I agree with Spaceman. Whatever expands your horizons will expand your writing. You witness and experience things that you might not ever think of until you see it.
I visited France for the first time last year. I understood the concept of castles, had even seen them, but nothing could convey the experience of actually being _in_ one. Furthermore, you just see things that you wouldn't think about, and it stimulates your mind and thinking in ways that you might other wise take for granted. Like doorknobs. I was fascinated by doorknobs in Paris. I probably wouldn't think twice about them in the U.S. Just seeing how other people do things, how they think and feel about things expands your horizons and gives you glimpses into new possibilities.
Be competitive all of the time, over everything (USA) Not be competitive, but bumble around prizing amateurishness (UK) Make instant friends in pubs (Ireland) Include jazz in everyday life (USA--Chicago) Rock in the streets (New Orleans, pre-Katrina) Live in a society where everyone obeys the rules, all of the time (mostly) (Germany) Get lost in and amongst tall buildings (New York) Get lost in and amongst old--I mean old--buildings (London) Get lost in and amongst new buildings, and wrecks of buildings (Berlin) Go to a hurricane party (Florida--five times in a row a few years back) Ski in the morning and visit the beach or a vineyard in the afternoon (California) Be a foreigner (anywhere but home) Be a bemused, scared, hungry foreigner (anywhere you don't speak the language) Teach friends to put (Lurpak) butter on crackers with cheese (USA) Teach friends your customs--and learn theirs (anywhere) Live in a place where everything--automated or manual--works (Japan) Turn up at work and find it closed because today's a national holiday that "everyone knows about--don't they?" (Germany) Survive communism and dictatorship and retain humanity, pride and dress sense (Romania) Live in a place where whoring's legal and guns aren't (Australia) Sit in a sidewalk cafe, watch buskers, and get a fresh beer merely with eye contact with the waiter (Germany) Sit in a cafe, get ignored, complain, get completely ignored (London) Buy a book late at night (USA) Be able to speak freely (Hyde Park Corner, London, Sunday mornings) Be unable to speak freely (Tiananmen Square) Ride an elevator (New York) Take the lift ... or the stairs, if it's broken (London) Be sexy and kiss almost anyone (France) Get very, very, freeze-your-manly-bits cold (Canada) Get very, very hot, drink orange juice from fruit straight off the tree in your yard--and think it's normal (Florida) Speak what sounds like your own language and get misunderstood (being English in the USA) Have French, German and Italian people speak amongst themselves in English so that you (the Englishman who failed to learn a foreign language) are included in the conversation (any mainland European pub) Make a stranger smile by attempting their language (France) Communicate in a foreign language with people who don't speak your language (Germany, in my case, eventually) Live, love, work and play--differently (anywhere but home)
Being travelled surely adds depth and colour to our writing. For SF writers I think travel helps us dream up fictional societies and alternative ways of being that are credible and resonant.
[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 26, 2008).]
[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 26, 2008).]
Travel is a good way to people watch. Airport waiting is such a bore, so I often watch passersby and mentally describe the character I see in a one-liner that I might use on another day.
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Very cool, TaleSpinner. I remember being in a very nice hotel in Rochester, England I think (but maybe London), and asking for coffee for breakfast. The waitress looked at me as if I had three heads. "Now?" she asked, incredulously. In the states, morning is THE time for coffee.
OMG, what misunderstandings we had in S. Korea on an engineering business trip; some, we never figured out.
In Berlin, we took a public bus late at night to see the sights. It appeared to be a circular route going through East Berlin. In the middle of nowhere, pitch dark outside, we were invited off the bus. "This end," the driver said. Glad we saw when we got off the bus without humor that this was just an unmarked, side-of-the-road change of buses.
Austria: sadly, I didn't see much of the country, but the night life seemed incredibly social and friendly.
You don't have to leave the nation to get tripped up. In college in SC, the campus radio station staff went on a camping trip. When warned about the weather, a pair of NY and NJ fellows said, "it doesn't get cold in SC." They spent the night in their car when the temperature dropped to 10-degrees (F).
Similarly, I heard one of the funniest expressions ever in a diner in Oklahoma. A waitress had been put off by a customer and said, "He really milked my cow."
