Category Adventurous Travel

Travelling as a writer – 4 ways to make the best out of itineraries

Researching for a book – Part II

Where to go on the next holiday?

This can be a question that is tough to answer. The choices and decisions are overwhelming.

Travelling has become its own culture, and your list of amazing Instagram itineraries keeps growing.

I’d like to suggest an approach that will not only make travelling more exciting and nurturing but solve writing block and eliminate the blank page scare.

When Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral went hunting in the Alps in 1941, he noticed his clothes were covered in burdock burrs. De Mestral put one of the burrs under a microscope.

This is how the Velcro strips were invented.

Had Mestral never gone out into the Alps, he would have never discovered the burdock burrs that ignited the spark of a new invention. So if you want to come up with new story writing ideas, or deepen your novels by researching for a book, travelling is the magic potion.

But there is Google Maps and Google Streetview. Isn’t that enough? What exactly are the benefits of travelling and how can we make the most of them for our fiction?

I recently embarked on a research travel for “Prometheus Rising”, the first book of my new dystopian trilogy, following the footsteps of my main character to do my last edit. But what I discovered was that it took my novel to a whole new level.


#1 Travelling as a writer is an experience

Not a single photo, nor Google Streetview can compare to being there. The experience of a new culture, location, the people you meet and the details you discover are nothing like researching for a book on the internet.

The experience of following your character’s footsteps will enhance your understating of the character and the journey she takes. It will give you a sense of the distances, the (non-)consistency of the weather, the changing tides and daytimes. It will provide you with amazing description since suddenly, you can experience the location with all your senses.

If you want your story world to be rich and captivate your readers, you need to experience it firsthand. There is no way around it.

Experiencing the awe of Glencoe, the solemnness of the Isle of Skye and the enchanting greens of the Lake District enriched my story world and my characters the way no photograph could.


#2 Nobody sees the world as you do

You have a unique way of perceiving things, noticing the details that nobody else notices, and experiencing the world around you in ways nobody can.

This is one of the reasons your readers love your books. Because of the way you make them see the world. And if hundreds of writers had travelled to this location, there is still room for your ideas, feeling and descriptions.

If you want to bring this unique worldview to the locations you use in your fiction, you’ll need to visit them. Nobody else will be able to recreate those experiences and places the way you will. And this is exactly what you readers are craving.

Power-Tip: Take time to write while you’re on location. We tend to forget quickly, so make you write down your observations, feelings and impressions the same day.


#3 Traveling as a writer holds unknown discoveries

When I embarked on the “Prometheus Rising” research journey, I was aware that there were things about my book I did not know and would find out while on the road.

But I was wrong.

What I discovered during those seven days turned my novel upside down. It made me rewrite and rethink my plot, changed my characters and provided me with brand new ideas about how to design the story world, make it more believable, closer to the culture and the people.

You never know what you’ll discover when travelling. Unexpected things will happen and provide you with countless sparks to give your story a new spin and a new twist.

Travelling as a writer costs time and energy. But it never leaves you empty-handed, and it’s worth the investment.

Writing is also about getting out there and discovering the world. Click To Tweet

In the next section, we will have a look at how to make the most of your book research travel.

The most important thing is: Never come unprepared!

How to effectively travel as a writer

In this part, I will share with you important advice on how to get the most out journey while you are researching for a book. Don’t take the preparation too lightly, because travelling always involves costs.

It’s a nightmare to return home and start writing only to realize that you have missed important locations or details on your journey.


#1 Travel after your first draft

It’s tempting to travel before even a letter has appeared on the blank paper. If you know you want to write a novel situated in New York, wouldn’t it make sense to travel to New York first?

During your first and even your second draft, your plot will drastically change from the initial story writing idea. For those drafts, photographic and online research is absolutely sufficient. It’s only when there is a map for the hero’s journey that questions start to pop up you cannot answer without seeing the locations.

I’ve been to Scotland two years ago when my novel was but a spark in my imagination. But it was only after the two initial drafts that I understood which locations I needed to see and which details and facts to examine in order to have full clarity about my hero’s quest.

Researching for a book online and in literature is enough for the first and even the second draft.

Power-Tip: Travel right before submitting your last draft to the editor.


#2 Plan your route

Make sure you plan your route as close to the book as possible.

Do your characters travel from A to B? Make sure you take this route, too.
Are they on this location by day or by night? Try to get there at the same time of day.

You can go as far as method acting, literally stepping into the shoes of your characters, miming their conditions. You could dress lightly in the cold mountains to feel the icy chill, or cover a challenging route on foot if your characters do so. Just watch out for your safety and health!

