Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Writers and Travelling

When I wrote the short biographies of Hans Christian Andersen and Jules Verne, I noticed that they have something in common: they loved travelling. Until then I had never really thought about it, but it seems to be quite common for a writer to enjoy seeing and being in places other than their home. Charles Dickens, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, William Somerset Maugham, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, José Saramago, Vikram Seth, Bill Bryson, and many others were on the road a lot and quite obviously drew inspiration from their travel.

At one point or another even novelists may come up with a travellogue although in some cases – that I won’t mention here because I have too much respect for everyone who takes the effort to write a book – they should better have refrained from it. Others only benefit from the impressions that people and places leave in their minds. Writers can get inspired by everything and nothing, but travels certainly improve the odds to encounter something so far unknown or unthought of. A change of scenery can make a big difference. It opens minds and can change points of view.

Someone stuck in a writer’s block will be advised to go abroad and see the world. An aspiring writer like me often gets the same advice, but what if it’s out of the question to travel? The career of a writer seldom starts off like a rocket. Most of us have to make sacrifices in order to be able to follow our dream. To make a living we usually are compelled to have jobs that don’t give us the freedom to spend weeks or months on end abroad unless we manage to work there. And even if we can go abroad for a job for a while, the routine of daily life always catches up.

The solution that I found for me, is to travel in my mind – with my nose stuck in a book or with my pen on a sheet of letter-paper. I gain a lot of inspiration from both reading books and writing letters. How about you?


  1. I enjoy a good travelogue and it was rather serendipitous on my last holiday to London I came across a copy of William Morris’s Iceland travel journal with a contemporary commentary by Lavinia Greenlaw called A Question of travel, I was at the time questioning my own reasons for attempting to escape by travel. I wish I could travel more but I have to settle for the vicarious experience of reading others accounts, still it is nice to dream.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment Arabella! I enjoy good travellogues very much, too, and they make me dream a lot.


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