Traveling to England a couple of years ago not only improved my knowledge of their language and culture, but the land itself, as well. Passing an elegant and modern-looking white horse cut into the chalk on a green hillside, seeing Stonehenge, Glastonbury Tor, so many cathedrals both in beautiful condition and in ruins, visiting Chatham, the state house of the Duke of Devonshire, driving through the moors on a foggy day looking for wild ponies - you can't make this stuff up without SOME basis in reality. I write fantasies that take place partly in England, so the trip was wonderful for me in many ways.
And Italy! Don't get me started on Italy! Wonderful place, and they really liked Americans, unlike some countries we've heard about. And in 2001 (pre-9/11) the dollar was so strong against the lire (pre-Euro-in-Italy days) that we bought loads of wonderful souveniers - an inlaid music box, a leather coat from Florence, cameo earrings from Naples . . . and the landscape! And the Sunshine Highway built by Mousolini (sp?) which runs the length of Italy in a straight line thanks to tunnels and incredibly high bridges through the mountains.
Canada and Mexico are wonderfully rich in all kinds of scenery, culture, etc.
And then there's our own wonderful USA, which has such a variety of landscape, culture, etc., that it's worth making the effort to visit every single state. I have four to go and I'll have a "complete set"!
Do whatever you can to travel. You'll learn so much you'll find your brain just running over with ideas.
quote: As a Canadian, I am somewhat woeful that the only experience our country offers is coldness.
Wups, sorry, Marzo.
I found Canada's coldness more than mitigated by the warmth of Canadians. :-)
And in Canada I learned that snow can be cleared from streets. (In England it just sits there, all wet and slippy and in the way, while we moan about the weather and how there aren't enough snow ploughs. Again.)
Also, don't they skate to work on the frozen river in Toronto?
Edited to add: Yes, Kathleen, for some reason my two trips to Canada were both in January. Brrrr.
[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 26, 2008).]
I find it interesting to get a "read" on a city by visiting, more so than seeing photos or seeing movies set in that city give you (though it makes for fun "name that location" games later, you can impress your friends because cities have such distinctiveness.) It doesn't matter if they're all within the borders of one country or not, but cities to me in particular carry with them a uniqueness (though many share similarities too - small midwestern cities tend to look very similar, for example.)
Vancouver is unique in it's glassness. Hong Kong literally looks like the rocks grew buildings. Manila is smoggy, low-slung, and lush. Sydney is sparkling clear (or heavy with rain clouds.) Dublin is gray and green. London is brick. (Odd that that is the first descriptor that comes to mind), Prague is stony and ancient. Washington D.C. is full of impressiveness. New York is simply magestic. And the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco, or the end of the Golden Gate in Marin County, is breathtaking. Chicago is blue and black and real. Frankfort is working. Seoul is thick.
For that matter, farms have a similar distinctness for me (how's that for a contradiction?) There's something quite different between a farm in rural Iowa, a low hundreds-year old stone farmhouse in Ireland, the working farms in central Europe, the dusty ranches in Texas, the vineyards in California, etc.
I have had the opportunity to travel much in my life, mostly in my younger years when my father was posted overseas. I definitely turn to those memories when looking to set a story in a particular place, though since I write sci-fi, I can often get away with a certain amount of liberty.
I have used wikipedia before to remind myself of some details. You can also use local aerial-photo mapping sites to get a read on a location. I have done this when planning vacations, even to places I've been before - to determine how close a hotel is to the town central, since they all say "a short 5 minute walk to the center of town" when some are 1/2 mile and some are much farther.
Marzo, the Edmonton Oilers and Wayne Gretzky, Moosehead beer, and cool weird city names like Thunder Bay and Moose Jaw. Polar bears, the foreign country due south of Detroit, pine forests as far as the eye can see, and good bacon for a pizza.
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KayTi, I enjoyed the uniqueness encapsulations of places around the world, an interesting discipline for a writer.
I think that by visiting instead of researching travel books, photos and the internet, we get to feel what it's like to be in a foreign place, get under its skin, understand the connections that make it work.
For example, I've always known that cowboys wear cowboy boots, and that there are dangerous snakes in America. But it was only after living in Florida for a while, and realising to my discomfit that there could be killer snakes in my back yard, I realised that walking around in cowboy boots might be more than just cool.
As a visitor one finds oneself thinking, "Why do they do that?" So often, customs and fashion and "That's the way we do things around here" are rooted in survival and there's logic in how they accumulate. Over time the survival logic gets forgotten. Floridians walk slow. Why? 'Cos it's too darn hot to hurry.
