On Travel, Poetry, and Inspiration: The Bittersweet Side of Travel

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Travel, poetry, and inspiration… what do these all mean for me? When I hit writer’s block, just give me a train through Spanish fields, an airplane window over the Atlantic ocean, a far-far-away park bench, and suddenly the wheels are turning again.

Maybe that’s why I have a travel blog. If you gave me a list of things to write about for the rest of my life, and I could only choose one, I would choose travel. Whether through poetry or writing a blog, travel is what inspires me.

Travel inspires poetry, and poetry inspires travel. When I hit writer's block, just give me an airplane window over the ocean and the wheels turn again.

Travel inspires me not because it’s exotic or glamorous or even happy… but because it’s bittersweet. Have you read the Aznar Nafisi quote?

You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.

I read that recently and I think it’s the embodiment of a repetitive theme in my life. Of leaving, returning, arriving, all the while changing. And it’s such a famous quote because it speaks to so many people. As much as we glamorize it, traveling can be a sad experience. It’s not all top 10 lists and instagram filters: it’s loving someone or someplace and realizing you may never meet again.

I’m about to fly to Girona. The last time I was in Girona I was 8 years old, running through fields with a wild, white horse. Drinking my first taste of espresso at our family friend Anna’s wooden kitchen table. Throwing spaghetti noodles at the wall to see if they were done cooking. Wading into a tinkling brook in the shade of a humid afternoon. Night time, tumbling down a hill, the distant laughs of the Catalonian twin girls I had played with all week. The bite of a raspberry bush’s thorns, and the sharp feeling of a rock that wedged itself into my knee. A mish-mash of bandages and ointments administered in the kitchen, before an early morning flight. The scar I still have.

I’m excited to be going to Girona. To see my international student friends that I haven’t seen in almost a year (how has it been that long?). But, it will be bittersweet. It won’t be the same as my memories of it, over a decade old at this point, and undoubtedly tinged with some poetic retrospective filter. I’m trying to be in the moment, to accept Aznar Nafisi’s “strange feeling” and enjoy it. 

I’ll leave you with a poem I wrote on the theme of bittersweet travels. It was published in Madison Review in 2015 so it’s okay to reproduce it on the internet now – I hope you enjoy.

Travel inspires poetry, and poetry inspires travel. When I hit writer's block, just give me an airplane window over the ocean and the wheels turn again.
Travel inspires poetry, and poetry inspires travel. When I hit writer's block, just give me an airplane window over the ocean and the wheels turn again.
What inspires you to travel? What inspires you to write? Do you think travel is bittersweet, too? I’d love to know in the comments.

I also want to say that as I’m traveling over the next few weeks I have some very exciting guest posts coming up, so stay tuned!

Sarah xx

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Travel inspires poetry, and poetry inspires travel. When I hit writer's block, just give me an airplane window over the ocean and the wheels turn again.

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19 Responses

  1. This is a beautiful poem Sarah… I can’t possibly even start to write poems, but I do enjoy reading them, and I love how much complexity can be in just a few short lines. And yes, going somewhere new (or to a previously beloved place) always inspires me and breaks my writer’s block! I find that I always make time to write on trips because the words just seem to flow out…. but sadly, sometimes when I get back, I have no more motivation to finish, haha! Have a great return trip to Girona! xx

  2. This was beautiful to read! I like what you said about how you find inspiration, for me too it comes completely unexpectedly from a photograph to lyrics of a song to an art work.. and of course from other writers – you’ve now inspired me to try poetry!!

  3. Beautiful Sarah! So talented! I tend to get writer’s block a lot. I love posting my photographs and in my mind, I have all these things I want to say and when it’s time to type… I just sit there. Have fun on your travels coming up! #wanderfulwednesday

  4. What a beautiful poem! You’re so right about travel being bittersweet – I especially think so because I often have a hard time going back to reality. I always want to stay and learn more, explore more and make more memories! I constantly live between remembering trips of the past and planning future ones and have a totally hard time just being in the moment! 😉

  5. That quote! I’ve never heard it before but it really does hit the nail on the head; it’s all about the feelings and memories of that moment of being in that place.
    And, what a beautiful poem, it’s so lovely and really captures all of the feels – you are so talented!

  6. Wow I’ve said/thought the same kind of thing as that quote so many times! I’ll have to save it, it expresses my feelings so well :). Travel has a way of making you achingly aware this moment comes once–because next time, YOU will be different, too.

  7. This is absolutely phenomenal Sarah. I’m very moved by your words, you are so skilled! I am a poet myself, and believe it or not I was just in the middle of editing my first poetry book (eek) and decided to browse some travel blogs posts. I feel the same way about travel and poetry – the link that is. However if I had to rest on a topic it would would probably be love 🙂 Never stop writing and thank you for the inspiration! <3

  8. Those poems were AMAZING. Brought me right into the scenes and transported me right out of Toronto. And it’s so true. Traveling IS sad. Reading this brought back the pain of lost loves of both places and people left behind because of travel. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  9. That’s such a great quote and poem. I can totally relate to that quote, it’s like the follow up from the pinch me moments – realising this is it, never again will there be a moment like this particular place.

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Oh hey! I’m Sarah, the writer behind Endless Distances. When I’m not here, spilling all my gluten free travel and wellness travel tips, you can… find me on the floor at parties petting the dog.

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