15 Travel Tips for Parents and Writers
Updated: 5 days ago
1) Take a book along-Kindle
“I’m out of gas!!” I yelled into the Bluetooth intercom. “Coast as long as you can!” my gorgeous wife replied. “That’s what I’m doing.” I didn’t mean to run out of gas on our Harley trip. It just didn’t occur to me that the mechanic, the day before, would run my full gas tank so low. Granted, he had reason. My fuel system is messed up and so I took it to them to see if they could fix it. Fast forward. I look down at my gas gauge. Oops. The challenge was that we were on Highway 101 on the Oregon Coast (awesome motorcycle ride) and gas stations were few and far between.
Solution one? My wife rode ahead to get me some gas. Solution two? Kindle! I used to take along two or three paperback books for just such an occasion. I’m a writer. Writer’s read. Now I load up my kindle and head down the road. Not an optimum day for motorcycle riding, but I enjoyed the moments finishing two books while I waited. They even make Kindles for kids loaded with books, so check it out, parent. Might save you when you are stuck! Click the pic for a link!
2) Read the book out loud to your kids
I am here to testify that Harry Potter is real life magic. If you are a vampire hunter in 2022 about magic in books, let me explain…. before you call Van Helsing, and other monster hunters, let me explain.
As a young family, we would take road trips to visit my parents. It was a three-day journey in a car, and road trips with little kids is a special breed of insanity. They would whine and moan all day, unless they could touch each other, in which case they would fight…nothing new to any young family.
As we went to Wal-Mart to snag some last-minute snacks, I was desperate. I had never heard of Harry Potter, but on an impulse, I picked up the second book. We didn’t have much cash, and it was hard-bound, but I didn’t want to spend 12 hours in a car with whining children. There had to be a better way.
It was the second book in the series. While my wife drove, I read the book out loud to my kids. PURE MAGIC!! Not a whiny voice for hours. They hung on every word and we were at my parents in no time. It was so magical, I read every book in the series to them. We even had to back up and buy the first book to catch-up. Thanks J.K. Rowling. It didn’t even have to be on a road trip. Click the pic for magic to appear!
3) Capture Now
Back to running out of gas…So as I was reading along on my Kindle, a weird flying beetle landed on the rearview mirror of my motorcycle. It rarely works, but I put down my Kindle and pulled up my phone to take a picture. A happy accident occurred and he took off in flight right as I snapped the picture. I got him in mid-flight, and the shot looks really cool.
The same thing happened last February when my wife and I were in Florida near a Hard Rock Café that has built a hotel in the shape of a guitar. It is blue, which might just be a function of the windows reflecting the blue sky, but I clicked a pic through the passenger window. It is so cool. The bright blue building looks like the neck of the guitar is stretching into the clouds. One pic. So cool. Here it is. I gave it away to my blues guitarist friends and family. No cool link...consider this an upscale vacation slide...
4) Enjoy? The unexpected
My wife and I have bounced around a bit, traveling. We love to see new things. In 32 years of being married and bouncing, we have never missed a flight…until last February. We were supposed to get a 6:00 a.m. commuter. We missed it and the rest of the day was a major adventure.... make sure you adjust to the variables... we bounced around and learned another lesson in flexibility. If you are a fiction writer or poet, then you will happen across and event or even word choice in a poem that is unexpected. At first it may look like a problem. Consider your problems, whether in travel and writing and see if it's worth struggling through the variables.
5) Make Friends with Strangers
Even though I have a Ph.D., l opted to use weird ways to complete my other degrees. My wife didn't go on this trip, to watch the kids, so I went in for maximum adventure. Adventure? Don't spend much money. Challenge accepted. It was easy. We didn't have much money.
I improvised. When I was completing my Master’s, I had to complete a residency in Minneapolis. At the time, I was used to bicycling everywhere, so I decided to call around and see if I could trade lodging in a homeless shelter for washing dishes. I packed a huge backpack and took a cab to the local bike shop where they rented bikes.
There are no Airbnb homeless shelters, so I’m not advocating the idea. I pedaled to the homeless shelter. It just seemed like a good idea at the time.... I am fully aware of all the events in my life that were epic fails where I ended the "adventure" with "It seemed like a good idea at the time." Not everyone wants to go this route, but I was lucky enough to have a shelter agree. This particular time it worked out. Side note. Give to your local homeless shelter. They do stellar work.
