Stories: Passports without borders


Stories are passports without borders. Stories are passports without visas. Stories are passports to adventure. Stories are passports into the exotic and the extraordinary. Stories are portal doors into worlds unknown. Stories are magic carpets.

One of the first reasons that made me fall in love with stories is the ability to travel to exotic places, experience exotic cultures all without leaving my chair. I love traveling and often call myself a Gypsy at heart. New places usually mean new people to meet and new adventures to experience. In an unknown place the average and ordinary can suddenly become extraordinary. Having a coffee in my local cafe is very been there, done that. But having a coffee in some little plaza in an Italian village on the Amalfi coast would immediately be extraordinary for me. In the same way, that Italian local may find having coffee in my local cafe an extraordinary event.

For this reason I have always read books that are based in foreign countries and even foreign cultures. I come from South Africa, now live in New Zealand – to me neither of these two places is exotic. They are what I know. They are familiar. But when I have told American friends that I come from South Africa and now live in New Zealand – they are always fascinated. They want to know if I have seen lions in the wild. When I tell them that we had a family of leopard living on one of the farms my father managed, they go: “WOW!”. They want to know all about New Zealand especially since the Lord of the Rings Trilogy that really put NZ on the map. But for me exotic places are in Europe or in Central Africa/Northern Africa or the Amazon in South America. But I doubt those same locals who live in these areas think that they live in an exotic locale.

That is the joy of reading stories and in my case going one step further and creating your own stories. I love writing about places I have not been because I find often what may be fairly ordinary to the locals there becomes extraordinary and special in my fresh eyes. One of my favourite pastimes is searching for fresh inspiration for not just story ideas but setting ideas. Pinterest (new addiction) comes in as a very useful tool in these moments. I also love reading/studying/researching the history of each setting and often finds it seeds an idea in my imagination that I let lie and germinate to see what it could potentially blossom into. Nowadays with the ease of the internet and software like Google Earth/Google Maps your research into a place can become acutely accurate down to the street names and the name of that cafe on the corner in that Italian village on the Italian Amalfi Coast.

But at the end of the day the best research you can do when checking out a setting in an exotic locale (if traveling there is absolutely ruled out) is to talk to the locals on the internet. In this day and age there is an internet group for just about everything and there are blogs for just about every type of subject. So I trawl the blogosphere and see if there are any local-specialised blogs devoted to the locale I want to set my story in. Setting is so much more than just a geographic location or street names. Setting is also about the quirks that make that place unique. Is there a particular smell? Smell is a big one. For instance when I smell oranges and lemons I immediately think of Athens, Greece. One of the strongest memories of my time spent there 12 years ago was the tree-lined streets with trees heavy with oranges and lemons. So the smell of oranges and lemons now sums up Athens for me. Location bloggers will give away a lot of these type of tidbits in their blog posts. And most people are always flattered when you tell them you want to learn more about their home because you find it fascinating.

So while I have begun writing on my next project I have been trawling the internet for setting ideas. So I will leave you with some images from my Pinterest board. Some of them are definite settings in my story and some of just teasing seeds of inspiration right now…Mum’s the word (for now) on which settings I am actually going to be using in both the current WIP and upcoming ones. Perhaps you can guess which settings I have chosen.

Perhaps you have been to these places or live there. I would love to know at least 2 quirks that I could not find out from the internet that is unique to each place. Leave me a comment in the comments.

Tell me>> What exotic places would you like a story to be set in? What places grab your imagination?

Source: weburbanist.com via Kim on Pinterest (Abandoned mountain town in Sardinia, Italy)

Source: worldtopjourneys.com via Kim on Pinterest (Manarolo, Cinque Terre, Italy)

Source: toptenz.net via Kim on Pinterest (The City of the Caesars, Patagonia, South America)

Source: underthesunexperience.blogspot.co.nz via Kim on Pinterest (Carcassonne, Languedoc Roussillon, France)

Source: earmchairtraveler.blogspot.com via Kim on Pinterest (Meteora, Greece)

Source: accommodation-bol.com via Kim on Pinterest (Dubrovnik, Croatia)

Source: une-deuxsenses.blogspot.com via Kim on Pinterest (Swallow’s Nest, Crimea)

Source: toptenz.net via Kim on Pinterest (Angkor-Wat, Cambodia)

Source: weburbanist.com via Kim on Pinterest (Gunkanjima, Japan – “Ghost Island”)

Source: roman-empire.net via Kim on Pinterest (Herculaneum, Italy)

All imaged embedded via My Pinterest boards – Feel free to follow me there…

14 Comments

  1. Here’s a strange thing that has just occurred to me: I find learning about other people’s days to be far more fascinating than learning about different places. Yes, I also love the idea of the exotic, and have often experienced the invigorating rush of doing something “ordinary” in an “extraordinary” setting. But what really draws me in is learning the little trivialities of a real person’s life. You are fascinating already, yet I realize I know almost nothing about you. Do you hate hot weather? Prefer dark roast coffee? Hate drier lint or love knitting? As for the topic of your post, hmmm. I actually get really excited to read about places I’ve been or lived. Who doesn’t want to read stories about coastal Virginia, how exotic. 😉 As a sci-fi fan, I’m really open to stories set in a “non-places” with inhospitable environments. Give me some interesting people details, and I’m happy, no matter the setting.