For the “Prometheus Rising” route, we flew to Edinburgh and travelled all the way down to London via Skye, Glencoe, the Lake District and Pembrokeshire in Wales. In was an extensive route to cover in 7 days only, but it was worth every effort and penny.

Before travelling, I also marked parts of the story that needed a rewrite according to what I’d find on my journey, and wrote down questions I needed to find answers to, like:

What is behind the two doors right at the end of the stairs in Dunvegan Castle?
(continue reading for the answer)


#3 Take a camera and a notebook/laptop

You’ll need two things to make travelling as a writer count beyond the journey and ease the work as soon as you return to your desk:

  • something to take notes: a notebook or the laptop with your manuscript file and your research folders
  • a camera

The former is crucial because you’ll need to write every evening, at least some bullet points or some free writing about your immediate impression. This writing will be the most valuable when mirroring the “feeling” of the place.

But don’t expect to get much work done on your novel itself. Use the time to actually travel and see as much as you can. Just capture those initials reactions.

A camera is handy for every occasion. Photos and videos will remind you of little details you might have forgotten and bring back thoughts, ideas and feelings once you rewatch them.

I had my camera with me everywhere (as my friends’ pictures above prove) with an extensive setup: the Sony a7s II, a gimbal, the Mavic drone and several lenses. But your phone camera will do as well.

They can also serve as a marketing strategy.

Post the photos and videos on your author website, your Instagram account and YouTube. It’s great to share these adventures with readers, and maybe the most dedicated ones might even consider following your hero’s steps themselves.


#4 Interact with locals

From researching for my book online, I knew that when entering Dunvegan Castle, a large staircase greets the visitor and leads him towards two identic doors. I was dying to find out what lay beyond them. But while there, we had to make our way straight to the right as soon as we entered, and, after having walked around the whole castle, never saw what lay beyond those doors.

This kind of information you’ll never find on the internet. What now?

I asked one of the museum workers who was eager to answer my strange request: Those two doors were built for the sake of symmetry, an architectural trend during the construction of the castle. Only one of them had a function. It opened the way to a set of stairs that lead to the next level of the castle. Behind the other one was – nothing. A wall. The second door was an illusion.

There are many things you will never find out as a simple “tourist” and this is also the beauty of writing – embedding unknown, marvellous and quirky facts. Don’t be afraid to interact with the people and the culture in the region. You might find out the craziest things that will spark ideas and give your books important twists. Just ask as many questions as you can.

Don’t travel on your own. Observe your companions’ reactions to the scenery and use it for the characters in your books. Consider the group dynamics of your travel party and how it’s influenced by the locations.

Travelling as a writer is a special kind of adventure reserved for bookworms and story enthusiasts. It’s not to be missed and adds a new dimension compared to a simple relaxing trip on the beach.

The costs, the time, the effort … was this really necessary? I had my doubts when embarking on the book research journey. In retrospect, I can only stress: yes!

Interested to know more about my fiction? Visit my author page and subscribe to get the free novella.

Azores – Prepare for the Unexpected

Things in life often happen not the way we expect.

Our plans are disrupted. Our expectations are disillusioned.

The same happened to me while I was travelling the Azores this summer. It is a magical island full of treasures to discover, so naturally, there were many expectations. And as always in life, things went wrong.

On our first day, my sister and I failed to drive the car up a steep road, caused a huge traffic jam and needed to rely on the help of locals (who are, luckily, very friendly).

On the second day, my sister turned pale on the boat of a whale watching tour, fainted and scared both me and the other participants to death. To top it all off, we had a car accident on the third day.

This is only to name a few major things that did not go the way we planned it.

These things happen. The question is: What do we do with those things? And can we prepare for them? Avoid them?

Can we be ready for the unexpected?

Continue reading

9 misconceptions that will ruin your vacation

How to recharge your creative well during the holidays

The vacation you’ve been anticipating for months is finally here. You’re three days in, and you feel tired. Just tired.

Can you identify?

Sometimes I grow sick during the first days or am just tired after the holiday week instead of energized and filled with new ideas.


Because we enter the holidays with misconceptions about how we need to spend them. Get rid of them and replace them with the right principles, and you’ll see how your travelling will inspire you, recharge you and do great things to your creative life.

This time, I wanted to do things differently.

I’m writing this post from Sao Miguel, a Portuguese island that is part of the Azores.


1. Don’t burn out before the vacation

Misconception #1: “I need to work more now and can relax on vacation later.”

Especially as a freelancer (who does not get paid during vacation), I work like crazy to make up for the time spend on holiday. The two weeks before my vacation are insane: I sleep 4 hours a day and need to work through dozens of projects.

