Journeys and writing

I’ve drafted and scheduled this post early as by the time it reaches you, I’ll be on my way home from a two-week holiday in Cambodia, flying from Siem Reap. It occurs to me there’s much to consider when writing a story which involves travel. Here are a few prompts to inspire some journey-based writing:

Who to travel with?

  • – go solo
  • – with family members or friends
  • – with a tour group
  • – other

Where to go?

  • – personal recommendation
  • – guide books, travel books or real settings in fiction
  • – TV programmes or documentaries
  • – the home of family or friends
  • – other

Transport to get there?

  • – under your own steam (walking/cycling/rowing)
  • – boat, aeroplane, helicopter
    • – road, rail
  • – other

How to find a way around?

  • – maps
  • – compass
  • – electronic devices
  • – other

Where to sleep?

  • – tent/caravan/open air/lodge
  • – hotel/resort
  • – guest house/AirBnb/hostel
  • – other

How to decide what to eat?

  • – stick to a restaurant menu
  • – copy what others are eating
  • – follow your sense of smell or what looks appealing
  • – make a picnic
  • – other

What to see?

  • – nature/wildlife/outside adventures
  • – historical/cultural interests
  • – other

I’m sure you’ll have lots of alternative ideas or prompts, so use these as a launchpad.


  1. Jim was climbing out of a depression. He found doing anything, planning anything, took a huge effort. At that point in his life planning for a journey to a far-away land seemed an insurmountable barrier. Just planning to go to the shops was hard enough, was an achievement if he pulled it off. But the therapist was adamant.

    “You used to enjoy travelling,” she said. “I’ve seen the photos. Work towards another journey. Plan for it. It’s a goal to aim for.”

    He took her advice in silence, with a truculent expression, arms folded, eyes down, but what she said stayed with him. It was true. Once, he had enjoyed travelling. The trains and hotels, museums and art galleries. And, yes, he had photos to prove it.

    That was another man, though, in another time. To travel now when it was such a major effort to leave home, cross town, visit the therapist in her room. Negotiating the public transport system that seemed to have changed confusingly since the depression struck, the buses going to different places, stops withdrawn, others set up.

    Still, he thought, I manage that. I manage to get to the shops. Suppose I just went around on small trips here in town. Suppose I treated it like a foreign place, suppose I play tourist at home.

    Planning for his first expedition – he chose to think of it as an expedition – took a long time. There was always a reason to postpone. But eventually he managed. Just a walk, the opposite way from the shops. Just to the little park the next block along. He sat on a bench and looked at the hopeful pigeons who came to peck and coo around his feet.

    The second time he visited, he took breadcrumbs and his camera, untouched since the last trip abroad. Was it two? No, three years ago.

    The third time he visited he remembered to charge the camera’s battery beforehand.

    He showed his therapist the photos the next time they met.

    “So,” she said. “Where next?”

    He looked blank.

    “I tell you what,” she said. “Choose a point of the compass – north, south, east or west.”

    “South,” he said.

    “Now choose a number between ten and thirty.”


    “Your next mission, Jim, should you choose to accept it,” she said doing a plausible imitation of an American accent. “Is to travel, by whatever means of transport you choose, south from your front door for fifteen minutes. Find some place to wait for another fifteen minutes and just look around. If there’s nothing interesting, you can go home, but take the camera and bring me back a photo.”

    And so he did, and day by day, random place by random place and photo by photo, Jim climbed out of his depression until, one day, he thought, I’m bored with this. Why not go on a real journey? Paris, or Barcelona. Or Rome! Why not Rome?

    Why not Rome?

  2. @johnn I do love a travel story. This reminds me somehow of The Accidental Tourist. Has anyone out there read it?

    I resolve to use truculent in my next conversation.

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