When I was a kid, my family went to Disney World in Florida. Apparently, the favorite Disney theme park for most kids is The Magic Kingdom, but I loved The EPCOT Center’s World Showcase. Now an adult, I realize this is hardly an adequate representation of the world’s countries, but to a small town girl who’d never been off the continent, I was mesmerized! I had so much fun learning about different cultures and countries that I didn’t want to leave.
At the time, I didn’t know why I was so fascinated by EPCOT, but when I grew up and started traveling on my own, leaving the continent for the first time at age 27 (by cashing in my inaugural writer paycheck), I figured it out – I have an insatiable curiosity about people. I’m the kind of traveler who is most interested in discovering what people do currently and did historically in the places I visit. Beautiful scenery alone doesn’t hold my attention. I want to know what people do/did amidst that breathtaking landscape or in that crumbling ruin, because “people doing things” are stories.
No wonder so many writers have wanderlust.
Here are some of the most inspiring places I’ve travelled…
The first time I crossed the ocean I went to London, England. I stayed with a friend in one of the southern boroughs and took the train into downtown London every day to explore. Victoria Station was my entrance point, and I thought about the many millions of people who have passed through Victoria Station since it was built in 1860. A train station can be a gateway to another world and another life. Endless fodder for stories.
Next trip was Paris. I made the trek out to see the palace of Versailles. On the grounds is Marie-Antoinette’s Hamlet, a “play village” she had built. What kind of character moves out of a palace to play house? No wonder so many stories have been written about eccentric royals.
The Catacombs in Paris left an impression. Millions of bones piled along the walls as a result of above-ground cemeteries posing a health hazard in the late 18th century. But what really struck me was how the bones had been arranged in patterns, like art, for miles and miles in the old underground quarry that became the catacombs. What would it have been like to be one of those workers arranging femurs and skulls? Who came up with the designs?
Many a fairy tale was born in Ireland, and it wasn’t hard to see why when I went to Blarney Castle’s Rock Close Park. I totally believe fairy creatures live in this tree.
I took thousands of pictures in Italy. So much history, so many stories, it blew my mind. But if I have to pick just one it’s of this ruin in Ostia Antica just outside of Rome of a café from 2000 years ago. A café! Looking rather modern for a ruin. I couldn’t help but make up stories for the people who would have enjoyed a drink and a snack here two millennia before I was even born.
In Australia I went spelunking in the Jenolan caves and learned about the people who explored them in the 19th century, long before battery-operated flashlights, crawling in the dark with just a candle, often held in their mouths!
One of these unofficial explorers was a woman named Jane Falls. Yes, a woman, during an era where women weren’t allowed to do much of anything. I was intrigued, so when I returned to Canada I researched Jane Falls. There’s not a lot of information about her (as a woman, her life wasn’t well documented and she was never credited with discovering any caves, though her signature often predates the male explorers who were given credit), but I did learn she emigrated from Ireland to Australia in the early 1800s with her family when she was 21.
So that’s a book I will write one day, all because I went traveling.
Wow, that’s a lot of inspiration. And I haven’t even talked about my most recent bike trip through Cuba. If anyone is interested, check out bromptoning.com. Otherwise, I’d better get back to writing something, because this trip down Inspiration Memory Lane just gave me another half dozen story ideas…