“Had a great day today.” “Met some cool people.” “This place is beautiful.” Sometimes it’s tough to put your travel experiences on paper. Just how do you translate the honking, haggling, congested, polluted mayhem of a day in Cairo into a single diary entry? And often travel itself can get in the way of you penning your thoughts. The enthusiastic EFL student in your train carriage who just wants to practice; the like-minded solo traveler who fancies a beer; the blaring Bhangra of an Indian bus – all wonderful ingredients of the travel experience, but not always conducive to a journal that’s brimming over with deep, meaningful or even coherent ideas.
So sometimes you need to ditch your travel buddy – be it a new friend, a love interest or a lifelong pal – and find a totally inspirational spot to help you get your Bill Bryson on.
Here’s my top eight:
1 – Watching the sunset from a Zanzibar Beach
The fine white sand, the turquoise ocean lapping at your feet – nothing quite gives you that vacation feeling like an idyllic African beach. Of course it doesn’t really have to be in Zanzibar. And it doesn’t even have to be sunset. It does help if you can find a spot away from screaming children or inept Frisbee enthusiasts, but other than that, anyplace where the sand meets the sea is perfect.
The sheer beauty of the shore coupled with the fact that there’s little to do except sit and write makes the beach a top muse for those seeking something to fill the pages of their journal.
2 – Listening to the roar of Iguazú Falls
Nothing in nature is as awe-inspiring as a thundering waterfall, and Iguazú, straddling the Brazil/Argentina border, is often considered the most beautiful of them all. It’s generally agreed that the Argentine falls are prettier, though of course they are best viewed from Brazil. You might have to wander a while to escape the steady trickle of travelers (and the coatis – racoon-like animals keen on stealing visitors’ picnics).
Find a perfect viewpoint and let the myriad rainbows and never-ending torrent of water stir the poet within. Just make sure you keep a reasonable distance or you’ll find your pages soaked with spray in a matter of minutes.
3 – Sitting on a section of the wild Wall
It might be a cliché, but what Iguazu is to the natural world, the Great Wall must surely be to the realm of man-made constructions. Sticking to the souvenir stall-lined stretches favoured by tour buses is likely to inspire nothing more than despair and frustration, but if you venture to the raw, crumbling sections of Jinshanling, Simatai or Huanghua you’ll probably get the wall to yourself.
You’ll have to hike for a while to escape the overly-restored areas near each entrance gate, but walking solo along this incredible structure will just give you time to collect your thoughts. Once you’re far enough from the tourists and touts, take a seat, admire the misty panoramas, imagine Genghis Khan and his blood-thirsty men on the rampage and let the diary entries flow.
4 – From the Pyramid of the Sun’s peak
By lunchtime the vast Teotihuacan pyramids 25 miles from Mexico City are swarming with tour groups and school trips – not travel companions known for their inspiration-giving powers. However, if you can brave a very early start and be there when the gates open, the swirling mist and supreme silence can spark some profound thoughts.
Hike up the steep steps to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun and admire the superbly preserved layout of this 2000-year old city. With just a touch of imagination you can transport yourself back in time and, provided you can drag your eyes from the astounding view, fill those journal pages with insights worthy of a poet.
5 – In an airport departure lounge in your home country
Excitement can make for remarkable writing and never is the child-at-Christmas feeling greater than when you’re just about to embark on a new journey. You might think you have nothing to report since you haven’t started the adventure yet, but what a great moment for prediction (or even some creative writing). Make sure you buy a sturdy journal before setting off for the airport and you’ll have something to fight the boredom and keep you from buying useless travel novelties at inflated prices.
Settle into whatever uncomfortable seat is not being taken by a snoring delayee, grab some fiendishly overpriced coffee and pour out your thoughts, hopes, fears and ramblings about the trip you’re setting out on.
6 – At an African waterhole
No, I’m not talking about rowdy bars in central Johannesburg. The middle of the day can be a bit of a washout when you’re on safari. Considering the early starts, most people opt to siesta the afternoon away, but that’s an unforgivable waste of what could be a once in a lifetime experience.
Instead pack a picnic, park near a waterhole and alternate between jotting your innermost thoughts and looking out for thirsty predators coming for refreshment. I guarantee there’s nothing that gets your pen moving quite like the sight of a lion lapping at the still waters – or the comedic spectacle of a giraffe trying to get down to ground level.
7 – In the shadow of the A-bomb dome in Hiroshima
There can be few things in the world as stirring as a building that withstood an atomic bomb. Start your day in Hiroshima’s immense museum, definitely among the most moving in the world. Two or three hours trying to take in the superb exhibits will guarantee ample food for thought.
Then find a bench in the Peace Park and admire the iconic structure that became a beacon of hope for the city’s locals – an exhibition hall that withstood the impact of ‘Little Boy’. Your only problem will be getting the surge of emotions on to paper quickly enough.
8 – In a Munich beer hall
Even if you can’t visit during the insane revelry that is Oktoberfest, an afternoon swilling back some of the world’s finest beer is a must-do in Munich. And if you’re traveling solo why not take your journal along? Sure it doesn’t make the finest drinking buddy, but at least you won’t have to buy it a beer. The rowdy drunkards and clinking glasses might not be such an inspirational setting as a deserted beach or ancient fortress, but scribbling your adventures after a couple of steins sure makes for an entertaining read when you try to decipher it the next morning.
And sometimes you have to give yourself a day off the awesome architecture and natural wonders – otherwise they all start to blend together – and where would you find your inspiration then?
About the author:
Lucy is a freelance writer with an incurable travel addiction which has
taken her to over 40 countries. She has taught English to Tibetan
monks, hand fed an adult hippo and has an unfortunate habit of leaving
expensive cameras on public buses. As well as writing three guidebooks
from scratch, her writing has appeared in numerous magazines and
newspapers. Read more about author Lucy Corne and check out her other BootsnAll articles.