The Simple, Super-Sexy, Science-Backed Way to Improve Your Writing Skills

    Hemingway knew it.

    George Orwell and Mark Twain did too.

    And because they incorporated this truth into their lives, it gave their writing that special sauce that elevated the quality of their work.

    Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, this truth will help you too.

    Traveling to lands far and new is not only super-glamorous and sexy, it makes you a better writer as well.

    And if you’re serious about improving your own writing skills, you should prepare to do some traveling too.

    How travel makes you a better writer

    Many have long believed that travel has a positive impact on our minds. And now the results of recent research, and commentaries by respected writers, helps to explain why.

    1. It adds sparkle to your dusty old shoes.

    We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – TS Eliot

    Ever feel like you’re stuck in a rut, writing about the same problems in the same old tired ways?

    If so, put some distance between yourself and your work, and go explore someplace new. You’ll come back with a fresh view of the familiar.

    Here’s what various studies showed:

    … a larger amount of research exists on construal level theory (CLT), a theory that states the closer individuals are to things, problems, and ideas, such as being in the “here and now” and “up close” with problems, the more concretely, literally, and unimaginatively they think about these problems. The theory states that by getting far away from problems or issues, even if it’s just at a perceptual distance, the more abstractly individuals think.

    Author Jonah Lehrer expanded on the explanation in less scientific terms:

    The larger lesson is that our thoughts are shackled by the familiar…Distance helps loosen the chains of cognition, making it easier to see something new in the old.

    Don’t let the familiar shackle your creative mind. Breathe new life into your mundane world, by looking at it with new, well-traveled eyes.

    2. It destroys your boxes

    This is why I believe in the discipline of travel. It does something to the soul that no other activity can touch. It stretches your mind and perspective in new and extraordinary ways.
    – Jeff Goins

    A few years ago, I taught entrepreneurship for a week at an all-girls school in rural Kenya.


    In just five short days, I experienced life lessons that would’ve taken me much longer to learn had I stayed in the comfort of my normal surroundings. Here are a few:

    • I spend way too much time thinking about my hair.
    • My concept of “fresh food” was flawed.
    • Free public school, hot showers, and internet access are luxuries I took for granted.
    • Where you’re born tremendously influences the course of your life.
    • Teenage girls are teenage girls, no matter where they live in the world

    My mind was blown with how much I learned about myself, human nature, and the world.

    Travel does that to you. It expands your perspective.

    And that broadened point of view enables you to be more innovative. Science backs that up too.

    One study compared creative directors of high-end fashion houses.

    Those who’d lived and worked abroad consistently produced more creative fashion lines than those who hadn’t.

    Another study showed that students who had lived abroad performed better on puzzles and problems than those who hadn’t lived in a foreign country.

    According to the researchers, the students who’d lived in another country had superior results because they were better at open-minded thinking. They noted:

    This type of thinking takes form in foreign countries as individuals realize that there are many different—and valid—ways of living in the world. There isn’t one right way or viewpoint, and a single issue or problem often has multiple viewpoints or solutions.

    Do you spend a lot of time thinking inside a box? Let travel get rid of the boundaries you operate in. Then you’ll be free to explore in your writing ideas that are far from your norm.

    3. It helps you get a life

    Life may sometimes imitate art, but more often, life inspires art. – Glen Long

    Great writing flows from great ideas. And where do amazing ideas come from?

    According to Glen Long, managing editor of Boost Blog Traffic, they often come when you’re spending time away from your laptop:

    Life experiences are the fuel for authentic and powerful writing. Go out of your way to meet and understand different types of people—it will build your empathy muscle. Put yourself in new, even challenging, situations. Absorb everything.

    Traveling to unknown lands will give you plenty of challenging situations. It’s also the ultimate empathy booster.

    Japanese author Haruki Murakami explained how his experience living in the U.S. impacted him:

    During the four years of writing The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, I was living in the U.S. as a stranger. That “strangeness” was always following me like a shadow and it did the same to the protagonist of the novel. Come to think of it, if I wrote it in Japan, it might have become a very different book.

    Are you living fully enough to allow life to inspire your work?

    If not, traveling will give you a boatload of life experiences and stories to keep you stocked with unique ideas for eons.

    5 Ways to travel (options for every budget)

    Travel can do wonders for you as a writer. So if you want to add some special sauce to increase the quality of your work, you need to do it. Often.

