The Author As Traveller



One thing writers need constantly is fresh inspiration, otherwise we end up writing about writers writing. I travel whenever I can, which is to say, when there’s time and money. Living next door to an international railway station (sorry, I can’t bring myself to use ‘train station’) means that I can get anywhere in Europe quickly and cheaply. Equally, I could get to Russia or Africa in four hours, although sadly I won’t be visiting Russia until Putin has gone. Iceland is 90 minutes away, Sweden, Norway and Denmark are little more than a cough and a spit. France is nearer than Cornwall, and less expensive.

By booking in advance and going mid-week, traveling to ‘The Continent’ is also as cheap as chips, and I’ve got to the point where I’ve got to know some of the Easyjet crews. I actually feel like volunteering my services as a spokesperson for them, as the staff are usually terrific, and their inflight magazine, ‘The Traveller’, is genuinely interesting. If anyone’s reading this who works for them, commission me!

But this wanderlust has its downsides; one is that I can never find anyone to go with me; my partner is usually working, and friends prove less adventurous that they say they are, or have to work in offices. There should be a special travel club for homeworkers. A trip shared is always more fun.

And there’s another, far stranger, downside. You start to feel disconnected from your home. Things happen while you’re away. The world moves on while you’re traveling, but in a sense you stand still. You start to miss key events because you’re in the wrong place when they occur. A friend of mine commutes for work between three countries and says he feels like he doesn’t belong anywhere.

Brigid Brophy wrote a bizarre experimental novel which was partially about this suspended sensation, called ‘In Transit’. It can become a dangerous state that eventually leaves you friendless and rootless. Another friend of mine was a war reporter who lived out of a suitcase, and eventually gave up his flat to live on a boat with only a dog for company, thus becoming truly uprooted.

As far as travelling goes, there are huge chunks of the world still to visit – China is unknown to me, as is Australia –  and I haven’t been to the South American nations, although having spent time in other Latin countries I do get the feeling that I know what to expect from at least some of them.

Unlike, say, Japan, which is utterly alien to me. Plus, I hate sushi. So tomorrow I’m heading for Tokyo and the bullet train through the rural inland to Kyoto. Consequently, your normal blog service may be broken up a bit, because in certain parts of the trip I don’t have a place to stay yet. Stand by!

7 comments on “The Author As Traveller”

  1. J. Folgard says:

    Enjoy Japan then, have a brilliant time!

  2. Slab an says:

    Kyoto is wonderful. Kobe is also nice since you’re headed that way. Hope you have a great trip

  3. K Page says:

    I thought I was the only person left in the world who still uses the term ‘railway station’ !

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Of course they are railway stations. A friend of mine is planning his event attendance for the coming year (doesn’t everyone?) and asked a friend about a concert in April – Sorry, will be in Palm Springs. An opera in June? Sorry, I’ll be in New York and will you mind the cats over the next week while I’m away? This friend of a friend has just bought a new bed and I wonder why since he never seems to sleep in it. Have a great time in Japan. There’s lots of food that isn’t sushi.

  5. Vivienne says:

    My son lives in Tokyo so I’ve visited a few.times. Wonderful, so lively and cheerful, most unexpected. Sorry you will miss the cherry blossom. Once, said son was in hospital, so was at a loose end, just wandering around the stores until closing time. Walked the whole length of this really smart department store, the last person to go, and everyone lined up in front of their counters and bowed to me. Magical! Young people bow when they are on their mobile phones too. And absolutely railway stations, but you won’t be there long as the trains are so frequent.

  6. Dan Terrell says:

    I first visited Japan in 1964, then again as part of my honeymoon, then again a couple of times while my parents-in-law were assigned there with the German Embassy for three/four years. Haven’t been back in 20/30 years. But here’s the interesting thing, when I first went to Japan the height of the average Japanese umbrella on the sidewalk would have poked me in the nose. The last time I went to Japan, the average Japan umbrella would have poked me in the eye. What happened? Good nutrition. The Japanese were growing taller – not me I was beyond the age of growing. It took my wife and I some time to figure this out, but I don’t expect to see a street full of Japanese towering above yourself. It dislike sushi, too…and weak clear soups.

  7. David I says:

    House in Lancashire, wife works and lives in London…I work wherever they will have me. The only constant is my black lab who travels with me and is a regular on Virgin West Coast line…she has even been thrown out of the First Class lounge at Euston by a Virgin jobsworth. Friendless and rootless….? More like experiences that are priceless!
    I hate sushi too, but just bought my wife a kit for her birthday…wonder when I’ll get time to give it to her?
    Enjoy Japan!

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