    Sorry for rambling! Love the photos. One thing I do know about you (and you’ve also stated it yourself somewhere): you are highly visual, and I get the sense you have a tremendous sense of style.

    1. Trust Aniko to challenge me to dig deeper 🙂
      Ok…quick answers to your burning questions:
      Hot weather > I LOVE hot weather. If I could live in a place with no winter I would be incredibly happy. I hate the cold. Hate winter, Hate snow. I was in the UAE and Oman about 3 years ago and I absolutely loved the 40degree (celsius) hot, dry weather. I was in my element.
      Coffee > I am VERY fussy with my coffee. I hate bad coffee. If I have to drink instant, it is always a dark roast or an “espresso” blend. For proper coffee, a dark roast Kenyan is my favourite. For cafe coffees, my favourite is espresso and macchiato. Funny quirk. I hated coffee as a teenager and only drank hot chocolate or hot milo. But when I traveled to Greece, the drink choices were coffee or ouzo so I could not drink ouzo all the time without falling over so coffee it was. But my Greek brush with coffee has ensured that I am VERY particular with my coffee now.
      Drier lint > Does anyone love it…lol?
      Knitting > YUCK! I am not a knitter. Although I have been known to do some candle-wicking in my time. I am lucky in that my mom is a brilliant knitter so I have had many homemade jumpers/jerseys made for me by her.
      Hope that satisfied your burning curiosity 😉
      Always love having you stop by. 🙂

      1. Awesome! Thank you for replying to my sort of insane and definitely off-topic comment. I am also happiest in hot weather. Where I live now, it is rare to get a hard frost in the winter, and I don’t miss the cold. I love coffee, and I’m with you on it needing to be good. I also prefer it to be insanely hot. What else? I don’t enjoy drier lint, and I don’t knit. Hope you have a productive, positive, and restful week!

        -aniko

        1. I knew there was a reason I like you 😉
          Meant to be friends hey… 🙂

  2. Very fun! Love your pinterest setting ideas. I’ve been dabbling in Pinterest lately too, and find the inspiration for writing fabulous! Great post.

    1. Hi Char 🙂
      Pinterest is fantastic. I enjoy it because I can link back to the original posts especially for research purposes without having to have a file of internet bookmarks cluttering up my browser.
      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  3. I know this is apples and oranges, but I remember when I was working in Hawaii I was shocked at all the promotions for winning a trip to Las Vegas. I was always like, “Really? You live in paradise, and you want to go to Las Vegas?” But they all did. It’s cliche, but “it’s all relative.” Personally, I think New Zealand and Africa seem completely exotic and fascinating, but just because I’ve been there.

    Setting is a funny thing (we must be on the same page, Kim. You’ll see when you get to the end of my post this week). It plays such an important role, especially in Sci-Fi/Fantasy stories. I spend a good bit of time at the beginning of the year with my students talking about how setting can define and/or confine a character (actually, to get them to make it personal, they have to write an essay about how their own personal setting has defined/confined them as a person).

    Those were some great pics. And what a great idea about connecting via the internet with people in other countries to get information. Sometimes I forget what a great tool the internet can be for a writer.

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

      1. LOL…Yes I saw that typo 😉
        We must have been on the same page this week…not for the first time our posts have synchronized…Great minds think alike….hey, hey 😉

  4. I’d actually really love to read a story set in your native South Africa, Kim – I’ve never been to Africa, but the place absolutely fascinates me.

    I live in Italy these days, and though I’ve been to the Amalfi Coast it was a long time ago. I notice that you also tagged this post ‘Cinque Terre’, and I went there not so long ago. There are lots of little peculiarities. Of course, this being Italy, the food and drink spring to mind: you can find local specialities there that you just can’t find anywhere else, even in other regions of Italy. There are plenty of other things. The way the local dialect is pretty much incomprehensible to outsiders, even other Italians. The way the mountains seem to plunge directly into the sea. The incredible intensity of the colours.

    The most interesting thing about Italy from my point of view is the Italian character. I’ve lived here for some years, I’m married to an Italian, but I swear I’ll never understand Italians. It’s impossible to speak about these things without making some pretty sweeping generalisations, but it seems to me that Italians have a curious mixture of innocence and knowingness, of sweetness and cynicism … I’ve never encountered anything quite like it anywhere else. It’s fascinating and charming, but completely incomprehensible!

    1. Hi Mari 🙂
      Well the good news is…there will be stories set in South Africa…Watch this space for more.
      I must twist your arm on local info about Italy one of these days. Yes I have heard of this particular idiosyncrasy of the Italian character from other friends who have been there.
      Thanks again for stopping by 🙂

  5. Sadly, the odour of oranges and lemons in Athens is now overlaid with the overwhelming stink of heavy traffic. Or it was on my last visit. Most things change over time. I remember childhood holidays spent on the East Coast of England at Cleethorpes and on a recent return was delighted to find the same delicious pong of greasy fish and chips and candy floss wafting along the sea front. The only difference was that it was now mixed with the smell of onions from burger stalls and the occasional waft of curry.

    1. Hi JD 🙂
      Just from your description I can picture the East Coast of England. Smells are so evocative.
      Yes I agree there is heavy traffic in Athens and the drivers there are NUTS…I was terrified to cross the roads for fear of being driven over.
      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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