    Here are five ways to make travel a regular part of your world. No matter what your budget or life circumstances are.

    1. Change your address

    Living in another country will take you far from your comfort zone. Even the simplest of things can turn into an adventure. As a result, you may have many “are you kidding me?!” moments.

    But that’s part of the process to giving you  better writing skills.

    And if you’re going to live abroad, don’t cheat and hang out only with expats. Immerse yourself in the culture to get the most out of the experience.

    Bonus points if you move to a country where the native language is different from your own.

    2. Ditch the resorts

    Living abroad not an option for you at the moment? Don’t fret. A vacation can bring great results too. That is, if you vacation the right way. Which means, don’t hang out only at the resort, or stick to the tourist attractions.

    Wander around a bit.

    Engage with the locals.

    Eat where they eat.

    Travel the way they travel.

    It will change how you experience the country, and how you view and understand what life is like for the people who live there.

    3. Skip the long customs lines

    Living and traveling abroad can get expensive. So if that’s not in your budget at the moment, try a short trip to another city within your own country.

    Remember, studies showed breaking your routine by adding in some distance was one of the ways to unlock your creativity. So go explore what’s going on in other parts of your homeland.

    New York City is vastly different from San Diego. And San Diego is worlds different from Birmingham. There are lots of culture shocks to be had across city, county and state lines.

    4. Become a local tourist

    Travel budget running low? Then consider not even leaving your own city. Just go to a different part.

    Cross the tracks.

    Spend a Saturday exploring a part of town you’ve never been to.

    Instead of going to that restaurant you always visit, try one with people who run in different circles than you.

    Become a tourist in your own ‘hood. I bet you’ll marvel at how much of your city you haven’t experienced.

    5. Engage in mind travel

    If none of the other options work for you, you can still let your mind travel to lands far away. Even if your body stays put in the comfort of your home.

    Immerse yourself in documentaries and books on other cultures. Get lost in the stories and imagery as you educate yourself on people in other places.

    It’s time to pack your bags.

    You already spend a ton of time working on your craft. And that hard work pays off.

    But if you want to see an exponential increase in your writing skills, you need to shake things up a bit. You need more colors to paint with. You need to venture outside the comfort of your familiar world.

    As prolific traveler and writer Chris Guillebeau notes: Travel is disruptive and forces you to think differently.

    Thinking differently from the way you did yesterday is just what you need to improve your writing skills.

    So pack your bags.

    Go explore.

    Have fun.

    Your writing, and your readers, will thank you for it.

    How will you incorporate travel into your writing life? Share your plan in the comments.

    About the author

      Sonia Thompson

      Sonia Thompson is a content marketing strategist and the founder of TRY Business School where she's on a mission to help you build your dream business by combining the right mindset with the right strategy. Grab your free 3-part video series on how to think like an elite entrepreneur now! 

    • Pimion says:

      It’s nice to see article like that here.
      Actually travel makes you not only a better writer but better everyone!
      One of the greatest ways of travelling is couchsurfing. It helps you to know the country/city from inside.

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    • Saleamlak Tilahun says:

      100% true! I have written my recent article after travelling to my hometown for vacation. I got wonderful topic and idea when I was on the way home!

    • Impressive written article

    • Andrew says:

      Hey Sonia,

      Great post here on Mary’s blog.

      You’re absolutely right about this. I remember when I went to Cuba last year for vacation, I was filled with so much creativity certain days, that I had to write. And I did. And ideas flowed freely. It was really revealing.

      Just the change of scenery and everything really helped me. I wrote some of my best stuff while I was there.

      I’m going away to Dominican Republic in a few weeks so I’ll try it again. I’m sure the same results will happen.

      And even when I wasn’t travelling, I remember when I would just go to the beach with my laptop and relax. Something about that really helped me write freely as well. I may just do that again since I can’t ALWAYS travel.

      Great stuff, Sonia.

      Thanks for having her on here, Mary.

      – Andrew

    • Its great work this is nice way to attract audience and also unique and interesting article.

    • Kimsea Sok says:

      Thanks for sharing..! Actually, traveling is really important in life. It teach a us a lot of life experience. You know..? Last 2 months, I’ve travel to my brother farm at country. I don’t what was the reason that empower me, but I found that I feel like so relax. I my brain is completely working, I wrote over 4 article with 3000 words length during my 3 week traveling..! I’m sure that travel help us to improve currently writing skill.