Equally, one sometimes asks, "Why don't we do that?" For example, in Swiss cafes there are little buckets on all the tables for the trash that's left over from those small packets of butter, jam and sugar. In England we used to clutter the ash-trays with such rubbish, to the annoyance of smokers who thought they were for fag-ends ... now we've banned smoking in pubs and restaurants and there are little bits of buttery paper all over the place!
One hardly ever asks oneself such questions at home. For example I grew up in London and never gave our wonderful old buildings a second thought--until I lived in Florida and noticed it had comparitively little sense of permanence, history of only a few hundred years. Somehow it felt less secure, temporary, almost as though it might not be there one morning, until I grew accustomed to it.
Travelling helps one see how the world is put together and, I think, helps a writer with world-building. Also, more than once, reflecting on observations of a place that's foreign to me has generated a story idea.
I've been lucky to travel much in my life, largely at other people's expense. The one experience I don't have is of staying in one place. That must be unique too. Seeing people, perhaps generations, grow up--strangers as well as family and friends. Keeping the same friends (and enemies) for decades. Experiencing the history of a town, or farm or forest, as it grows--or contracts.
Travel is great, but I sometimes wonder if staying put isn't good too.
[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 27, 2008).]
quote:And in Canada I learned that snow can be cleared from streets.
In the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, we have a different snow removal system, called 'spring'.
It occurred to me recently that I've been woefully negligent in cashing in on the world-building benefits of traveling over the past few years. Apparently, I subconsciously told myself that drives to neighboring states don't count as 'traveling.' That's obviously wrong, and I came to discover that, even on regional drives, there are plenty of new inspirations awaiting those who pay attention to the surroundings instead of the odometer. Once I got that axiom through my cement head, I discovered that even drives through the nearby Shenandoah mountains sparked my world-building creative juices, to the point where I either ran down the battery in my digital voice recorder, or turned a two hour drive into a four hour drive because I stopped every few miles to snap pictures. Actually, both things happened.
I'm planning a driving vacation with my family this summer. I will push to travel someplace we've never gone before, so I can see and experience things that will require me to bring extra batteries and remind me to allow for more travel time.
More Florida fun: 1. Besides snakes in your backyard (and golf course) you'll find alligators and brown recluse spiders. I once saw some teens in a golf cart (why are teens in a golf cart?) drive up to an alligator sunning itself on the bank of a pond and drop a golf ball on its head. The alligator decided to go return to the water rather than join the teens in their cart.
2. Love bugs: they swarm every year and in certain years, they are so thick they cover walls and walkways and car windshields become so blanketed with lovebug goo some foolish people turn on thei windshield wipers, thinking that will help. See "Lovebugs Hinder Motorists" here.
3. Native Floridians (all five of them): you'll see bumper stickers that'll say something like: "It's tourist season now, but you can't shoot them."
4. Snow birds: sound pleasant, but they're Northerners who go to Florida in the winter and clog the roadways (20 MPH) and golf courses (1 HPH--hole per hour).
5. Hurricanes--Pat mentioned these and the hurricane parties. Note that the parties imply that we get advance notice for our disasters, often a week.
I went to the places I was writing about, just before writing the final scenes of the book. It changed a lot, made the story more real. There were details I never would've thought of, like weak water-pressure or ivy growing on trees in the winter, or the way the people of a small town dressed up to go out to the pub far more than people in the larger cities. I think my story is more true to life now.
I also want to write about the places I've been and I feel more confident in doing so, I think that opens up a lot of options for me in storytelling. For example, I'm starting a new story that takes place in China. I wouldn't be able to write that if I hadn't been to China.
[This message has been edited by KStar (edited January 28, 2008).]
I mentioned in another topic that I had been in Egypt on a tour last Christmas (after which we went to Israel).
Since I'd like to encourage people to talk about places they've been and whether or not they plan to use their travels in their writing, I thought I'd resurrect this topic.
Robert Nowall asked me how Egypt was.
Interesting. We saw the pyramids at Giza, and I was able to go down inside the second largest. We saw the sphinx, and it isn't as big as I expected it to be (I've heard that about Stonehenge, too, but I haven't seen it, yet).
