane. Airports are usually over-crowded, over-priced petri-dishes where we go in order to catch a flight to somewhere magical. While they’re no fun, they do provide perfect places for people watching. And following on the point above, airports are a goldmine of potential stories waiting to be written. How many of us have sat in an airport and noticed someone who, for whatever reason, catches our attention and has us wondering, “Where are they headed?” Well, if you’re not doing anything for two hours till boarding, why not imagine their whole story? That woman wearing a fur coat in the middle of summer, the man in an all-black suit with a briefcase, the couple wearing matching shirts – they all would provide a great foundation to interesting characters and storylines.

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