Make sure you don’t work yourself into a burnout. Your vacation will not make up for it, on the contrary.

When I work overwork myself and then stop and relax on vacation, I instantly get sick. My body is not pushed to its limits anymore. It senses that it can relax now, and hands me the bill for the hardships it had to endure.

Don’t be fooled: the bill will come sooner or later. Know your limits, and don’t push them, especially not before a vacation.


2. Take your time to settle in and adjust

Misconception #2: “I only have a week (or two), I need to get started with the sightseeing program right away.”

No matter how far you travel, your body and mind need to adjust. We don’t notice it at once: Even the slightest time or climate difference can influence your health. Give yourself enough time to adjust, at least a day.

Don’t rush off on the first day into a crazy sightseeing program. Instead, use your free day to sleep in, walk around your neighbourhood, test a restaurant and just enjoy your day off. This will give your body time to adapt and your mind time to refocus.


3. Plan the “quiet” time where you can read, write or ponder

Misconception #3: “I have only a limited amount of time, I have to see as much as possible.”

If you rush through your vacation with a packed schedule of sightseeing, you will return tired.

Plan intentionally for a time where you can ponder on life, read the books that have been long due, write, pray, practice mindfulness.

Be serious about this time. Inform your spouse, friends or whoever you are travelling with that this time is important to you.

Your vacation has to recharge you, and it will only if you take the time to be quiet and think about your life, be grateful and do the things you’ve always wanted to. You need to reserve this time for yourself where you can be alone, without a phone or any distraction, and breathe in the fresh summer air or cold mountain breeze.


4. Be flexible and open

Misconception #4: “I need to stick to a strict schedule.”

It’s good to do some planning. But give yourself space to be flexible, and just do whatever feels right.

Vacation is the perfect time for unrestrictive freedom in contrast to an often strict and stressful schedule at home. Be spontaneous and open for whatever the world might throw at you: friendly strangers, a warm rainstorm, a small secret restaurant you discover, a beautiful sunset.

Wonderful things happen when you least expect them. The most beautiful moments are those we don’t plan. Don’t be too strict with yourself, and do unexpected things. If you’re open, heaven might throw stories at you you will retell years later.


5. Don’t throw your routines completely overboard

Misconception #5: “I’m on holidays, I don’t need to stick to my routines here (e.g. workout, writing a.s.o.)”

As a successful creative, you have certain routines that help you reach your goals: a workout schedule, writing times and creative routines.

Don’t throw them completely overboard. Try to build in a workout here and there, and a time where you still work on your creative project. Make sure you enjoy it and it does not feel forced.

If you completely stop, it will be very difficult to get back on track once the vacation is over. If you have kept up some of the work, your routine will organically return.

We love our routines anyway, don’t we?
If not, rethink them. You should learn to love and enjoy the process, create the life you want to lead day by day.


6. Take time for meaningful conversations

Misconception #6: “I need this time to myself.”

Try to find a balance here.

As mentioned above, loneliness is important.

But as important are those deep and meaningful conversations that build you up and provide connection. That’s why we need to choose our travel partners carefully. Travel with people you can connect with.

If it’s your spouse or partner, it’s the perfect time to get the feelings out in the open, find forgiveness and fresh romance. If you travel with friends, make sure you show interest in their lives. This will fuel you with ideas – if you take time to see what people around you need.

Because this is what our work is about.


7. Take your time to soak in the place and listen to what it does to you

Misconception #7: “The key are great instagram pictures.”

Whenever you visit a sightseeing spot, don’t rush through it and leave for the next one.

There is a lot to see and we don’t want to miss anything.

But don’t allow FOMA (fear of missing out) haunt you even on vacation. Enjoy the places you are at right now, take time to soak in the views, feel the cold water on your skin and the sand between your toes, feel the wind brushing your hair.

Instragram pictures are not everything. You will miss the views searching for the right angle.


8. Work through personal issues and rethink your goals and methods

Misconception #8: “I’m on vacation: I can take a pause from thinking.”

Our world is so filled with distractions and things we have to do that we rarely have the moment to sit down and look into our hearts. Instead, we throw issues in there like trash and hope they will recycle somehow. But the opposite happens – your heart rots from the inside.

There are people who desperately want escape thinking, really pondering about the problems, their life goals, and their future. They shut down their hearts. But your heart is the place where life flows from. If you let it become bitter, you will drain the joy from your life.

There are many things that bother us creatives: insecurity, self-doubt, fear, frustration – to name a few. We always battle them, but we have to look at them face to face sometimes and challenge them directly instead of ignoring them day in day out.

If you are honest with yourself and think about what you want to change to sort your life out and live your dreams, you can really live from the heart.