We visited the step-pyramid of Sakkara, and the Valley of Kings (we were there when the President of France and his entourage came sweeping through). We went to Karnak and Luxor and the Mohammed Ali Pasha mosque in the citadel above Cairo. We visited an old synagogue and a church built upon the cave where Joseph, Mary, and the boy Jesus are supposed to have lived during their stay in Egypt. We also rushed through the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, saw the King Tut exhibits, a replica of the Rosetta Stone, and got a quick trip through Egyptian history through the various kinds of statues and tomb decorations. And we learned how to tell whether a statue was of someone who was living at the time or dead.
We saw Ramses II's name all over the place (including places where he scratched out some other pharoah's cartouche and had his own carved in). We also saw where Hatshepsut's engravings were scratched out by her stepson, Thutmose (can't remember which number he was).
We had a police escort (a car following us) during the day, and we had an armed guard on our bus with us. There were police at every tourist site to discourage the peddlers from harrassing the tourists (which didn't always work).
It was an amazing experience, and I'm very glad I went. I don't know if I'll use it in a story sometime. My travels usually have to sink in for a while first.
Sounds wonderful, Kathleen. Take me with you next time, OK? I have been teasing my brother-in-law about that all week. He flew out this evening for India, via a 2 day stopover in London. I told him he needs to be my eyes and ears, as I have several short stories set in India. I'm green with envy, my current life doesn't permit this kind of travel.
But back to you and Egypt - I'm dying to know if it's really as sandy/dusty as it looks in photos and movies? Is it really so barren? I'm having such trouble rationalizing the sandscape - can you compare it to anything you've seen stateside that some of us may be familiar with? Sand dunes? Do those scrubby grasses that grow on sand dunes grow in the pyramid regions in egypt?
How clogged were the cities? What did it smell like? What was the food like? Did you try new things? How did you feel about venturing out beyond what may be normal or comfortable for you for food, lodging, bartering, and other everyday transactions?
I'm glad you had a good time, then, Kathleen, said the guy who's never been more than a few miles outside US borders, and that back in the 1970s...
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Yup, I highly recommend travel as a source and inspiration for stories.
I'm fortunate that I travel from time to time on business (all expenses paid, whooo!). And while I don't get the opportunity to do many "touristy" things, it's fantastic being exposed to and soaking up different cities and different cultures. It isn't always somewhere exotic. In January, I had back-to-back business trips to Manaus, Brazil and West Alton, Missouri. Not that there's anything wrong with West Alton, mind you, but it ain't exactly the Amazon rainforest
The past few years, I've gone on solo road trips for my summer vacation. I always carry a small notebook with me to record my observations and thoughts. Last year, I drove Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. Highly recommended!!! The people you meet along the way will give you characters and stories to last a loooong time. People say "don't you get lonely travelling by yourself?" but on the contrary it's a wonderful way to meet people -- it forces you to interact with the locals and swap road stories with your fellow travellers. Especially on Route 66, everyone driving the "Mother Road" has a story to tell.
So even if you don't have the opportunity to travel to some exotic overseas destination, I say grab a notepad, hop in your car and take off for a weekend to someplace you've never been before. I guarantee you'll find stories.
It's been about ten years ago, but I have traveled to Israel (one week, all over) and Egypt (three days, just Cairo). Even further back in time, I toured Italy (two weeks) and Barcelona, Spain (four days).
Kathleen will do a better job answering your questions because her trip is more recent in her memory, but I'll answer what I can from what I remember. I'm not certain how good my memory is at this point.
quote:I'm dying to know if it's really as sandy/dusty as it looks in photos and movies? Is it really so barren? I'm having such trouble rationalizing the sandscape - can you compare it to anything you've seen stateside that some of us may be familiar with? Sand dunes? Do those scrubby grasses that grow on sand dunes grow in the pyramid regions in Egypt?
Yes and no. The city itself is so much pavement and buildings that I don't really remember any vegetation except a few palm trees (I think). When we traveled along the rivers, it was grassy/vegetation with some trees along the banks. When we went out toward the pyramids and such, the grass would be pretty scraggly and then just suddenly stop and turn into sand. It was like walking on dry beach sand. I don't remember any grass on the dunes around the pyramids, but I wasn't exactly spending my time studying the ground if you know what I mean. So, basically, my memories of Cairo-area Egypt was green near the water, turning to scraggly grass, then turning into pure sand.
quote:How clogged were the cities? What did it smell like? What was the food like? Did you try new things? How did you feel about venturing out beyond what may be normal or comfortable for you for food, lodging, bartering, and other everyday transactions?
