Art is like a waterfall. It doesn’t begin at the point of the fall, but from many different sources whose waters must carve out their own individual paths. To become great, a masterpiece must be influenced by the artist’s environment and experience.
Indeed, writers are artists. And a delicate dance is the inspiration behind their creation—a dance where ideas are plucked here and there and stored away for later use. It is only when the artist arranges these seemingly unconnected stories on the page that they begin to take on a united appearance.
No fascinating idea is created alone. Life, experience, and novelty are its essential spices. Without them, you’d have a bland, colorless meal—one without hints of Bombay, Shanghai, or Yirgacheffe. There’d be no imagination or influence from other lands to interest you. And what, after all, would be the point of eating that?
The waterfall of experiences that create art need many different sources: the tastes and smells of foreign lands, the rush of unfamiliar faces, the colors of mardi gras under new skies, the flavorful pints that alter perspective, the darkness that can be felt only when you’re challenged. Yes. For an idea to truly fascinate, you need to travel.
Is everything born from an ivory page unique? It all depends in which context words are written. Will they be scrambled into their setting and become inseparable from the circumstances in which they are written? Will they sizzle in the sun, tender and fit to burst with one unexpected application of pressure? Or will they simply stay ink on paper; drying into a flawless, yet uninspiring replica of a thought?
How your words develop is a choice—a consequence of the path you travel in life. Will you choose to stay happy and comfortable in familiarity, or will you choose to journey into the unknown? No matter which direction you take, the words that you write will always take on new meaning as you take on new experiences. Each new destination you visit will leave its mark on you. Like a stamp on a passport, the more you see, the richer your collection becomes.
That is, after all, why one travels.
Richness of sight and sound is king. Beneath the surface beauty of exotic locations and foreign cultures is a legacy of inspiration. A different way of seeing things. A new set of ideas and experiences. A new language in which to express your thoughts.
Travel frees you from the artificial boundaries constructed by nations and classrooms. It allows you to reach deeper and experience humanity in all its different versions, and when you commit to finding these human truths through travel you will lose yourself to the experience. But through this loss, you will find your inner voice. You will flow down paths unseen and unearth sights, sounds, smells, and thoughts that previously had no name; observing and collecting.
However, the glamorous life of the sun-soaked writer is not the effortless existence one often dreams of. It is a life filled with frustration, sadness, and conflict, but these lows are buoyed by the breathtaking highs of love, connection, success, and wonder. And it is the job of the writer to shine a spotlight onto all these human emotions.
After all, it is no secret that the state of humanity is the currency of literature. But sometimes, it still remains a mystery how some writers are able to expose the everyday with a painful clarity that sees into your soul.
Many spend their lives searching for this skill, but what they fail to realize is that this is not an innate skill but a leaned one. It is, in fact, a deceptively simple one to learn. Travel, it turns out, is the key that allows a writer to capture these upside-down, inside-out, and negative images of the human psyche—showing them to the world.
Why else would Hemingway have developed his instantly recognizable prose, one that mimics the artillery rounds he must have heard during his days as an ambulance driver? What else, he must have asked himself, could drive home a point as deeply as the unrelenting staccato of a bullet?
Why else would Time magazine have dubbed T.S. Eliot “a cat that walks by himself, tenaciously unhousebroken and very unsafe for children,” if he had not spent his days crafting prose as defiant to the linear conventions of English as his subversive, patchwork politics were to the status quo?
What explanation could be given for this phenomenon? How else would two writers born to the same earth and nurtured in the same tongue create such distinct versions of one artistic discipline?
Without such experiences, artists can never ripen. They’ll remain unfertilized; an empty shell in which no life blooms. Their toes will never drag through the warm sand of faraway beaches, and they’ll be unable to describe the unshakable sadness that descends when one is alone to admire nature’s faultless beauty. An arctic breeze will never freeze their tears and drive them into shelter where they will know the burning desire that fuels a desperate search for warmth in another’s arms.
Without travel, a writer will fail to discover the uniqueness of human condition. Without testing the world and seeking out its joys, its secrets, its sadness, and its loneliness, a writer’s words will be as hollow as a loveless marriage. There will be no seeds from which life can permeate its cold veneer.
And in the end there will be no permanence.