      • Yeah Kimsea – sounds like you’ve been reaping the benefits of travel, and its unlocked a lot of productivity in you as well! That’s super awesome.

        Hope you’re able to continue to explore on a regular basis 🙂

    • Great ideas for inspiration. I think traveling locally is a great way to boost the economy and find special people and places to take your mind off of what isn’t working in your life and what is. I would say to Lorraine who replied above and is being a saint by caring for her elderly parents…if they are able to contribute-ask your parents about their travels and imagine and experience through their eyes. Also, YouTube has several world travelers who do informative and yet personal videos about exotic and regional places, again find inspiration through their perceptions. Lastly, even a short trip to the next city can be give a new perspective. I’m always amazed how 30 or 60 miles can mean a totally different way of living. Live in the city, go to the country and talk to farmers and ranchers. Live in the country, hit a park or museum in the big city. Hope those help. I’m in awe of people who care for their parents in their advancing age, you have my utmost respect. ~Jules

      • Jules – thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.

        All your ideas for Lorraine have been fabulous. Sounds like you’re doing a great job of doing some local and regional travel yourself. Keep it up! 🙂

    • Great tips… for those who CAN travel.

      But what about those who are stuck in the same city due to caring for elderly parents?
      Any ideas for these people… myself included?

      • Hey Lorraine!

        If you’re restricted in your ability in travel – you have two options that can help you. The first is to explore different parts of your own town. So if you’re able to steal away an afternoon, or just go to different place than you normally go in your routine that can help.

        Also, as Jules mentioned below, things like museums do wonders for feeding your creativity, as what you see and feel there can transport you to a different place.

        Another option, would be to watch documentaries, read books on places that are far away. They can give you incredible insight into a place and help to change your perspective too. 🙂

    • Pat says:

      Nice article. I like the travel by not traveling number five option the most.

      As someone who just relocated from the Midwest to the West Coast I can tell you you don’t need to travel to build your writing skills. My grammar, spelling and sentence styling are exactly the same. LOL!

      I feel I look at everything with outsider eyes, now. But I must have been an outsider in my hometown. Because I look at things in pretty much the same way.

      Do people like traveler’s writings because travelers look at home with longing? I miss home.

      • Hey Pat – sounds like you’ve made some pretty significant changes during your moves.

        The impact of travel has less to do with grammar and spelling, and more to do with the ideas that fuel your writing.

        As you get more creative and broaden your perspective, you’re able to approach your writing in broader ways – in ways that would have been more difficult if you’d never explored outside the comforts of home.

        I think that’s what draws other people to the writing. 🙂

    • Elizabeth Gerhardt says:

      Excellent suggestions. I moved to the mountains of western Panama 6 1/2 years ago from Florida because the living is much more affordable here for a retiree. Not only have I learned a lot from these wonderful people here but also I have observed expat residents who claim they love it here but flock together in gated conclaves and insist on trying to turn it into a corner of their previous home. Leaving home turf does not necessarily leave arrogance and tendencies to colonialism in the home one leaves.

      • Elizabeth – you bring up a great point.

        Changing locations is definitely good and helpful, but the real transformations come when we leave our comfort zones.

        Glad to hear you’re diving in and getting a great local experience. I hear Panama is beautiful!

    • Amazing writing… Truths that hit me like a rock and makes me think. Actually i have spent like 96% of my life in a 5 mile radius. Although i have travelled so far in my mind (*smiles*). Thanks

      • Hey Adebayo – you’re already doing great if you’ve traveled much in your mind! Keep it up, until that day you’re able to take your body with you! 🙂

    • jamila says:

      Beautiful article sonia, Reminds me of how badly I want to travel and see the world and just how constrained i am.
      Reading books have always been my method for experiencing other places and culture, but recently my desire to physically travel is becoming a growing obsession, perhaps because I’ve reached such a threshold in my life that it’s either I make the plunge now or never.
      As I wait for the perfect opportunity, I’ll heed to your advice and “skip the long customs lines”. There are exciting places within my country that I’m yet to see.
      Thanks for a wonderful read.

      • Hey Jamila – yes, you definitely have the right idea. Sometimes it can be difficult to travel far away, but you can experience quite similar benefits from exploring places that are a bit closer to home, but far enough that it feels like a world away.

        Best wishes to you as you work to satisfy your wanderlust!

