I have been doing a lot of traveling lately. My various flights and road trips have taken me to Kansas City, Kansas; Tucson, Arizona; and San Antonio, Texas. One thing about these travels stands out for me. No matter how hard it can be to make/spend time writing when at home, I find it even more difficult to write when I travel. The lack of a routine throws me off my game. Additionally, I often feel a need to get out and see some part of the local surroundings wherever I go, even when it’s a city I have visited in the past.
On the plus side, the people watching part of my brain seems to become more acutely attuned when I travel. Whether this is a side effect of being hyper-vigilant in new environments, or because everything just feels so different when my routine has been so completely flipped, I don’t know. However, I try to take advantage of these situations to fill up my hopper with new quirks and behaviors that I may not have tuned into before.
I don’t think people are that different, especially when traveling regionally, but I notice anew odd ticks, behaviors that have not previously struck me. These are the unusual aspects of character that will find their way into stories down the road.
The man behind me in the airport, telling the person on the other end of the phone they are breaking up, when I can hear the caller’s voice almost well enough to make out what she is saying, is a man trying to find a polite way to get off the phone. Is it that he doesn’t wish to continue the conversation with this person because he has better things to do while waiting for his flight? Or is he just uncomfortable speaking on a cell phone? I don’t really know, but when this individual finds his way into a book or a story, I will learn all there is to know about him and his relationship with the caller. Of course, I do not know this man, but at some point this particular aspect of him will become a facet of a character that I will come to know quite well.
So, while I may not be directly writing when I travel, I am still filling the hopper. Gathering the input that will find its way back out into story when the time comes and I am able to sit and write again. I will re-traverse the damp sidewalks of a rainy San Antonio, feel the gusty wind of Tucson, pull my jacket tight around me against the chilly Kansas City night and I will let these experiences flow into the writing, building the sensory details and the tics of character out of where I have been, what I have felt, seen, smelled, tasted, heard, and even overheard.