Why Should Writers Travel?

By Chetan Mahajan

There’s a simple reason: Writers travel to get away from the familiar.

We all know and understand the value of routine in our writing. The habits of most great writers are lessons of discipline. Murakami says that he holds a very fixed routine for six months to a year when he’s on a project. Roald Dahl was famous for writing from his small outhouse. That daily, predictable outing worked for him. But his imagination was inspired by his travels to Tanzania, Kenya, and Egypt during his years of military service. His experiences of culture, wildlife, and nature turn up in his stories. They show through in the myriad, extraordinary creatures he created. He got enough from his early years of travel to keep him going for a lifetime.

In our humdrum lives, sameness depletes the brain cells. The neurons fire in a closed loop of thought patterns, craving an outside influence to break routine and rewire circuits. For many writers, travel is like a stimulant. A drug. And after you’ve travelled to an exciting location like, say, Fond du Lac, for the third time, you develop a tolerance to it. So you look for places further afield. If there’s one place that can serve as an antidote to sameness, it’s Asia. In this realm beyond many American’s comfort zones, where more than half of humanity lives, you may find new experiences. When the sameness of your life changes, the sameness of your thoughts may change. And once the sameness of your thoughts change, your writing may follow. 

Note that I use the vague “may” instead of the definitive “will” above. Travel will inspire you only if you immerse yourself in a new culture. Cover yourself from head to toe like diving into a deep pool. Allow the immersion to change your thinking and ideas. Open your heart to everything that a new place, setting, and culture may offer. Or you can travel through these worlds looking at a new country as the “view” through the 20th floor window of your five-star cocoon. And looking at, say, India through a plate glass window is just watching more TV. On mute. 

When you travel with an open heart—willing to accept what comes your way, and growing with it—then you have a real chance to alter your brain. The inspiration, the change of a mindset that a writer seeks, is easy to achieve. All it takes is accepting a world of new experiences with true openness. 

So go ahead and take that big leap out of your comfort zone. Your writing will follow. 

You can bid on the Himalayan Writing Retreat as part of Lighthouse’s Casino Night fundraiser.

Chetan Mahajan is a published author, blogger, and coach. As the co-founder of the Himalayan Writing Retreat, he has witnessed some truly transformational journeys. You can learn more at www.himalayanwritingretreat.com.