As a source of inspiration, travel is hard to beat.
First and foremost, you are traveling, seeing more of the world, something not everyone gets much opportunity to do. I am very aware that when it comes to travel I have been a very lucky boy.
For the purposes of this article though, I am taking travel to mean anything from a globetrotting trek living off local flora, fauna and the kindness of strangers, to a couple of free hours to walk around the place where you live or the next town over. Travel can begin with a step, but the journey continues as the mind takes flight. Or something like that.
For any writer, especially one of horror or fantasy, there are some obvious benefits to travel; exposure to different cultures, history, and scenery, all can be a great way to broaden the mind and send your writing in directions previously unconsidered. It’s research with benefits. And sometimes cocktails.
Travel though can not only broaden the mind, it can also deepen it. When we are in an unfamiliar place we tend to look at things differently. Gone are the filters of familiarity. The blinkers that come through focusing on the necessities and mundanities of our everyday lives drop away. We walk the same route day in, day out and never notice anything unusual, but an out-of-town friend or relative points out a cool engraving, or a building with weird architecture.
Locations can so easily become the colourful backdrop for a new story or game scenario, but local legends and stories can also provide the seeds from which a crop of adventures can be harvested. A twist on a local bogeyman creates a horrific villain. The legends surrounding a castle, a waterfall, or New York City provide the framework from which your tale unfolds.
Unusual places can inspire unusual thoughts and emotional reactions. Utilising your perspective as a stranger, notice your reaction to the atmosphere around you. Does it make you feel peaceful or on edge? Excited? Scared? Does it feel epic or intimate? Even the questions it provokes are useful. What happened here? Where does this lead? How did this happen? Why is this as it is?
Finally, some sort of aide memoir helps to record your reactions. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate travel journal. I carry a small notepad with me which is now full of the sort of weird ramblings that, should I ever be accused of perpetrating something nefarious, will almost certainly cause it to be labelled Exhibit A! Most of us also carry a camera wherever we roam. Photos are a great way of recreating an inspirational moment for when we are wondering what next to put on the page. Make the method you choose the one that works best for you.