If everything goes as planned, by this time you read this, I'll be on a plane to Japan. Even though I've been to Asia Minor before, this will be my first trip to Asia proper. I'm so excited! For this trip, I've had to make zero planning effort. That's because I'm teaming up with one of my all-time favorite traveling companions, travel blogger Mariana Marshall of http://marianaonthemove.com/, with whom I walked the last 100 kilometers of the Camino of Santiago de Compostela. She is also my daughter.
The advantages of tagging along with a travel blogger can't be understated. My traveling companion carefully researched and selected the itinerary and made all of the traveling arrangements, transportation and lodging reservations. I just get to come along for the ride!
We'll be spending some time in Tokyo and then traveling on to explore Kyoto and its environs. We've got a very long list, but I'm looking forward to staying at a traditional Japanese guest house (ryokan), exploring the natural hot springs (onsens), and riding Japan's fabulous bullet trains.
Packing for Japan in the winter had me asking a lot of questions, but travel bloggers are Girl Scouts at heart, and mine found this awesome packing list from a fellow blogger: http://herpackinglist.com/2012/12/ultimate-female-packing-list-japan-winter/.
My writer's packing list must, of course, include my computer, tablet and cell phone. We don't speak the language, so we've uploaded some interesting apps that might help if all else fails. I'll let you know how that goes.
Technology is a wonderful convenience, but I've learned that, when traveling, it isn't always reliable. So in addition, I'm bringing a good, small, old-fashioned notebook to jot down my thoughts and observations, a few good pens, and my camera, all indispensable tools that will work with or without an Internet connection, and that are suitable to all environments.
But the most important elements for a successful trip are stowed not in my suitcase, but rather in my mind. They include flexibility, openness and imagination. Flexibility is key when traveling, the ability to roll with the punches, accept, adapt and adjust to the changes intrinsic to the traveling experience. From airports to hotels, from technology to people, traveling exposes us to new situations that test our comfort levels and push our boundaries.
An open mind is also vital to the traveling experience. It allows us to see the world for what it is, not for what we think it should be. It also teaches us to value the differences that make each place unique and each culture extraordinary.
And finally, I bring along my number-one writing tool, my imagination, to take in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes that I've never experienced before, to relish the emotions of the journey, to collect the odd, the common and the spectacular, to understand and process the experience of being human. For a gal into world building, the traveling experience is a rich trove indeed.
So, wish me luck.
Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats.
Dora also writes features for Murder By Four, an award winning blog for people interested in reading and writing, and Savvy Authors, where writers help writers.
For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit http://twilighttimesbooks.comthingsTheCurseGiver_ch1.html.