So you want to become a nomadic writer, huh? You want to travel the world in search of inspiration and the next big story? You want to live the dream of penning your next bestseller or blog post from some exotic destination? Well then, you’ve come to the right place!
Writers have a reputation for being recluses who live in caves with WiFi, growing paler and missing out on life as they live vicariously through their characters. I beg to differ. Writers more than anyone need to be out and about. How else will we write about the human condition and find great stories elsewise? I say open your writing wings and soar on the winds of travel, my friend!
Some of the most accomplished writers, from Hemingway to Stevenson to many others, penned some of their best works while in self-imposed exile. There’s just something inspiring and deeply spiritual about being on the road, away from all cares, social calls and other distractions, that makes the writer within bloom.
Thus, to help you on your journey of becoming a nomad writer, here are some tips that stem from hard-earned experience:
- Understand that it’ll be harder than you think.
Writing is something that by its meditative nature lends itself well to places of quiet introspection and concentration, somewhere where you can fully focus on what you’re putting onto that blank page. Since we’re children, we’re accustomed to doing our homework from the quiet solace of our rooms, we write our college thesis in libraries, and, even as adults, we work silently in cubicles and offices.
Writing is a creative and meditative process that requires your full attention, and it’s hard to pen the next literary novel of the century on your laptop while the Guatemalan chicken bus bouncing through every pothole on the road.
I’m not saying that writing while traveling is impossible or something you shouldn’t try, rather we have to understand that writing while traveling can present its own particular set of difficulties and challenges that naturally stem from the process of travel and which you’ll have to overcome.
You’ll find that you’ll switch familiar distractions for unfamiliar ones, so a good bit of discipline and professionalism will help you on your way.
Just like everything else, writing away just takes practice.
- Find mobile tools and solutions.
Let’s face it, writers have always had a reputation for being somewhat sedentary creatures. When you had to carry those big typewriters and armfuls of paper manuscripts, how could you not be?
However, things have changed in recent times with the advent of the internet and the advances in digital technology, and you no longer have to be an armchair adventurer in order to write… now you can become a true man/woman of the world!
There’s all sorts of hardware and software to ensure that you can write wherever you are! You can choose your writing medium from a myriad of laptops, tablets and cell phones. You can use all sorts of apps, programs and cloud services to write on and immediately back up or share everything you do. There has never been a better time to be a writer!
I basically switch from on-the-go writing tools to a more conventional rig when I settle somewhere for a while. Think of your writing tools in terms of camping. When you pull out your laptop and settle in for a long writing session you’re basically pitching your writing space, so you’ll need to find a good place to camp and write away. On the other hand, I use my more mobile solutions (like my cell phone) when I’m traveling or when I can’t find an adequate space to use my conventional equipment, like while traveling on a plane or on a tight bus.
The important thing is to have the tools available to write at any given time and in any given circumstance. I wrote parts of this post in a tent on top of a mountain on my cell phone, and wrote other parts sitting comfortably in a public library on my 10-inch laptop.
- Find a good place to work.
Having a good space to write away is an important factor for producing quality works. The less distractions you have, the easier it will be for you to enter into that blissful state of literary nirvana we all strive for.
Make use of quiet spaces where you can plug in your computer, connect to free WiFi and write away. In most destinations you’ll travel to, you can find good mobile offices to commandeer. Some of them might include anything from:
- Coffee shops
- Public libraries
- Private rooms
- Airport business lounges
Nevertheless, you’d be surprised about the inspiring places where you could be productive. Just keep an open eye and an open mind. Writing in a bar might inspire you to write a party scene or set the scene for an intimate dialogue between two of your characters. A lakeside retreat might inspire you to take out your notebook and write a sonnet.
Remember that you’re a writer! It’s an unconventional and creative lifestyle. Be creative and unconventional.
- Make time for both traveling and writing.
The purpose of writing while traveling is to enjoy the best of both worlds. Remember you can’t serve two masters… at least not at the same time.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by your travels. You get so caught up in the excitement of being on the road that you might forget to write. That’s fine, as long as you actively set aside time for your writing later on. Likewise, you don’t want to miss out on the incredible things each new place has to offer. Make a point of exploring too!
Early in the morning is a good time to start. Set aside a couple of hours before heading out and work hard during your allotted time. Consistency and concentration are key here. It’s incredible to see the amount of work you can get done when working persistently and with focus, even if it’s for no more than a few hours a day.
Are you more of a night owl? Writing at night, with the mysterious sounds of an unfamiliar place, can be an experience by itself.
Find your sweet spot and stick to it.
- Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!
Hack away at unnecessary errands and complications with a machete. The simpler you travel, the more time and energy you’ll have for writing.
Traveling is an art to be learned. If you administer your travel needs efficiently, you’ll free up more time for exploring or writing (or even doing a bit of both at the same time). Doing laundry? That’s a few hours you’ll have to write. Eating out might be a valuable cultural experience and will save you the hassle of cooking for yourself. The less amount of stuff you bring along, the less amount of time and energy that goes into packing and taking care of your things.
Be creative about skimming on efforts. Cut down your tools to the bare minimum. Remember that all you need to write is a medium and the disposition to do it. The rest is optional.
Don’t complicate your life, it really is a simple affair.
- Read on the go.
Little else offers the budding writer the inspiration for his craft than reading a damn good book.
In particular, I suggest reading up on the places where you’ll be traveling through. Read travelogues and the accounts of travel writers. Read up on the history and culture of the land. Read anything that will deepen your travels Maybe you’ll be so inspired you’ll even write a bit about the places you wander through.
Books are extremely heavy and a pain to lug around, which is why I’d suggest going paperless for your travels. The ebook revolution is the biggest thing since the invention of printing. The simple fact that you can now pack hundreds of books into your cell phone or tablet, a veritable digital library, is something that would have been unheard of even a generation ago. Just as there’s never been such an exciting time to be a writer, there’s never been a better time to be a reader!
- Travel slow, travel long term.
If you have the opportunity, it’s easier to find your writing routine when traveling over the long term. Traveling for a couple of days or even a few weeks won’t help you advance much and you’d probably be better off using the trip as an opportunity to brainstorm about something to write when you get back.
The longer you stay in places the more likely you’ll identify the good writing spots and meet like-minded people to help and support you on your writing journey. Remember that your procurement process (food, water, shelter, hygiene, etc.) resets every time you arrive at a new destination. It takes valuable time away from your writing.
Traveling slow will also free and declutter your mind from the pressures of time. Your writing won’t be the same if you stay in a place for three days than it would be to stay for a month. You’ll be able to invest more time into your writing than if you were simply passing through.
- Hunt for stories and inspiration in your surroundings.
Every place I travel to inspires me to write about it in some way or another. It’s a natural thing for a writer to seek out the beauty and the majesty of our world.
Traveling is a spiritual endeavor, and there’s just something about being on the road that opens up the senses and our minds. Let the impressions of new places, new people and new cultures sink into your mind. Let the flavors of an exotic land spice your writing. Channel the spirit of places onto the page. Mix with locals and find what makes them tick. I can guarantee your writing will be all the better for it.
From a scene in one of your novels set somewhere you traveled to, to journaling and documenting your experience, or even drafting a short story or two, make use of those impressions to create memorable writing.
There are stories all around us when we travel if we know where to look.
- Enjoy the process.
Most importantly, be sure to enjoy the process of writing while traveling! The purpose of traveling and writing is to enjoy the best of both worlds without compromising one or the other. Constantly remind yourself that you’re doing this because it’s what you love and feel the difficulties and hardships will melt away.
If you enjoy your writing, there is little doubt someone else will enjoy reading it.