Use your holidays to do that: Look on your life, inside your heart, be honest with yourself and rethink where you are going.


9. See it as a possibility to gather ideas

Misconception #9: “Vacation has nothing to do with my creative work.”

If you view your creativity as a lifestyle rather than a job, you won’t seek a separation. Your vacation can fuel you with story writing ideas and give you perspective if you look for it.

If you love what you do, you will seek for an opportunity to live it out wherever you are. While you travel and behold the wonders of this world, have a great time with family and friends and enjoy yourself, look out for everything that can inspire: experiences, places, words, thoughts – and write them down.

How great is the feeling when you come back from a vacation and are filled with ideas and creative energy! With these 9 travel hacks, you will have a holiday fueled for the next creative adventure and inspired to get back to your routines.

Still struggling with your routines? Here are 8 steps to create a sustainable daily life and ensure creative success.

Hidden Content

Look beyond the impossible – an artist’s insight while travelling Israel

Israel is a different world.

Full of history, fights, adventure, and depth.

It inspired me in many ways.  But mostly, it inspired me to look beyond the impossible and broaden my worldview.

Our journey began at Lake Genezareth, like the calm before the storm. How can there be a storm on a lake?

Mostly, the waters are calm. But after noon, something changes inside of them. It stirs. It moves.

The water rises to refresh you with splashes, and you’re surprised that it’s not salty. Of course not, it’s just a lake. But it does not feel this way.

It plays with you, teasing you with the fact that the impossible can be made possible here. A lake, a sea. Things are not what they seem.

The Golan Heights glance over the Syrian border. A deserted and broken city lies directly at it.

Is this really how Syria looks now? My heart suddenly aches.

The phenomenon continues. Wherever Israel ends, the green postures end. The trees end. Everything that is left looks deserted. You cannot shake the impression that something is unique about this country. But what?

The desert stretches far, its formations rise and fall like liquid mountains glittering in the blinding sunlight. Then, further to the horizon, the Dead Sea breaks the bleak stones. Like a rebellion, the water washes the sandy desert with fresh blue colors. Further to the horizon, mountains of the Jordan rise to end the Dead Sea.

Drowning in there is impossible. The water, so full of minerals, pulls you up, makes you float. This is the lowest point on earth, 423 meters beyond sea level. The impossible made possible once again.

Jerusalem is a city of controversy. It’s a clash of worlds, and at times seems like the center of it. On every corner, there are different houses of prayer. But does God need one?

Jerusalem throws questions on worldview, religion, meaning, and God directly in your face, confronting you with yourself and daring you to decide where you stand.

It’s different to the European mind. It’s another world, fascinating and repelling at the same time.

Then, the Mediterranean Sea. Reminding you of its endless possibilities.

The temperature is perfect, the water is a clear blue, the sand soft and warm. And while bathing in this beauty, military helicopters frequently pass the beach.

The people here fought against all the odds. They never gave up, surrounded by enemies. How was it even possible for them to win? Was it a supernatural blessing? Or just their overwhelming desire to protect their families who counted on them?

It seems surreal, even now. Impossible things to the human mind, yet reality.

Travelling as a writer in Israel inspired me to look beyond the horizon, beyond the possible. The stories and fates told here are endless material for story writing ideas.

Often we stick to our narrow understandings and thoughts of things are supposed to work. Our worldview is the product of what our parents taught us, our teachers, and what we learned to be true over the course of time.

But there is so much more to be discovered. Much more to see what we haven’t seen yet, especially for creatives and writers.

This is what Israel taught me: to look at the impossible things I encounter in life (making a living with my art, relationships that seem broken, ideas that reach a dead end) and believe that there might be ways and possibilities I’m unaware of yet.

Look beyond the impossible.

Think the unthinkable.

This is what we creatives should be doing, this is what makes us creative, after all


What were the places that inspired you? 

Moors & Beaches

The second week of this summer’s trip, we spent in some regions of Andalusia, which, after the high contrast to Scotland, were majestic in their own way. Our base was Conil de la Frontera, a city in white situated at the ocean, where high winds moved the sand like dunes and surfers occupied the waves. This city is for those who love the local culture, long stretching beaches, and tasty local fish on the plate.

Sevilla was the next destination, and everything about this city seems unreal somehow, like being trapped on a movie set. All buildings are a mix of European and Moorish-Muslim style, the wide streets roaming with horses and carriages. What those pictures cannot tell you: this city is full of unusual sounds. The occasional deep mutter of some mysterious beetles, small sweet parrots with their subtle shouts and flaps, and the permanent sound of hoofs against the concrete.

