We’d been driving in the wrong direction for at least 15 minutes before I figured it out. I’d told the cabbie, “Patterson Street,” but he insisted I’d said, “Harrison Street,” which was on the other side of Jersey City, of course. By the time we’d driven past the Journal Square Station where he had originally picked us up, we’d accrued $8.50 worth of cab fare on a ride that was only supposed to cost us about $9.00.
Travel is stressful, expensive, and a disruption to routine. When you’re someone like me, you thrive on routine. I get up at 4:30 a.m. without an alarm clock. I have my first words in the manuscript by 5:45 a.m. and I’m at the gym by 7:00 a.m. every single day. I eat my big meals at 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on the nose. I’m a creature of habit, and that beast is my muse’s bodyguard, making sure she knows when and where to show up.
Travel messes with all of that, but it’s also one of the most important things in my life.
You have to decide whether or not to face the unknown, to incur the expense, to take the risk. I’ve lived in 5 states, in 14 different cities—but I don’t consider myself to be worldly. I’ve been across the pond and crisscrossed North America several times on tires and tracks, and each experience has become part of me.
Deciding to take those trips are never easy, but they can change your outlook, and hence your perspective on life.
My first sushi experience was in Chinatown circa 1994. As a somewhat sheltered 23-year-old who had lived most of his life in Western Pennsylvania, I hadn’t seen sushi, let alone eaten it. We’d ended up sitting at a sushi bar in Chinatown where the menus were in Mandarin, and nobody spoke English. This restaurant had somehow managed to get a Japanese sushi chef to work at their restaurant, and I’ll never forget that first bite—different, exotic, and incredibly tasty. California roll, but don’t you roll your eyes at me. It’s exotic if you’ve never had sushi.
We’d been clubbing at the now-defunct Webster Hall and had eaten sushi at about 4 a.m. after a night of dancing and hard drinking. I can still see and smell the sights on those New York City streets in the mid-1990s and remember my excitement at experiencing something new. I’d embraced the unknown then, and I continue to do that now.
You don’t have to visit New York City or travel to a remote corner of the globe to jump-start your brain. Take a different road home, have dinner at a restaurant on the other side of town, or walk the hiking trail you’ve never been on before. Your brain will thank you.
Whenever I get stuck in my writing or when I feel as though I’m becoming stagnant, predictable, I travel. Sometimes, I travel in my head to another time or place, but mostly I try and change my physical location.
I’m inspired by New York City, and I’m not surprised that it has historically been recognized as the center of the publishing universe in the same way that Hollywood is ground zero for filmmakers and actors. New York is eclectic, vibrant, diverse, gritty, and real—none of which describes the desk in my home office.
That cab driver eventually got us to Patterson Street, and I haggled down the fare from $14.50 to $10.00, even though he’d insisted the mix-up was my fault because, of course, I wanted him to drive us to the wrong address.
Travel isn’t perfect. Things will happen that you weren’t expecting. You’ll miss trains or arrive at a restaurant that closed up months ago.
But in the end, whether you’re heading to Harrison Street or Patterson Street, the journey there and back again is worth it.
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