Displacement is a powerful and reliable source of inspiration. Novelty engenders a keen eye; we’re abruptly sensitized to situational idiosyncrasies and quirks of character that would pass by unremarked if encountered in a New Jersey suburb.
As a practical matter, the strangeness of our surroundings stimulates mindfulness in those of us not habitually or constitutionally inclined to remain “in the moment.” It’s impossible to live the present as a background process when you’re warding off street vendors while figuring out how to cross a six-lane road in Bangkok with no signals or discernible traffic pattern (we made it eventually).
Being away also drives curiosity. There’s a story to be told for nearly every peculiarity we come across – a two-story house being bulldozed in the middle of Shanghai’s financial district, an empty wine bottle bobbing down the Seine. Away from home, it seems to me that we’re more likely to tug on these threads and follow where they lead, if for no other reason than to fill the vacuum created by the absence of a fixed routine or proximate obligations.
When you combine awareness and curiosity, you get detail and depth.
One formula for writing (or creating in general): Visit new places and do new things. Notice something, learn more about it, and bring it to life, so the rest of us can share a slice of what you’re feeling. Your travels are training wheels. With practice, you return home to New Jersey and notice things there, too. Or you go to the next place. That works too.
Scenes from some of my favorite places: