Traveling and writing are two things that go together well. Trips can restore us, just by virtue of taking us out of our daily routines and placing us in new environments. Travel experiences themselves provide new fodder for our writing projects. In fact, contributing author Monica Flores points out that simply moving from one point to another, whether by plane, train, or automobile, can put you in touch with a treasure trove of stories.
In this spirit, I offer four EASY, SIMPLE, TRAVEL-SPECIFIC writing prompts that will keep your pencil flying as fast as you are!
Killing time on a long flight?
Put that e-reader down and glance over at your fellow passengers. What are they wearing? Pick up your pencil and scribble out the story behind their outfits.
For example, the petite women sitting to your right is in a business suit. Could be she’s going to an important meeting straight from the airport. Ho hum. Not much of a story there. What if she’s wearing a business suit because, despite her size, she’s the most formidable bouncer at a night club in your destination?! All she’s missing is that squiggly security earpiece. It’s probably in her carry-on …
Or, the lanky teenager sitting to your left–what’s he wearing? Mickey Mouse pajamas? Could be he just wants to be comfy during the flight. Ho hum. Not much of the story there. What if he wears the Mickey PJs everywhere because they were gifted to him by one of Walt Disney’s grandchildren?! Maybe the PJs are even autographed inside the sleeve …
Now you try.
Drudging through a long line at customs and immigration?
Hold onto your passport and watch the checkpoint officers. Just like you, they have to act in the character appropriate to the scene. If this were a novel, what kind of characters would they be? What obstacles do the characters face and what goals are they after?
For example, maybe you could imagine what it’s like to compare thousands upon thousands of tired, jet-lagged faces standing in front of you to the glossy faces pictured in passports. Pretty repetitive and often stressful, no doubt.
Ho hum. Not much of a story there. Maybe one officer likes to sing Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” in his head to pass the time.
Now you try.
On the road again?
It’s probably time for a pit stop. Pull over at the next exit and, as you fill your gas tank or head into the convenience store for snacks, observe other travelers.
For example, what snacks are they buying in the convenience store? Any bizarre combinations, like 37 Slim Jims coupled with an organic, vegan smoothie? What’s the story behind the purchase? It could be that the Slim Jims are for the driver while the smoothie is for the passenger.
Ho hum. Not much of a story there. What if the person making this purchase read somewhere that eating this combo of items make you sing like 90s Mariah Carey?
Now you try.
Getting to interact with people from different cultures who speak different languages is one of the best parts of traveling abroad. There are bound to be mishaps, of course. Like the time I was so deliriously jet-lagged that when an airline representative, figuring I wasn’t French, asked me, “Parlez vous Anglais?” I shook my head apologetically and said “No.”
Wait … what was I even saying? Before I corrected myself, “Yes, sorry, yes, I do speak English, but am a complete dummy,” the representative continued with her attempt to find a common tongue, “Hablas Español?” How did I answer that time? None other than, “Si.” I mean, I do speak some Spanish, but not enough to bypass my native language. Gah!
Too embarrassed to say, “Wait, go back to the English part,” I just handed over my boarding pass, kept my lips shut tight, slinked to my seat, and fell asleep for eight hours across the Atlantic.
It’s important to get enough sleep when you travel, folks. Or if you don’t, it’s important to remember your delirium later, so you can tell a funny story.
Now you try. What mishaps have you experienced during international travel? Can you turn them into stories?
As always, writers, let us know how your projects are going! We’d love to read your responses to any of these four writing prompts!