    • The most inspiring blog post I have read in a long long time. LOVE LOVE LOVE! Now I understand why I seek novelty on holiday. I am bored by the safety and routine of resort hotel complexes! Getting ready to shake the family up again!!
      Thank you, Lisa

      • Awwww Lisa, thanks so much! I’m so happy you enjoyed this article. 🙂

        And yes, I say go shake things up a bit! So many great stories and experiences happen outside of the resort!

    • Pat says:

      Fun article. I liked the part about engaging in mind travel the most. I spent years traveling around the world when I worked at the library during college. I was reading and supposed to be working.

      I just relocated, six months ago, to the West Coast. Amazingly different from the Midwest. Have my writing skills improved because of it? I don’t know. It hard not to think they have with all of the experiences, ideas, how vastly different some things are here. But, I’ve been on fire for the last year. Maybe when you get better at writing you long for travel, for new places?

      • Hey Pat – how cool that you were able to travel the world from the library! Isn’t it amazing how different cities across the country are?

        THe thing about travel and its impact on your writing – is that it’s often something you aren’t able to observe up close. Kind of like when we’re growing as kids. But when you take a step back, and look back over time, we’re able to see (and often feel) the progress.

        And sounds like you’ve got the itch to do some travel. If you’re longing for new places, it might be time to feed your hunger and do some exploration. The only question is, where will you go? 🙂

    • Annamarie says:

      Being a pe-sitter, of course i get inspiration from the pets, but also i have a different place many time of the year. some get familiar others are newcomers. I would not need to travel but I do that too.
      Learning new things helps, there is never nothing you can learn from. 🙂

      • Hey Annamarie – you’re totally right. We can learn something from everything. Pets included! 🙂

        Thanks for stopping by and commenting

    • Aah- this was a riveting article, Sonia. Thank you!

      As a kid, I hated traveling. Now that I am in my mid-thirties, my yen to travel has reached a high. I might not be able to ‘change my address’ or visit far-away lands because of visa issues, but becoming a tourist in my city or within US is certainly possible.

      Thank you so much #HUGS

      • Hey Kitto – sometimes travel has to grow on you. And other times, you don’t realize the benefits it brings to you until long after the trip is over.

        I’m glad you’re going to be able to find a way to explore your own city and other places in the U.S. I continue to be amazed at all the wonders that are in my own backyard, or that I can get to by car. I’ve got a whole lot more of the U.S. I need to check out.

        Best wishes to you on your explorations! 🙂

    • joy onuoha says:

      Hi, Sonia. This is great piece and for me it’s a mind _ opener. Thanks

      • Hey Joy – I’m so glad you enjoyed the post!

        Do you have a trip planned for the near future?

    • Wonderful post, Sonia, that validates my attitude about writing and traveling!

      I have traveled to many places, both in comfort and off the beaten path. I love diverse cultures. I am from Greece, living in US, and both Europe and America are lands that I love. Greek and English, as well as enough Spanish to feel free in Spanish-speaking countries, are passports to great connection with indigenous people and ways to better appreciate other cultures.

      Traveling is inspiring and opens up heart and mind to new ways of feeling and seeing self and the world. I share some of my experiences in the book I am working on, “Sailing to Ithaca: A Year’s Journey, Nurturing Body and Soul.”

      I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic.

      Wishing you great journeys!

      • Katina – sounds like you’re doing well with the travel. And congrats on turning your experiences into a book! That’s super awesome.

        You touched on a great point – when you speak the language, it opens up how you’re able to travel and communicate in a whole new way. I’m learning Spanish at the moment, and it’s helped me tremendously when I go trekking through South America 🙂

    • Very good points, with the one proviso that it is essential to travel with a truly open mind. I travel a lot and find that much of my best writing and ideas come from this, but I have met more than a few travellers who appear to have travelled only with the intention of having their prejudices confirmed and who retreat into a laager-mentality of ‘us and them’ at the drop of a hat. Obviously, there is copy there for the onlooker(!), but writing as someone who lived and worked as an ex-pat for several years, there are clearly those who should never travel out of their comfort zones, and possibly not even out of their immediate neighbourhoods!

      • Hey Mick – you are soooo right, having an open mind is definitely key.

        I also think that the longer you stay in a place, and the farther the conditions are from what you are used to – eventually, it will change the way you think. Even if you didn’t initially come into it with an open mind.

        Speaking from experience on this one :). And on several occasions, once I just “let go” everything changed for the better!

