Travel: The Key to Authentic Writing
May 7, 2012
Jez Gee is a freelance writer and author who has been on a number of walking holidays and activity tours in destinations ranging from the Himalayan foothills to the outback of Australia.
St Augustine once said “The world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only one page” – wise words, and to be quite frank I’m not going to argue with a guy who was smart enough to say something like that. But that quote can also be applied to authors, in the sense that if you haven’t seen much of the world, you’re going to find it hard to write that one page too.
We all know that travel broadens the mind, and if you’re an author, or want to be one, then it’s vital that you try and keep your mind as broad as possible. In terms of idea generation, time and time again travel has proved itself to be an author’s best friend, whether it’s going on a short walk to clear your head or heading to a different continent to experience something totally new. As an author, regardless of the size of journey you make, your destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.
There’s something about changing environments which, as Bill Bryson says, ‘allows you to experience everyday things for the first time and to be in a position where nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted’. It is this kind of thinking that is crucial to an author, because a good writer should look at the world in a way that others have not yet seen it, and thrive on new experience. Travel also helps an author discover the background locations for their novels – just imagine if Louis De Bernieres had never visited Cephalonia or Lawrence Durrel had never been to Alexandria – and as every good author knows one of the key elements to you work is authenticity.
That’s why the new experiences travel throws up are so useful for an author and why they should be sought out at every opportunity. However, you have to be careful – unless the subject of your book is going to be people who lie by the pool, steal sun loungers and get drunk on cheap red wine, then it’s probably best to avoid your common or garden package tour. What you really want is a tour that’s going to get in among the locals, breath the air and experience the vistas from a unique perspective, and it is for this reason that I’d heartily recommend walking tours or activity tours to authors who are genuinely in search of inspiration.
There’s nothing that gets you closer to a country than walking through its landscape, and nothing that gets you closer to its people than walking among them. When you walk through a place, you’re not a tourist, you’re an adventurer, and every step you take through a foreign landscape better enables you to experience the sights, smells and feel of your location.
Even if you have no intention to write about the destination you’re visiting, this change in routine and new experience will help you approach any topic with a new perspective, and the time your brain will spend working while you’re walking will allow you to both ruminate about your work and generate new ideas.
Authors and poets have used literature as an important vehicle to express their profound thinking, deepest observations, and their firmest beliefs. As literature is said to be the reflection of life, plot, characters, as well as the settings of the formers needs to be authentic.
Travel plays a pivotal role in widening the author’s perception, helps in acquiring greater exposure, and to create realistic scenes. Travelling helps one in his effort to understand his own self, appreciate his own root, and in observing different cultural patterns as he tries to adjust with the grim realities of life.
When the author recreates reality in his work, shares his experiences with his readers he in a way sharpen their ability to see life in a better light and to travel across the world without moving an inch.
If you’d like to find out more about walking tours or activity holidays, I’d personally recommend a company called Exodus, who run a range of tours through some of the most inspiring environs on the planet.