I’m writing this two weeks and one day ago. In one week from this writing I plan to leave for Germany. Also, a bit of France, Belgium, Holland, and Luxemburg, so I probably won’t be in a good position to write up any new posts for the second half of October. But, as you are reading this, things work out, don’t they?
I have travelled quite a bit, but less than I would have liked. Way back in 1976 I got a month’s leave of absence from a factory job (yep) to travel in Europe. I saw some of England, a bit of Switzerland, the Black Forest of Germany, and mostly France. Lots of France. That trip was where I learned how important it is to be polite. I learned that when a polite French woman in a change booth told me how to do it. (Not too tough. Always say Hello, Goodbye, Please, and Thank-You. Best in the local language, but not necessary.) And there is my theme.
If you never leave home, you’ll know a whole lot less!
If you aspire to write stories, then it’s difficult to know too much, so not travelling is limiting your ability to write good stories, and making your career more difficult. Not that bad stories can’t sell, of course, but good ones sell a lot more reliably. So, what is it about travel that helps you write good stories?
It is the things you learn about other people. If you pay attention, and don’t expect everywhere else to be like home (a few people seem to expect that,) and if you are polite, you will learn about what motivates and stimulates the people of whatever foreign place you find yourself in. I’ve done that, for the most part, and have found, to repeat last week’s theme, that people want food, shelter, companionship, and a chance to make things better. If I wanted to set a story in Germany, for example, I’d have to do a lot more research. What would be my grasp of European geography, for instance? What sort of obstacles would pop up to keep me from meeting those basic wants? How do you say “I wrecked my car!” in German? (I could actually do that last one.) (Okay, Mein Auto ist kaputt!) And many other things besides. Same for any other country.
And the best thing that I have learned from travel is that, no matter where I’ve gone, people have tried to be helpful, they have been friendly, they have good food (it can be bad even in France, but good is more normal,) and they all want the same things out of life. So, the title of this post refers to gathering the information one needs to write good stories about all sorts of people. That’s reason enough to go abroad.
Besides, if I didn’t travel, I’d never have had the fish empanadas at Los De Pescado!