Cairo was very clogged. The vehicles are all small little things (even the mini-van that picked us up) and the dotted line down the center of the road had no purpose: drivers dashed about as they pleased and sometimes even drive right down the line. Car horns were the way they communicated. It smelled like car exhaust. There were probably other smells, but I don't really pay much attention to smell unless it's very strong. Another thing about the streets: you'd have cars darting about and donkey carts piled high to green stuff trotting along those same roads (though usually closer to the edges of the roads).
Though I generally try native food when I travel, I avoided strange-looking stuff in Egypt. My tummy wasn't feeling so hot when we arrived, and it didn't improve until we left. What sort of new things did you mean when you asked if we tried anything new? I guess it was the first time I rode a camel. They really toss you back and forth in the saddle when they stand up.
We stayed in a huge, huge, huge hotel that was a city in itself. It had huge rooms, every type of restaurant, shop, and entertainment you could want on the lower levels, etc. We didn't have to leave except with our guides, who usually just dropped us off and picked us up at various places. I wouldn't have been comfortable wandering the streets or being unaccompanied in non-tourist spots, but usually it take more than three days before I'm willing to do such. (And it's not just that it's a big city. I felt perfectly comfortable wandering Rome by myself even after a few days. Egypt was just such a huge culture shock to me, I think it would take weeks for me to get comfortable). We more or less had to pay our way into places, but our guides would come help if they knew we might have trouble communicating. Bargaining in the hotel shops was a lot of fun, but at the sites themselves, I nearly hit the sellers because they were so...dishonest. They wouldn't take no for an answer, and several of them tried a trick of shoving a souvenir onto the top of my camera case (hanging at my side) and then asking for money for it. Grrr. Even with the camel ride, the guy agreed to one price, then said we also owed the guy who lead the camel around, the guy who took our pictures using our camera (without telling us he was charging), and so on.
Buying things at the tourist shops at the tourist sites was fine, even fun. Someday (in my dreams), I'm going to go back and get that huge silk rug at the rug-weaving shop we went to...
Hope this helped.
[This message has been edited by DebbieKW (edited March 07, 2008).]
Cairo is huge and crowded, and our guide told us they consider the lines in the roads as "decoration" instead of anything to separate the traffic into orderly lines. Also, people cross the street whenever they feel like it. It's crazy.
The Giza pyramids are right on the edge of the desert (Sahara), and it is dry and dusty. No vegetation out there.
After Cairo, we drove into the Sinai Peninsula, and passed mile after mile of rocky nothing. I got to ride a camel part way up Mt. Sinai (you have to climb something like 750 steps to get the rest of the way), and I had a similar experience with my camel "driver." People would also come stand in the picture when you were taking a photograph and then tell you that you had to pay them for being picturesque. Or they would give you a "gift" and then ask you for "baksheesh" or a gift in return. When we left the Valley of Kings, we had to go through a "gauntlet" of peddlers, and I just held my arms up in front of my face and "linebacker"-ed my way through. If you meet their eyes, they don't take "no" for an answer.
As for the food, they warned us about "Pharoah's revenge" (aka dysentery), so we tried to be careful eating. I liked the food we did try, though. Very similar to Mediterranean food I've had before. It was mostly the water we had to be careful about, and we bought bottled water to drink.
Our guide took us to places we could shop at, and we saw how Oriental rugs are made, how alabaster vases are formed, how papyrus is made, and so on.
One evening we took a ride down the Nile on a dinner cruise. They had a belly dancer and a whirling dervish for entertainment. I have to say I was more impressed with the whirling dervish, probably because I've seen belly dancers at science fiction conventions before. I didn't know Sufi's did their whirling dervish thing for tourists.
well i am curently in a 3rd world balnk hole contry where getting shot at and blown up is part of life. and seeing how these people live in their homes almost made me loose my lunch,(i hadent eaten for a day) is quite a diffenrence to us lucky egnouf to live in a beautfull 1st world contry worthy of defending it.
i have thought of several ideas for short stories. (50,000 words) out here based on severl things i do, gunning the .50cal,the MK19 40mm auto gernade loncher, being a M249 dismount gunner, driving HUMVIES, RG31, HUSKY, BOBCAT,5TUN and 20 TUN. among other things.
