For me, travel and writing are intrinsically linked. Here are the top ways in which travel has inspired my writing.
Travel has helped me be braver. Putting thoughts on paper, creating something new and personal, can sometimes leave you feeling exposed. It can take courage. Travelling pushes you outside your comfort zone too, but so often when you're brave, the rewards are the most exciting, unexpected experiences. Travel has shown me that the benefits of trying outweigh the risks of failure or embarrassment. Things are often so much easier than they seem. You'll never get anywhere if you don't have a go.
Travel is my favourite source of stories. For me, the point of travelling is to have experiences that are different from those I'll get at home; where I'll meet different people, learn something new or be surprised. Places with strong political, social or cultural context excite and inspire me - they are always so full of stories. I have a real love affair with Asia, where my novels are set. It provides these things by the bucket-load. There's so much variety.
Travel challenges my preconceptions. It has forced me to look beyond stereotypes and clichés about people and places, which although sometimes rooted in truth, rarely tell the full story. It pushes me to develop my characters, settings and stories into something deeper, and more authentic.
Travel has encouraged me to look closer. The key to making a character, story or location believable is to identify the elements that make it unique, and then reflect these in your writing. Travel reminds me to study the details, to use every sense and ask myself how things really look, smell, sound, taste and feel.
Travel has taught me to roll with the punches. Sometimes your flight will be cancelled and your bags will be lost. Sometimes a reader won't like your book. There's only so much you can control in life. How happy you are - and how successful - depends on how well you respond when things don't go to plan. The ability to persevere is one of the most important skills a writer can have.
Travel has forced me to sometimes slow down. The most memorable experiences aren't always the days where you've seen the big sights or crammed the most in. They're the ones you spent in the backstreet café watching the world go by, or when you missed the bus and chatted all morning with the vendors on the beach. Writing can be the same. Fewer words can have more impact. They're cleaner. Stories can be better when they're simple and heartfelt.
Travel has broadened my perspective. Living in Western countries can narrow your view of morality. It is easy to see the world as black and white, to filter what is right and wrong through a privileged viewpoint as we generally live such comfortable lives. Travel has shown me that for many people, decisions of morality are not clear cut. Parts of Asia are still incredibly poor and for some, the simple task of feeding your family can become an issue of life and death. When faced with genuine survival situations, the boundaries of 'acceptable' behaviour are stretched. Travel has encouraged me to appreciate the moral grey areas and be less judgemental in my writing.
Travel has encouraged me to be open to opportunities. You never know when an adventure will arise if you give it a chance. There are benefits to keeping a plan flexible. Let the guide take you on a detour through the jungle. Let your characters and stories take detours too. Don't be too rigid in sticking to the ideas you started with. You might miss something wonderful along the way.
Travel has taught me we are all the same. Wherever I've been in the world, people's needs are identical at heart. They value love, family and safety first. Travel reminds me that characters must be at the core of every story. It is their hopes, desires, passions, struggles, conflicts and complexities which will engage readers and create truly gripping, emotional tales.