There are two places especially well known in Sevilla. The first one is the Palace of Alcázar. Despite the unbearable heat, it captivates with its oriental flair, diverse architecture and the magnificent garden. No wonder films and TV shows like Game of Thrones,  Lawrance of Arabia and Kingdom of Heaven made this palace their set on several occasions.

The second place is the Plaza de Espana. Here also, there are both traces of Renaissance and Moorish architecture, and a haunting feeling of secrecy and pleasure when you sit at the fountain where on hot days a rainbow greets you, or roam along the pillars where one of the Star Wars movies was shot.

A treat for film lovers! As for the rest, I’ll let the photographs and film speak for themselves. Enjoy, and please comment!

The Magic of the Highlands

“Time and tide for nae man bride.” – Scottish proverb

There is a mystery to the Scottish Highlands, and I have been chasing this mystery my whole life. Maybe there are people out there who will understand. I loved „Braveheart“ since I was nine, and started hunting the wonders since, still loving „Merida“ as a grown woman because it was resounding inside my heart. I’ve been to the Highlands once for two days, shooting my short film „Prometheus Rising“ there. But now it was time to embark on a slightly longer journey to the land of mysteries, me and three friends. The journey was too short, I can tell you this from the beginning. But it is worth the read or at least – the watch. Go ahead and after that – you will want to discover this country of magic for yourself!

Starting point: Edinburgh. Classic. A city worth your every second. We started with a stroll along the famous Royal Mile, and this alone is enough to breathe in the flair that surrounds you: a mixture of countless tourists, medieval fascination, and kilts literally everywhere. Here, you pass by St. Giles Cathedral, directly opposite Mary King’s Close which invites you to immerse into an interesting part of history and life.

The Palace of Holyrood House, at the very end of the Royal Mile, is worth a glance. No pictures inside allowed, unfortunately. Take the free audio guide with you!

By the end of the first day, we climbed Calton Hill. From here, a remarkable view over the whole city stretches out before the eyes of those who conquer it. A view that was hard to enjoy for long, as hunger started swallowing our stomachs from the inside. The solution: Holyrood 9A. The best burger I’ve ever eaten, paired with the fantastic atmosphere of a Scottish pub.


Next stop: two castles.

Edinburgh Castle that impresses with its rich exhibits of war with its many faces and tools, as well as a stunning view over Edinburgh.

The view from Stirling Castle is in no way inferior, but in our opinion not worth the stop after Edinburgh Castle.

The Highlands greeted us with all their might and mystery. Each mile, we were not sure whether to drive or to stop and breathe in the wildness the mountains, rivers, lochs, and valleys are offering so freely. No wonder these places were so full of tales and magical creatures. One cannot help but let the soul float along while it rests in awe of those landscapes that are unlike anything.

This night, we stayed at Glencoe, a place where famous movies like Braveheart or James Bond were shot. There is nothing here though, but those mountains and valleys, and they pull you in with a might where departure becomes even hurtful – like a piece of your heart torn away from a place where it feels it had always belonged.

But the next adventure is already calling around the corner: Canyoning in Fort William. You make your way down a waterfall by climbing, grinding and jumping into ice cold water. Nothing short of a shock, but we recovered quickly and moved on as this activity was like nothing we experienced yet. The first leap is difficult – jumping under a waterfall without seeing where you’ll land.

The Glenfinnan viaduct with its steam train (also known as Harry Potter train) was not everything we discovered on the „Way to the Islands“. It harbors hidden treasures far from touristic viewpoints, like the mystical „tree islands“ in the lochs, old churches, monuments.

On the ferry from Mallaig to Armadale, do not stay inside the car. On the windy deck, we got a stunning view over the waters, even a sailing boat dared to show.

Learn from our mistakes, and plan several more days on the Isle of Skye. The sun was shining as we arrived, but became a rainstorm the day after – a day we had planned for hikes. We only managed to catch a glimpse of Kilt Rock which gave us only a taste of the magical Island.

Leaving with saddened hearts over Skye Bridge the next day, we made our way across the Highlands again, past Eileen Donan Castle, Inverness, Cairngorms National Park, and stopped for a night in Malmaison Aberdeen, a gorgeous hotel in an excellent town. On our last day, we passed by Dunnotar Castle before going back to Edinburgh airport. The entrance to the Castle was closed due to high winds, but the view and the cliffs at its foot are still worth a visit.

I left my heart in the Scottish Highlands on this journey. Those mountains, valleys, and lochs invite you to be part of a mystery far beyond yourself, they invite your soul to rest in the beauty but simultaneously to discover. As for me, they captured my heart and stole a part of it – a reason to always return to these places.