Like I said, I had to take a cab to get to the bike shop from the airport. I was lucky enough to make friends with the cab driver. He was an Ethiopian refugee. He had an awesome story. Long story short, when I was trying to get back to the airport, the people who said I could ride share, ditched me at school. I was stuck. I didn’t have my bicycle. I called for a cab, so I wouldn’t miss my flight. Somewhere in the universe, either cab driver’s talk to each other, or my new friend remembered me. A cab pulled up. My Ethiopian friend gave me a ride. I tried to pay, but he wouldn’t let me. I was shocked, but thanked him for his kindness. Make sure to make friends with strangers.
6) Take a Journal
A comedian was once asked where he got all his jokes. Family reunions. I love my family, but I swear, family or not, reality is impossible to invent, and I have come up with countless ideas for stories, or poems out of my journal. Just write down the reality. It may crop up in your poem, story, or novel. If nothing else, there are only so many things your "blue-sky" imagination can see. (Stephen King quote. Pick up his book. It's awesome.)
I used to journal during every meal while we took road trips. Now, thanks to the digital age, I take notes on my phone with Google Docs. They stay uploaded in the cloud and I have it half typed, already.
7) Explore during the bumps. There will be bumps.
Like I said, we missed our flight in February, and it made for a bumpy travel day. However, sometimes travel is out of your control. There are bumps. Years ago, my wife and I got stuck in Florida because of one inch of snow in Atlanta. We had to stay an extra day because our flight was cancelled. We’re from Yakima where you can boast a foot of snow and still fly, because they have snow removal trucks. We were confused, but I guess some places aren’t set up for the white flakes falling from the sky.
The result of our extra day? My wife saw one of the new Camaros, right after Chevy went into reinventing the muscle car. She’s obsessed with Camaros and muscle cars. The end result is that even though we got stuck another day in Jacksonville, Florida, she rented one of the red ones and drove it on Daytona beach. We happened to be there during Harley bike week, so she grinned from ear to ear revving up and down the main strip with Harley pipes roaring. Exploring the bumps are great. They also feed your writing. I’ll never forget the size of the mohawk on one of the bikers.
8) Bring Home the Story
You don’t have to always travel for grand ideas, although I do think that our impulse to read, is to have someone else's well-timed vacation slides put into a plotline. Agatha Christie did it all the time. Am I Agatha? Nope. Just full of dad jokes. I tell lame jokes all the time. If you are a parent, start embarrassing your kids early...makes it easier to adjust for them when they have to pick your retirement home. Besides, they are a captive audience when they are little.
That means I have to try out my fiction ideas out on local grocery clerks. Here’s a low-key version. “Can I help you?” “Yes! Will you tell my wife she is gorgeous!” They smile. “Did you find everything you need?” “Yes! You have gorgeous women on aisle 3!” My wife is an angel. She did get me back once. I made some crack at Starbuck's and she sighed and mumbled, "Don't listen to him...I just got him out of the hospital..."
Stop me?! No way! Our local hardware store now sells toilet paper. I grabbed a big pack and shoved it under my arm. My wife kept walking. Every time she passed an employee, I would lean in, point and whisper, “She won’t let us use sandpaper anymore…” One kid didn’t miss a beat. He said, “Well, you do need to compromise in marriage…” Every day life? Look for the story. Traveling? Look for the story. If nothing else, you keep yourself entertained while you shop for light bulbs, and gardening supplies.
9) Write at Midnight ( or some other ungodly hour, while the iron is hot)
The writing process. I know there’s the mantras that writing's greatest magic trick is BIC (Butt In Chair), writing with rituals, and schedules to be the most productive. I try to adhere to all those practices my mentors have taught me, whether it was Stephen King through On Writing, or personal mentors I have met in person after reading their books.
This last motorcycle trip taught me, however, that I need to scribble down my ideas while they are fresh. When the iron is hot. We were in a hotel on the Oregon coast, and my lovely wife was asleep. My brain had a moment… I would call it a writer's brain fart…but instead of forgetting something, I was compelled to write down the first chapter of a novel I had been percolating in my brain on the road. Why is it a writer's brain fart? Might stink. Might just be gas...
