On the Road: Driving and Travel Writing

We Europeans aren’t generally allowed to drive until we’re 18, so I couldn’t legally learn to drive until this past summer. Now that I have a licence though, there’s nothing that can stop me from going cross-country in my mom’s Audi. This post is going to be more of a story about a journey than anything else.

From road trip playlists and karaoke to travel writing, I am trying to learn everything as I go this holiday break. Just as the hero or heroine has their journey, so does the author that created them. I know many of us build our own worlds, on paper or in our minds, so here’s what I learned about that journey recently.


http://www.lcie.org/images/Places/Orlu%20misty%20meadows.jpg

http://www.lcie.org/images/Places/Orlu%20misty%20meadows.jpg

In one of the books I read years ago (I cannot remember its title), the author discussed how when she experienced writer’s block, she went for a walk around the block or for a drive, and that worked like magic. Driving, she claimed, always took her mind off things and her story had figured itself out by the time she parked her car. In most cases, that is. I could never quite understand that experience until I undertook a long-distance journey by car myself. Not only did driving 150 miles help my writing get a new edge, but I learned a great deal of things about myself in the process.

I like to argue that most stories are Monomyths, and I am starting to think that each of our experiences is too. Perhaps the hero’s journey (aka the Monomyth) is not always manifested physically, but it can be achieved only mentally as well. To its core, that idea is that the character, aka you, gains some strength or learning some existential truth on his (your) journey, so even the act of reading a book can be a monomyth in that sense.

Take Harry Potter as an example. Harry, Ron, and Hermione go on a different “mission” in each of the seven books and only in Deathly Hallows do they have to venture away from Hogwarts castle and cover a certain distance, an actual physical journey. In each of the seven stories, they learn a valuable lesson and they grow and develop skills that will be useful to them in the battles ahead. Their toughest road comes when they have to leave everything they have known so far and get to know unexplored lands. Finally, the epic ends where it started: in their beloved castle, and their journey goes full circle. Monomyth.

http://www.henniker.org.uk/images/places/local_a/ed_sth/brunt/meadows/meadows43mist.jpg

http://www.henniker.org.uk/images/places/local_a/ed_sth/brunt/meadows/meadows43mist.jpg

Similarly, when we go on a trip in the general case, we take some time to go there, have some “adventures” when we arrive at our destination, and then go back to the place from which we originally started. Monomyth. The trip itself can be extremely useful for developing settings in your writing, I just found this out this week. The misty, snowy meadows that I passed through, for example, or the Alps, or the Grand Canyon. Besides, the landscape can do wonders to one’s state of mind. The time you spend once you reach your target can be used to relax (though if you’re like me, relaxing means moving and being occupied all the time) or to gather material for your story – the story you are writing or the story you are living. Again, you practice what a “writer” can do best: observe.

Finally, as a post script rather, music is a big part of everything for me, especially as a background to life, which is also why I love musical theatre. If you’re like me, here’s some suggestions for a killer road trip mix: Florence + the Machine, Fun., Fall Out Boy, Glee cast, Ed Sheeran, Maroon 5, Mumford and Sons, as well as a selection of musicals. Then you just press shuffle and you’re ready to begin your journey. Two funny facts: a) I have not seen High School Musical, and b) At New Year’s Eve, I sung karaoke with a stranger. I needed time to connect the dots between a) and b).

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