I know a lot of people are wary of traveling with kids. Especially young kids. After all, the key to child-rearing generally boils down to routine, right? Snack times, lunch times, bed times – life is good when they all run like clockwork. Our four year old is a creature of habit, seemingly happiest when he knows the drill. Figure in sports practices, music or art lessons, and social outings/events and it’s clear that taking time out to travel, even during vacations, means making some sacrifices.
And then there’s your writing practice. Isn’t it all about butt-in-chair time? How often have you been told that the Muse won’t show up if you deviate from routine? There’s certainly some truth to that, but I refuse to believe that the Muse is quite so limited as to be unable to find you in another location on the planet. I mean, the Muse is genius. Surely with Wayz, we can all be found.
So why risk it? Why travel? Why take the precious vacation time you have and then add the stress of breaking from the routines, from your collection of go-to strategies for dealing with boredom, from the things on the to-do list, from the known? Well, I’ve just returned from over a month of voyaging with my travel-stressed husband and home-loving four-year old and I can say we all had an AMAZING time. We visited three different countries and transited through two more. We traveled by plane, train, bus, ferry (even an overnight ferry which was AWESOME), tram, trolley, and put I don’t know how many miles on our legs. And though there were hiccups and challenges, we all loved it – so let me tell you why.
1 – Because everyone needs a reset sometimes. Everyone. You, for sure, but also the kids and probably your spouse or partner. But it can be tough to reset at home. Sometimes you need to take a wrecking ball to the routine to truly be free. For me, when I’m at home, there are the chores, and the meal prep, the social engagements, and don’t even talk to me about the garden(!), all vying with my word count or revision goals. Running away every now and again gives you – all of you – permission to put it all down.
2 – As long as you’ve set down the load, take a moment to examine it. What is really necessary? What is truly beneficial? What can we afford to be flexible on? Are there adaptations that can make some of the non-negotiables work better. Distance can lend perspective, so take advantage of that and take the opportunity to get intentional about the routines you choose. And observe how people in different places handle these things. You might even pick up a new trick or two.
3 – Kids are sponges, but when they sit in the same places every day, do the same activities, see the same people, there’s only so much new stuff available for them to absorb. Put them on some form of public transit though and WOW! The learning is instant and self-driven, and the adventure promises to get better from there. Travel teaches us flexible-thinking, problem-solving, emotional resiliency — and when it doesn’t go as planned, it challenges us to figure out how to make the best of things. What parent doesn’t want these skills for their kids? But they’re also good for the grown ups too. As we age, it gets harder to grow, but travel expands your horizons.
4 – New ideas = new material! Overheard conversations or scenes playing out in another culture, new backgrounds and new challenges – benefits your writing! Always wanted to write a story set in a medieval environment – take a trip to someplace with lots of castles and feel the elements take hold in your mind! EXPERIENCE the adventure and then let the inspiration flow!
5 – How often do you wish for more downtime? Well, travel is full of it. Waiting for flights (or trains or ferries). Sitting on flights or trains or ferries. Waiting for everyone to adjust to new time zones. Knowing this, I brought along two craft books that I’d been meaning to read for ages (Bird by Bird by Anne Lammot and Writing for Your Life by Deena Metzger) and finished most of the first on the first plane ride! There was enough downtime that I finished both books and then went in search of another craft book that’s been on my list (Save the Cat by Blake Snyder). In this way, though I wasn’t working on any of my WIPs, I was still generating and refining ideas and hopefully improving my craft, but in ways that were different from how I’d been doing things at home, and therefore regenerative.
6 – Absence makes the heart grow fonder. It’s so easy to take our lives for granted – including the routines that keep us going round and around. Nothing like being away from your bed, your writing nook, the go-to entertainments, to make you long for them again. And appreciate them all the more when you return home, full of the experiences and insights you’ve gained along the way.
Here’s the best part: (whispers) you don’t have to spend a month hobo’ing around Europe to get the benefits of travel. That’s what our family does for a variety of reasons, but we’ve built our way to this level after several decades of travel, first solo, then as a couple, and finally as a family. For those skeptics out there, just try relocating to a new environment, even just an hour or two away. Even if just for a long weekend. Go to the shore, camp by a lake, visit the desert, or the mountains – just do something that is different, that will cause that break in the routine. It’s all fodder for the imagination: yours and your kids. Adventure and experiencing new things together will grow you individually but also knit you together as a family in a new way.
So even if you’ve got that fragile human in your life, even if you’re up against a deadline that feels impossible, or writer’s block that just won’t quit (especially then!), get your butt out of that chair and go see the world. It won’t disappoint!
Well, now I want to go on another vacation! Based on all of her experiences, I think Thea’s next book could be a how-to on world travel. I love her idea of using a bit of that time away to examine our routines at home…and maybe find ways to tweak them for the better. Experiencing some place new and “filling the creative well” is another excellent reason to start making those getaway plans! Thanks, Thea!
I’d like to add a shout-out here to guest bloggers Cara Martinisi and Erin Forrester, as well as to the ever-unflappable partner-in-crime Julie Patton, for extra care and continued feeding of this space while I was cavorting across Europe for the past month. It is such an honor to work with so many amazing humans and writers. Thank you!