Like I said, the digital world is awesome, since I just typed it into a Google Doc on my phone that I could upload later. Was it perfection? Not at all. There's just that thrill of the "pen" taking hold of your hand and scribbling down ideas. Did I lose a bit of sleep? Yep. Don’t know how to help you with that one. I’m losing sleep all the time to write and create. Again, my wife is an angel. She makes sure I eat and sleep when I’m supposed to. When a writing idea hits my brain, I can’t sleep anyway…might as well write it out of my head. Click the pic for a link!
10) Destination? Journey?
This will sound cheesy, but you need to enjoy the process. You need to enjoy the journey. If you don't, you won't enjoy the destination. You'll get to the top of a mountain after a bunch of work and say, "Is this all there is?"
Enjoy. When we rode our Harleys down Highway 101, we had a good time looking around. We saw whales surface in Depoe Bay Oregon. We would chat about a weird looking person in a restaurant. (No offense, Oregon… we travel a bit. Weird people abound no matter where you go…)
Did we enjoy the destination? Absolutely! We went to the Blue Ox millworks and historic village in Eureka California. We love old things. He had human power tools from the mid 1800’s. Band saws that you pedaled… Eric Hollenbeck has a show called, The Craftsman. He also had a full-blown print shop with equipment from the early 1900’s! Reminded me of my first days in publishing, when the shop was using these kinds of presses.
What I love about his story, is that he admits to struggling in school. He still went onto serve in the Vietnam war. His place is awesome! There are a 1000 stories in that museum and shop in Eureka California. We loved the destination. It’s worth traveling to meet people like Eric. To see what people have created. Inspiration is important. Just inspiration with this pic....
11) Eat Well
Eating well doesn’t have to be expensive, but we love to eat, and it offers plenty of stories. We went to Florida this past February. We did the Google thing and plugged in “Cuban restaurants.” We ended up at a hole in the wall. My Viking wife walked in and said, “We’re not from around here.” I laughed at the faces of the two Cuban women behind the counter. “I think they figured that out.” There’s more details to the story, but the short version is that I had to carry on the entire conversation in Spanish with the women, there were no prices on the chalk board menu, and we definitely were charged tourist prices. Fun was had by all.
The locals all bounced in for Cuban coffee. My wife loved the coffee, and it was the best rice and beans I’ve had in a long time. It didn't cost us much more than Denny's, and I can eat there at home.
12) Check Tech
I know I said that I take notes on Google Docs on my phone, but I am also old, so I am aware of how much people miss when they travel, simply because they can’t get away from their screens. Remember to keep the wonder of the moment in mind, and leave your phone in your pocket as much as possible.
There are pictures of your destination on Google and the internet, so enjoy the moment. A joke I read for old people said, “I remember when you had to wait two weeks for the film to develop from your trip to find out most of the photos were out of focus.”
I sometimes fear we have the opposite problem. We are swimming in an ocean of images from our lives and trips that we never look at again. I love Instagram, but do I really need to look at what you snagged off the buffet table on your cruise? I'm not sure you want to see my breakfast from the Super 8 in the lobby.
13) Seek Danger
“Don’t come home dead. I’ll have to kick your butt in heaven.” My wife used to tell me that all the time. Why? I am hardwired as an adrenaline junkie. When I was a kid, I would jump off the roof of our house, just to see what would happen. I have more balance than brains and have more than once muttered in mid-air, “I guess I need to figure out the landing." I will admit that as my beard greys, this Tigger doesn't bounce as much, and I have random old-person pain when I get out of bed. Yep it's my own fault. I still love thrill-seeking.
I will leave you to your own risk tolerance. As you can tell, mine is pretty high. I’ve made many a discovery that has ended up in my writing…or maybe I’m just a spaz…
Case in point. I was helping chaperone a teen-age road trip in my forties. We stopped on a beach in California. I was bored, so I took a hike. As it turned out I found a cliff. Jump. Another chaperone looked up to see my body rolling down a fifty-foot drop.
My logic? At the top I told myself, “Oh! If I can land that sand bar eight feet down, I totally can tumble down that grade. No worries, it’s just sand.” I tumbled. I survived. They've been telling me, "Think about what you are doing!" ever since I was little. I think about writing and creating. Jumping of sand cliffs? Somehow that danger filter doesn't factor into my brain.
