21 August 2020

Travel Bug

You always want what you can't have.

When it comes to this old adage, I'm no exception. There's a lot that we can't have right now:
  • Hugs.
  • A morning spent writing in a cafe surrounded by the cheerful din of other coffee-drinking patrons.
  • The concert-on-the-lawn that I had tickets to attend tonight, but is now rescheduled for August 2021.
  • Browsing the book collection inside my local library.
  • Even a day so normal, that before last March I would've found it downright boring. Now, I'd consider it blissful.

I'm guessing I'm not the only one missing the old ways. Am I right? But, do you know what I really miss most?

Travelling abroad.

Back in my take-on-the-world twenties, I was bitten by the travel bug. Big time. There was something about wandering unknown-to-me streets, meeting new people, eating exotic meals, and exploring a country with my backpack, a map, colorful currency notes, and my dogeared multi-language translation dictionary that gave me a rush. I thrived on the adventure.

Four continents, thirty-seven countries, and countless foreign cities, towns, and villages later, I'd collected so many border-control stamps, the American Embassy in Prague added pages to my passport. Those were heady days.

Then came grad school back across The Pond, a mortgage, and kids...you know the story. My urban-trekking days became a thing of the past. I'd traded schlepping my backpack for a diaper bag.

Until...I started writing suspense fiction.

While I didn't fully resurrect my globe-trotting days again (I wish!), I've learned to virtually immerse myself in a new culture without leaving my town. I nerd-out on combing through satellite images of foreign cities, watching subtitled/dubbed movies, checking out documentaries, eating--and sometimes even attempting to cook--the traditional foods, reading travel books, blogs,  fiction written by local authors, and regional history books to learn historical context and evolution. I've listened to language-on-tape lessons and interviewed people from there and friends who recently traveled to my setting.

For the most part, I've conducted my travel research with a potential crime story in mind, usually contemporary. A few years ago, though, I wanted to write a story depicting the intoxicating days of Prague Spring, which restored freedoms to an oppressed people. It didn't last long. At midnight on August 21, 1968 (exactly fifty-two years ago today!), 5,000 Soviet tanks rolled across the borders to occupy then-Czechoslovakia and reinstate hard-line communism. The Czechoslovakians took to the streets to protest. Unsuccessfully. It would take another twenty-three years before they would finally free themselves from Soviet rule.

Despite having lived in Prague for three years and cultivating an understanding of a people who had suffered generations of oppression, I had much to learn about the circumstances surrounding Prague Spring. I'd only been an infant that summer of 1968, so even my Czech peers didn't have a living memory of the invasion or the soul-crushing aftermath.  So, I dug in hard to learn as much as I could. In all of my Prague Spring research, two videos I found online were particularly influential in helping me shape my story:

Thus, my short story of historical suspense was born. It was Romeo and Juliet set amid the crushing events that ended Prague Spring.  "Czech Mate" was published in Malice Domestic's MYSTERY MOST GEOGRAPHICAL (Wildside Press, 2018).  You can read my story here.

My current crime fiction research is taking me to Italy and Russia.  Where would you like to visit (virtually or in real life)?

PS ~ Let's be social:


  1. Nothing like the joy of writing off at least part of a fun trip as writing research. Writers have to enjoy those perks when we can.

  2. I've never had the travel bug. I love being home, in a quiet place without a clock telling me I have to go here and then go there. But I do like traveling on the page to mountain towns and lovely lakes, to cities of the past and present that I can experience without my feet-or my wallet-hurting. But I hope you get to take another real-life trip soon, so you can tell me all about it when you return!

  3. I love to travel. I haven't visited Asia yet, but it calls. As much as the change of scenery, I love meeting people. Oddly enough, the UK isn't one of my favorite places, but I enjoy France. I love South Africa and could easily live there. I could also move to Barbados or or elsewhere in the Caribbean, and am actively scheming how I might pull that off. I also have a 1968 Czech story.

  4. I’m also a travel bug. I lived for 12 years in Europe—mostly The Netherlands and Germany but with stints in Spain, Italy, Greece, England, and a year in Bahrain—and can’t wait to be able to resume revisiting old favorite places and cultivating new ones. Happy trails, Kris!



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