    • Great advice. Travel is so interesting that I’d like your ideas even if they weren’t so obviously true. I’d stress these ideas:

      1. Don’t travel inside a home-like bubble. Stay in local housing. Travel via local transport. Eat their food. Entertain yourself their way. If you can, work there.

      2. Spend enough time there to acquire a feel for it, it starts to seem almost normal. For me that takes about six weeks. Only then will you start to understand the culture and why people live as they do.

      3. If you’ve got an occupation that permits it, get a job there. You’d be exposed to more of the culture and with that income you can stay longer.

      –Michael W. Perry, co-author of Lily’s Ride

      • Great tips Michael!

        I recently learned the benefits of staying in a place longer. I’ve had two extended stays of 5 and 6 weeks in Buenos Aires, and the experience I had was so much richer, in terms of really “feeling the city” when you’re able to just enjoy living in the city, rather than rushing around trying to cram in all the sites in a few short days.

    • First-class article. Getting out of your comfort zone, especially if you’re feeling jaded and stale is an excellent idea. You don’t always have to travel far (though that’s appealing). A coffee al fresco, studying people more, listening to a snippet of a conversation, or a walk in the countryside can be uplifting and inspiring. I’m a creative writing group leader for the Torrevieja U3A in Spain and I once gave homework ideas based on a fascinating conversation I overheard. The resulting stories were surprising…

      • Hey Joy – I’ll be those stories were surprising! You’re right, doing a little eavesdropping on the conversations of others will spark all kinds of interesting ideas.

        I’ve got a conversation in my head from Buenos Aires that I can’t wait to use in my writing one of these days when the time is right!

        Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment 🙂

    • Great article Sonia, Even though I don’t travel that much nowadays, In coming days I will be a frequent traveler. And I’m glad to hear you did some charity work in my country! Thanks

      • Thanks Brian! Great to hear you’ve got some travel coming up. Where are you off to?

        And yes, I loved you country!

    • Mark Tong says:

      Hi Sonia – really great article on a subject I absolutely agree on. Whenever I have traveled it has produced inspiration for books or articles, often years later and in unexpected ways. A couple of years ago my writing partner and I had run out of ideas, so we packed up and went traveling for a couple of months. Not only did we write a book about the experience (which we never intended to do) but even now it colors our writing in other ways.
      Incidentally it doesn’t matter what happens on your travels. The adventure we went on was a complete failure in terms of its objective but in many ways gave us even more ideas than any ‘successful’ ones we’ve been on.

      • Hey Mark – so glad you enjoyed the post!

        You’re story is a fabulous testament to the power of travel. As you mentioned, it’s not really about what happens – the experience alone, the change of scenery, the feelings are what changes you, and seems to unlock a secret vault inside our creative psyche.

        Hope you have many more travel adventures in your future!

    • M. Grace says:

      Well said!!! I’ve traveled and am living abroad, learned new languages been lost, dysentery, chased by aggressive squirrels and peed on by a monkey- all of it will keep me from sitting in a rocking chair regretting all the things I didn’t see!

      • Hey M. Grace – That sounds awesome!

        Sounds like you’ve got a boatload of cool stories to use to turbo charge your writing! Keep living :)!

    • Shaddie says:

      Awesome post from you Sonia. I’m a tourist by profession (by the virtue that I hold degree in Ecotourism and Hospitality Management), and I can confirm that travelling really opens up your creativity sense. I have been writing (freelancing) full-time for close to an year now and occasionally sets out on trips that help me break away from the monotony of my room and job. And yea, it works charm as far as my creativity rejuvenation is concerned. Glad to hear you’ve been to Kenya. I’m a Kenyan and would welcome you again to visit this beautiful land. Thank you.

      • Thanks Shaddie – professional tourist sounds fabulous!

        It’s great that you’ve set your career up in a way that you can incorporate regular travel into it, to keep you fresh, and flowing with ideas and inspiration. I’ve been traveling a few months out of the year, and it’s worked wonders for me too!

        I had a great time in Kenya, and would love to go back – it’s is such a beautiful land with beautiful people!

      • Thanks so much Shaddie!

        Sounds like you’re doing a great job of incorporating travel into your life. I’m so glad to hear that it’s working for you. Professional tourist sounds amazing.

        I loved Kenya, and do hope to make it back – the land and the people were just beautiful 🙂

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