14) Seek Adventure
If I leave anything to my children, I hope it was that they need to seek adventure. They don't have to jump off cliffs. Most of them leave that to Dad. I just hope they don’t play it safe all the time. This doesn’t always need to be expensive. I’ve read books by Sir Richard Branson. The billions are interesting, but what I find more interesting is his incessant need to break records ballooning, or working on a team in a boat race. His need to seek adventure and have fun intrigues me more that his other activities.
Without the billions, my wife and I have gone on hikes. Gone to museums. Eaten exotic foods we could afford. Safety is an illusion. Household accidents can kill you in the tub…so I’ve been told.
Learning to take measured risk helps my writing, because it teaches me to experiment. When I think, “What if this doesn’t work?” I shrug and watch it sail or crash. When things crash, I go, “Failed experiment number 7893…”
But without experimenting, creating becomes impossible because we can’t learn. We can’t write a better sentence. We can’t find a better plot device, or poetic trick.
15) Rehearse with Courage
Finally, for all of my adrenaline junkie ways, something bizarre happened this past spring. While my wife and I were on a regional ride, I was on my Harley, and we came across a long rough patch of road. She has her own bike. She's incredible. The rough road freaked me out. It was irrational. I’d been on rough roads before. I had no idea what eerie phobia crawled up in my brain. I’ve been all over the west, and have more than 50,000 miles on my motorcycle. But with all that experience, there I was terrified in each turn, this past July. This isn’t good on a Harley. Fear is a bigger risk on a motorcycle than idiot drivers that want to run you over.
So, it got strange when my wife and I were riding this last month down the Oregon coast. Like I said, she has her own bike, and is ultimately the better rider than I am. She isn’t a spaz, but she loves the road and the adventure. She's the reason I'm alive in all probability. Like I said before, she lets me jump off cliffs...she gets it. Maybe that is just a wise wife, understanding that the male species doesn't always have an elevator that goes to the top. She just keeps saying, "Don't come home dead...and take out the garbage..."
Our recent trip? For ten days I had to relearn how to ride in the twisty turns on Highway 101. I had to rehearse how to improve in my mind, both while I was on my bike and while I was off. I had two choices. Get over my fear or park my motorcycle in a little town in Oregon. Then what? Fly home and let my gorgeous wife have all the fun? No way. Besides, traveling is best when she is around. Well, luckily, I love motorcycling, so I had to get over my fear.
Was it pleasant? Not all the time… OK…no. It made travel a bit painful to face some irrational terror at every bend.
I still needed to rehearse a better outcome with courage to keep going down the road. With each turn, I kept at it, realizing that I could hold two conflicting emotions side by side while I made a choice. Terror and love. I had to make love win. I had to work through the fear. It took the entire ten days but by the end the rehearsal was paying off. The fear diminished and I was still on my motorcycle.
This notion of holding competing emotions, and making a choice gets lost on artists, writers, and well…many people. Artist types, (especially) will tell themselves and others, “I need to feel a moment of inspiration,” when they write, draw, dance or do whatever rocks their boat. Sometimes, that just masks fear. Fear gets in the way of love.
The reality is that whether you are a kid or a grown-up, choosing an activity over your fear, needs to occur so that you don’t give up what you love. Is there danger? Probably. You don’t have to risk life and limb on a Harley to feel the fear and competing emotions.
When you get rejected by a publisher, or even made fun of by family members or friends for your art and writing, that creates fear. The lonely road of creating doesn’t have many companions for a while. That fear can even increase if you take a back road and want to do something different that doesn’t fit the massive publishing machine in writing, or graphic design scene in art.
No worries. Rehearse with courage. Try. The key to rehearsing with courage, is to keep producing while you are afraid. Take notes about your fear. What specifically creates the terror? Learn a new lesson. I had to keep rehearsing a skill I used to have in making turns on a motorcycle with my heart pounding in my throat. I had to press on. Don’t let the fear stop you from pressing on.
What deep seated fear keeps you from taking a step forward with what you love. Do you love to write? What makes you afraid. Do you love to draw? Rehearse with courage. Try. Create a better product. Keep at it. To paraphrase my mentor in art, Alfredo Arreguín, “Perseverance creates progress.” He’s in the Smithsonian. He knows a thing or two about perseverance.
Keep at it.