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As writers, we must constantly refill our cup of inspiration. The best way I've found to do this is to travel away from your normal surroundings.
You don't have to go very far, or even leave for very long. But stepping outside of your comfort zone helps you to be braver in your writing.
When I was a college sophomore, I traveled internationally for the first time. In China, I learned to write about homesickness. In France, I learned to write with grand ambitions (walking in the path of so many literary luminaries will do that to a person). In Italy, I felt the pull to commit to writing as my path more strongly than I ever had before.
I spent a month living in Florence, sharing a charming apartment with four other American girls. We were all students at Santa Reparata, an American-run artistic school nestled three blocks away from the Duomo. Sunlight streamed into the apartment, and every window had a view of tile rooftops and the iconic round dome of the cathedral. It was magical, and everything about that month made me long for a typewriter. I wanted to stay there, get fat eating too much pasta, and write from morning 'til night.
The view from the kitchen window, Florence 2004
Someday, I would like to set a story in Florence. The sunlight there is clear as glass, and the town is like no other place on earth.
Actually, every place is like that: not necessarily the sunlight, because it's different everywhere I've ever been, but every place is unique and bursting with inspiration.
I love traveling, and it's something I consider vital to my writing process.
Have the places and people you've encountered away from home seeped into your writing? What challenges you most about travel? What do you love most about it?