I went to Egypt last year and I regularly drive past Stonehenge. The Sphinx and Stonehenge are smaller than they look in photos. I have visited 32 different countries--one of the benefits of being European based and having a father in the British Army. I was born in Cyprus and lived for the next couple years in Singapore and Malaysia. I have lived in Australia, Germany and Norway and speak (or used to) fluent Norwegian. I am off to Spain in mid-April.
Actually living in a place can produce even more depth of knowledge than just visiting. I had the privilege of spending sixteen months in Argentina, as a missionary for my church. As such, I seldom went to all the tourist sites, but I got to see what it's really like for people down there. The following is a list of things that I learned in Argentina
1)Water supply is not endless 2)Gasoline is not the only fuel available, and it is the most expensive 3)Bus Ports (Like airports, but for busses--I know there are some around in the U.S., but every city in Argentina has at least one) 4)Ingenuity belongs to the poor (Who else would think of converting old car axles into the frames for carts?) 5)Houses built on slopes don't have to be vertical. They can be diagonal. 6)It is possible to live in a space the size of most livingrooms 7) It is possible to live in a partially-constructed house 8) It is possible to not have more than one change of clothing and still keep your dignity 9) When the economy crashes, the poor are still all right, because they're used to fending for themselves. It's the former middle class who complain about things, because they're used to "having things" 10) It is possible to repair almost anything for less money than the original purchase price--you just have to go to the right people. (One of my missionary companions wanted her watch fixed. The first people we went to said she'd need to pay twenty peso's, because they'd need to replace the whole mechanism. Then we went to this old guy with a charming store called tic-toc, and he said 'that will cost you eight pesos and I'll have it done tomorrow.') 11)In Argentina, the only thing you need to open a store is a window and some goods. 12)The neighborhood bakery bread is always better than the stuff they sell at the grocery store. 13)In Argentina, it's always the neighborhood grocery stores that have the better prices 14)In Argentina, when you ask for ground beef, they take a hunk of beef and grind it up before your eyes. Thus, you always know what's in the ground beef. 15)The worst-looking mandarin oranges (tangerines) always taste the best. 16)It's okay to be fat. (Much less stigma about being fat in Argentina then there is around here. "Fatty" is considered an acceptable nickname) 17)Politics is insane (don't ask) 18)What happens in the USA is felt all over the planet (I watched 9-11 happen on a little t.v. in someone else's apartment, and listened to everyone wonder if the U.S. would start WW III because of what happened). 19)The cake should always have some kind of filling 20)It is only necessary to pave the streets that the busses drive on. 21)In a pedestrian society, everyone jaywalks 22)Shopping in an open market is much more fun than going to a store 23)Hand-washing clothing can be a joy. Except for towels. And bed sheets. 24) If you 'double up' clothing under clothespins, the clothes take longer to dry. 25) If you have to bring your laundry inside because it starts to rain, never hang the laundry on wire hangers, unless you want rust stains on your clothes 26)Applying one general rule of language indiscriminately doesn't always work. (Sandwichs) 27) Wherever you go, people will use words from other languages to try and give more prestige to a product (Spraymilk--it was a kind of dried milk that was more expensive than the others) 28)Wal-Mart is a world-wide disease. (They have the same stuff? All over the world? What gives?) 29) The restaurants that you can't stand at home are actually endearing in foreign lands, at least once in a while (McDonalds. But they have really bad prices. On a side note, here, McDonalds has to take anyone they can get. In Argentina, McDonalds is known for taking only the good-looking people)
Sadly, my only other experience with a foreign culture was going to Victoria (lovely place, Butchard Gardens and Butterfly Gardens were lovely, and I loved driving up and down the coast). But my parents took my family on extensive road-trips when we were younger. Travel definitely broadens your experience and your mind. Though it helps if you go with the understanding that not everything has to be the same way you always did things. If that made any sense at all.
About my non-travel to foreign lands---a lot of it is inertia, but there's a good deal of sentiment in me for exploring the United States first.
I haven't even done enough of that to satisfy me...my trips in the last few years tend to be to places I've visited a lot, like Charlotte, NC (NASCAR-associated), Poughkeepsie, NY (where I was born and raised), Minneapolis, MN (for Mall of America shopping), and Atlanta, GA (on the way to all these places by car).
There's a lot I plan to see someday---if I can just find the time and money and energy to do it.
Travel is awesome for writing. You get to experiences things outside your comfort zone, which you can then put IN to your writing. I wrote a sci fi story that could only have happened because I spent time in Cape Town. Table Mountain is so close to the city, IN the city, that at night, the city can look like stars, which was the driving point behind my story. And because I had been there, I could write it like I had been there, not like someone looking up names on the net and such.
