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As a writer, I love to travel.
I differentiate this travel-love from the spark of wanderlust most everyone carries—this travel-love is about getting inspired, stealing tidbits from experiences I never would have had otherwise, and slipping them between pages in a story.
I’m a bit of a creeper, to be honest.
I’ll eavesdrop on conversations in coffee shops, even if I don’t understand the language, just to get a sense of the rhythm of emotional exchange. I’ll watch the local woman haggle for a better price on oranges while her kids weave around her varicose legs. I’ll write down every detail I can soak in—from the smell of the trees that only grow on this island, to the shape of the clouds over the sun at noon, to the insults drivers shout at one another in rush-hour traffic.
This is a kind of travel-love I think a lot of writers share.
But traveling for writers comes with its own share of challenges. How do we maintain our practice while on the road? How do we keep a routine when the very nature of travel disrupts the routines we spent so much time and energy cultivating?
And how do we maintain a balance between experiencing the place we’re in and holding space for our work?
It may sound crazy, but I find I’m often more productive while on vacation. This is because I know I’ll have a limited amount of time, and so I go in with a plan that is realistic for me to execute but still leaves space for what I want to accomplish.
Here are 5 things to think about as you get ready for your writing/traveling adventure so you can write more while still enjoying your vacation.
1. Know what you want to write
Are you mostly hoping to keep your writing muscles in shape by journaling about your trip? Or is there a specific project you want to make progress on?
Knowing what you want to write—and why you want to write it—will help shape the rest of your writing plan for your travels.
Consider setting a goal—or at least decide what you want to focus on—so you head into your writing travels with a purpose (even if that purpose is to write about your trip).
2. Know when you’re going to write
If I just tell myself, “I’m gonna write on this trip!” chances are it’s not going to happen. I’ll just keep putting it off and putting it off—or if I do write, it will be rushed, low-quality, and very likely to be interrupted by my traveling companions.
Based on your goals and how you work best, decide ahead of time what kind of writing schedule makes sense for you.
Are you going to get up a little early every morning and write over coffee? Are you going to set aside time a couple of afternoons to work on a few specific tasks?
Having some kind of schedule—even a loose one—will help you make sure you’re doing the writing you need (and want!) to do on your trip.
3. Know where you’re going to write
Now that you have a plan to keep up your writing practice while traveling, start to think about where that writing will happen.
Will your hotel room have a sun-soaked balcony? Is there a nook in your Airbnb that’s particularly conducive to getting those creative juices flowing? Or do you plan to explore your neighborhood for a cozy cafe or bookshop?
Leave some room for spontaneity—you never know when you might stumble upon a great writing spot—but if you go in with some sense of where you want to write, you’ll spend less time searching aimlessly and more time actually writing.
4. Know how you’re going to write
I love bringing a small journal while traveling. There’s something about good old-fashioned freehand in the magic of a new place that allows inspiration to pour in like water in the Seine.
But sometimes I also need something more robust for “serious” work and churning out the words on the page.
I bought a tablet for the sole purpose of writing while traveling. And you know what? I never use it!
The keyboard is small and feels awkwardly unresponsive to the touch. The word processor software available for tablets leaves a lot to be desired. And when I combine the tablet, the keyboard, a case to protect it all, and flash-drives to protect my work—it’s not actually that much less bulky than if I’d just brought my laptop in the first place.
As a result, I’m really good about doing a lot of journaling, brainstorming, and scribbling while traveling, even if I can’t bring my laptop along, but I’m still working on finding a travel-friendly solution to get me drafting and revising on the road when I don’t have access to a laptop.
I spoke to the creators of the Freewrite Traveler at Book Con this year, and I’m pretty darn excited to try this as a travel-friendly laptop/tablet alternative.
The Traveler doesn’t exist yet, but I did test the prototype at Book Con.
It’s nice and compact while maintaining a good-sized and responsive keyboard. The screen is small and uses the same non-backlit technology as e-readers to reduce glare and eye-strain. It doesn’t have the same distractions (games, Internet, etc.) as a laptop or tablet, while still connecting to wi-fi to upload your writing to the cloud (in addition to storing it on the Traveler itself).
I do wish it had a front-light option for writing in more dimly-lit spaces, but I plan to use a book light (which I already bring with me when I travel) to make sure I can write in any lighting.
The Indiegogo was successfully funded on November 1st, 2018, and they are still taking pre-orders at a discounted rate. It’s unclear how long the discount will last, so if the Traveler appeals to you, I’d jump on the deal ASAP. (And I’ll be sure to provide a full updated review when mine arrives!)
The important takeaway here is to incorporate how you want to write (notebook, laptop, tablet, Traveler, etc.) into your plans in a way that makes the most sense for your goals.
5. Be prepared to change your plans!
By its very nature, travel requires us to be flexible.
The boat has been rerouted, so you have to catch a bus to a different dock; your Day One plans were more ambitious than jet-lag realistically allows, so you need to re-prioritize your sightseeing; there’s a parade running straight through the walking tour your guidebook recommended, so you duck into a coffee shop to people-watch instead of following the trail.
Even if you’ve outlined the best writing schedule ever, chances are you’re going to have to make some adjustments or accommodations.
Be prepared to go with the flow, but also leave room to explore, be spontaneous, and get inspired.
Bring a small notebook everywhere so you can write whenever inspiration strikes—especially so you can capture those small details about a place that only come from being there: the way locals speak, the smell of the morning air, the shadows that buildings cast on one another.
Most of all, have fun. Writing should enhance the traveling experience, not make it more stressful.
Embrace your writerly travel-love—you never know what stories might unfold!
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