Not only am I a writer but I also taught world geography for a number of years at the junior high and college level. When I had a classroom of curious students, no matter the age, whatever the subject matter I tied it to the world around us. Several of my favorite projects meant creating a rainforest and adopting acres in South America. Another fun project was the TV show The Amazing Race which I used to teach Europe. There was a lot of running around going on in the halls but those sixth graders loved it. My husband used to say I had more fun than the kids. Maybe. Okay. I did!
I was fortunate enough to be selected to take the training at University of Missouri for becoming a Geo-Teacher for National Geographic. I also went to Space Camp for Educators in Huntsville, Alabama which seemed to solidify my direction into exploration. As a teacher, I believe it is vitally important for educators to explore, travel, and experience new things. I also believe parents should introduce their children to other cultures, places, music and art. Want your kiddos to be smart? Introduce them to geography. Everything ties back to the subject whether it is science (geology, paleontology, physiology, etc.) mathematics, computer science (NASA, NSA, CIA, and a number of other letters will love you) and the list goes on.
But what about on a personal level. Why is it important for you to travel? Here are some of my reasons.
• New landscapes are a way to relax
• Foods taste different, sometimes better
• Experience a new climate
• Learn a new language
• Embrace the history of a new place
• Discover famous destinations
• Leave your stress behind
• Meet new people
• Create memories to carry you to the next vacation or new career
• Try new things like surfing, mountain climbing, do a zip-line
Can travel improve your writing? I find that it can. Here is what I’ve learned.
• Adventure sparks new ideas
• Experience new means of transportation to appreciate home.
• How is a region different and why does it affect the people who live there?
• Location – Where is it and how does it relate to what you know and believe?
• People – How are they different? How do they survive, live, love and create?
• Human Environmental Interaction – Does being in the desert, mountains, swamp, urban or rural communities have consequences on the environment or have they learned to adapt? Can you?
• Movement – Will you need a dog sled, camel, hiking boots, rail pass, or horse? How are goods moved for people to survive? Maybe you’ll need courage to drive where speed limits are only a suggestion.
All of those things can affect what you write or what you want to write. You can research all you want but until you come face to face with a bull elephant that wants to trample you, you may not have experienced real fear. The sound of total silence is nothing short of inspiring as you pole through the Okavango Delta of Botswana, Africa. The touch of a higher power is never more evident than staring out into Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border.
These are some of my favorite places that have inspired me over the years.
• Space Camp for Educators – Huntsville, Alabama
• Monument Valley – Arizona-Utah border
• Great Smokey Mountains – North Carolina
• Muir Woods, San Francisco, California
• Lake Tahoe, California
• Great Wall of China outside Beijing, China
• Okavango Delta, Botswana, Africa
• London, England
• Loch Lomond, Scotland
• Vancouver, Canada
• Eureka Springs, Arkansas
• Dublin, Ireland
• Orlando, Florida
• St. Louis, Missouri
Many of my characters come from people I’ve met over the years from living in remarkable locations, many of which have been in the United States. My research helps and so does keeping a notebook when I travel. I record how my five senses reacts to every place I travel. When I’m ready to write a new character, scene and maybe a book, I have fuel for the fires I create.
Travel doesn’t have to be across the world. Start small, like a major city in your state. You’ll be surprised at what you discover. Keep a journal of your experiences. You may find a job on the Travel Channel. But for me I’m going to attend Writers’ Police Academy this summer! Who wants to go?