Canada was also cool and inspired some stuff for me. Dangling my toes in a glacial stream, in the middle of the rockies, and feeling how COLD it was (never gets THAT cold here in Australia), gave me insight into cryogenic freezing, or what it migh be like to wake up from it.
I also recommend listening to native people of wherever you go, talk about their myths and legens, their stories. Unrool...
A big ship at sea is like standing in a twelve story (it had 12 decks!) hotel during a minor earthquake. It swayed just slightly. We had good weather the entire trip.
Food, food, food! Just walk up and hold out your plate or your glass or even snatch at it with your fingers. There was fine dining, too. Lobster and chateaubriand and beef wellington and steaks at a sit down dinner every night.
Las Vegas style shows! Comedians! All sorts of madeup kinds of entertainment to keep the passengers occupied during the sea days.
On the upper decks forward the wind was so hard especially at night that it was hard to stand up. They had a miniature golf course up there and at midnight some tipsy teenagers were trying to play a round and the balls kept getting blown back at them. On the aft -- the fantail? -- there was hardly any wind at all.
I don't drink alcohol but I felt slightly drunk a lot of the time because of the swaying of the floor.
People walked around with these little white patches behind their ears in place of swallowing dramamine.
People, complete strangers, would make conversation with you sitting/lying out on deck, at food tables, waiting for elevators.
Everyone almost was from Texas. We left from Galveston. Most of us were either from Austin (we were) or Dallas.
It was over Spring Break locally. 700 out of 2200 passengers were kids and teens.
I don't remember noticing any swaying during the cruise I took (from Galveston around the Yucatan Peninsula as far as Belize and back), but I have what I believe are called very good "sea legs" and so maybe I wouldn't notice.
It was a five day quickie -- Galveston to Cozumel to Progresso to Galveston.
Some friends took the same trip two years (?) ago and had photos of landing at Progresso and the gangplank was put down between piles of concrete at a concrete plant built way out on a causeway. Last Tuesday we landed at the same port and there was now a new pier coming out parallel to the concrete plant's pier. Two cruise ships could tie up at once. They have to come inside the plant's pier, turn around and back up alongside the new pier.
Customs had a fancy new one story building with the bottom floor a duty free shop. A small lane of shops had sprung up between that and the gate in the fence leading to where the tour buses waited.
It was a long drive from the pier to land.
Progresso must have cut a deal with the cruise lines. There was really nothing there. Most shore adventures involved buses taking you someplace else. The pyramids, beach clubs, to Merida and so forth. We went swimming in cenotes. A two our bus ride each way, there and back.
Saw real Mayans. They still do live in those one room huts with the steepled roofs and not always a door closing off the doorway. No beds. Just hammocks. They reserve the huts for sleeping. Life is lived outside...still.
It seems to me that the poor in third world countries live pretty much the same way. I saw the same one room stores with no screens on the windows, only wood shutters. Electric cables run along the outside of the walls. No termite tunnels, though, running along the surface of their walls in Yucatan. I remember those from living in the Middle East. Same color schemes -- bright colors that would have any neighborhood association here sending nasty notes about and threatening lawsuit if not repainted forthwith.
There was a slower pace to life. A more human friendly atmosphere unlike the hurried and harried lifestyle here.
I saw a lot of mopeds and three-wheel bicycles at both ports of call. I have a trike myself here, but theirs had the basket/platform in front instead of a large basket suitable for groceries in the rear. In the larger of the small villages these trikes were fitted up as taxis. I saw the locals actually using them as we drove past in the big air-conditioned bus.
We rode out of the village several miles on carts pulled by horses. It was a railway. Rails about 18 inches apart. Bumpy. Tilty. The rail system was originally for hauling sisal from the fields to the hacienda warehouses and factories.
It looks primitive, but in Roman times it would have been high-tech.
The water in the cenotes was warmer than I expected of underground riverwater. Tree roots grew down through the open space to touch the water. Small, blind fish swam in the water. The cavern echoed. It was surprising how small the entrance holes were. You could pass within a few feet of these two cenotes and never know they were there.
In the travel section of this morning's DESERET MORNING NEWS (Salt Lake City, Utah newspaper), there was an article about webcams with links that might be helpful for those who can't actually travel to a place, but still want to write about it.