Urban Muse – 10 Locations to Inspire Your Writing

There has been a correlation between travelers and writers at least since Herodotus wandered from Turkey into Egypt looking for gold-digging ants.  Many subsequent writers have been well traveled and in the well-documented 20th century we saw an explosion of literature from the likes of Huxley, Greene, Orwell, and Hemingway, all of whom traveled extensively.  None of those writers could have created the stories they did had they not traveled.  Not all writers need to do this; the insight on Hamsun’s nineteenth century Norway from or Bronte’s seventeenth century England where great because they were grounded in details.  Nonetheless, travel can help your writing in many ways.

First, it can be inspiring to see a sprawling metropolis like Tokyo or an otherworldly mountain like Alaska’s Denali.  You will be exposed to new stimuli and meet exciting people with tales that can, in turn, inspire your own stories.  Secondly, you will have more time to write, and less distractions.  Being freed from the 9-6 grind, for however long, makes it far easier to get in those couple of thousand words a day.  And without the comforts and familiarities of home, it is more difficult to procrastinate.

So where are the best places on Earth to write? The answer is relative to who you are and what you want, of course, but the following places feature at least one of the following: beautiful scenery, literary legacies, long histories, or sheer remoteness. Considering how quick and easy it is to cross the globe now, the time to seek these places is now.  For those who can’t make it yet, take hear in the words of Hemingway, who believed “The best place to write is in your head.” Considering what he did to his own head, there is reason enough not to take his advice wholeheartedly, but the most important lesson is to find the inspiration from wherever you are.

10. Paris, France.

A cliche, yes, but sometimes cliches exist for a reason. This city-sized muse has inspired artists of all kinds for centuries. An advantage to a place like Paris is the ease which you can find like-minded writers and writing groups.

9.  Havana, Cuba.

The grandeur here has faded, but with inspirational architecture, friendly people, and beautiful sunny days, you can follow in the footsteps of writers with pedigrees as large as they get (Greene, Hemingway). The biggest disadvantage to writing here is the pleasant distraction afforded by sipping mojitos on a warm day by the sea.

8. Moscow, Russia.

It can get cold here, to be sure, but the homeland of Tolstoy, Bulgakov, Chekov and Solzenitzen is full of inspiration. This is the destination to hone your descriptions: from the grey streets to the glittering subway stations, there are enough details here to nourish writers of all abilities.

7. Oaxaca City, Mexico.

Churches, historical plazas, archaeological sites, and museums abound in this colonial city.  Coupled with a great climate and a plethora of outdoor cafes, you can understand how Malcom Lowry was inspired to pen “Under the Volcano” here. For peace and quiet, try to avoid Holy Week and New Years.

6. Kyoto, Japan.

Enhance your haikus by visiting any number of the two-thousand temples and Shinto. This city in the land of sushi and samurai has enough interesting characters, historical monuments, urban escapades, and pastoral pleasures to unlock any one’s inner Murakami.

5. Ljubljana, Slovenia.

This beautiful city was founded by the Romans and today has the requisite Eastern European riverside cafes, bridges, churches, and, of course, an ancient castle.  Ljubljana is not stuck in the past, however, as a university city it is oozing with creativity.  If the city somehow doesn’t summon your inner writing demons, you can in a few hours drive visit intricate caves, beautiful lakes, or the Julian Alps.

Lake Te Anau

Lake Te Anau

4. Te Anau, New Zealand.

While it’s not a hot-bed of literary history, this kicked-back small town has the tramps to inspire great ideas and the cafes with good coffee to begin transcribing them. Though a small town, it’s at a pivotal location and is a great place to meet other travelers.

3. Pokhara, Nepal.

You can’t beat a setting that includes a lapping lake and a Himalayan backdrop, and the cheap cost of living here means this is the place to work on that long novel.  Spend November here and impress your friends this year by actually completing your novel for NanoWriMo.

2. Edinburgh, Scotland.

In a city where the new town was built in the 18th century, there is a lot to inspired by.  And Edinburgh has had more than its fair share of writers–from classical works by the likes of Adam Smith and Robert Louis Stevenson to the modern–JK Rowling and Irvine Welsh hail from Auld Reeky as well. For those who find Edinburgh too exciting to get any writing done, Glen Coe and the Scottish Highlands are only a few hours away.

1. Stehekin, Washington.

You can’t drive here, but this beautiful and isolated fortress of nature that lacks Internet, phones, and Starbucks ensures that you will get some writing done. The long boat ride gives you plenty of time for brain-storming and the world-famous bakery can furnish you with all the energy you need. And if you decide you need more time to think, you can hop on to the Pacific Crest Trail and hike to Canada–or Mexico!

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