Once upon a time, I breathed dry desert air and watched dust devils rise from the ground like smoke from a campfire.
I was on vacation in Arizona, visiting friends. I absorbed new sights and smells and had a wonderful time even though a little guilt niggled at me. I should have been writing! Look at how different it was! Gardens of gravel, heat that didn’t leave me clammy, mountains I could walk up with no tree cover. This could all be fodder for a new story!
The minutes I tried to write were torturous.
Then I went home. Within two days, I wrote a short story that took place in a fictional town, using that slow, hot summer feel along with adobe-colored homes that were reluctant to stand out from the earth and yes, those dust devils. There was dark as well, because sunlight doesn’t change what people do. But that was the made-up part.
It’s fine to soak up atmosphere and write notes or phrases to remember for later. But otherwise, stop writing. Be inside the experience instead of trying to think of ways to describe it. Feel the atmosphere. Taste the food with nothing but pleasure on your tongue (unless, of course, the food creates a different, horrifying experience). Enjoy the sights and sounds that are so different from what you’re used to.
Your camera? Take pictures to enjoy looking at later. But if you’ve forgotten your camera card or your phone dies, it’s okay. Live inside the moment. Refresh. Recharge yourself. Take the time to unwind. Stop looking at every new thing with an eye to using it. You will, you just don’t need to mentally force the connection.
Have a good vacation.