Coming from Wisconsin, where vacation meant a yearly trip up north to go fishing, I was always dreaming of getting out. My parents are such opposites that it makes me smile every time I think about it. My dad is from a rinky-dink podunk town in Wisconsin, where everyone knows each other. Their biggest attraction is Wal-Mart, and the closest Amish community takes all of ten minutes to get to. My mom, on the other hand, grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee. I’m going to take a wild guess and say I take after her.
The summer between 9th and 10th grade, I went to New York for a week with my high school drama club. It was the first time I’d been out of Wisconsin for a reason other than visiting family, and I was enamored. Sure, I was terrified of the crowds here, and how vastly different everything was from Wisconsin, but I loved it all the same. People were constantly moving, and exciting things were around every corner. In Wisconsin, you’d probably find a silo.
I clung to the hope of moving away when I got to college. Deciding study abroad was my best option, I sat down to have some serious discussions with my parents. They gave in much easier than I’d expected, but I suspect it’s because they knew I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. I can be stubborn when I need to be.
So in August 2009, I packed my bags and left the US for the first time, heinous passport photo in hand. After two flights and a lengthy bus ride, we were dropped off in Galway, Ireland, completely soaked, and at a loss as to what to do next.
Luckily, our taxi driver understood our plight and explained how things worked as he drove us to our apartment complex. To this day, I’m sure I’ll never live in a place as nice as I did while in Galway.
We really lucked out in terms of our living situation. Somehow we ended up with the biggest apartment in the complex, and, by my calculation, the best view.
Even my walk to class was eye candy. And the university itself? Don’t even get me started. I’m convinced I spent a semester studying at Hogwarts.
Surrounded by new scenery and new people, how could I not be inspired to write? I kept a notebook on me at all times, and I’ll admit, I spent more time jotting down ideas for stories than I did taking notes for class. Every Saturday and Sunday morning I’d find a new place to write, whether it was a cafe, or a bench in a park. My fingers couldn’t keep up with my brain as it spewed ideas for new and exciting plots. I wrote the first third of my senior thesis while in Ireland, and if I’m grateful for anything, it’s that.
Because, if I’m being honest, I didn’t enjoy studying abroad. And it wasn’t until after I got home that my friends told me that many of them hadn’t either. Your school isn’t going to tell you that. It wasn’t until recently that I really appreciated the time I spent overseas, and now I’m planning for the day when I can go back to visit. Funny how things work, right?
But back in Wisconsin, I was already itching to leave. So what did I do? I moved to DC for an internship.
And I have yet to find a city I love more. Because it’s actually feasible to have a car there (unlike New York), I spent a lot of time learning to navigate the weird wagon wheel-esque grid and figuring out how to use the metro. Where I come from, public transportation is limited to buses, and I don’t use them. DC was a great stepping stone for New York, so I have yet another reason to love it.
I wrote an entire novel while living in DC. Even better, it provided me with a new setting for an old novel I’d written. Inspired by my new surroundings and the fact that I was actually working in publishing, I’d come home at night and type, type, type away. Luckily, the friend I was staying with writes too, so she didn’t care that I was occasionally antisocial. We could be antisocial together which, by definition, makes us social, right?
A concrete jungle where dreams are made of, according to Jay-Z. Admittedly, I was so overwhelmed at first that I couldn’t even think of writing. It takes some time to adjust to living in New York, and there are days where I still find myself wondering what the hell I’m doing. But unlike the first time I was here as a wee teenager, I’m not afraid of the crowds, and the hustle and bustle. Being crammed into a subway car is an everyday occurrence. Being nearly run over by taxi drivers? I don’t even bat an eye. And now that I’ve finally got some semblance of a routine down, I’ve been able to get back into writing. And that, in and of itself, is a source of inspiration.
Sometimes you just need a change of scenery. Whether it’s a new city, a new country, or a new cafe, it helps to switch things up. You never know — maybe you’ll overhear a conversation at a coffee shop and it’ll inspire your next book, or see an outfit that would match your MC perfectly. You won’t know until you get out there. Since I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone these last few years, my writing’s definitely grown, and I think any agony involved in moving was 100% worth it.