Traveling the World to See New Cultures
By gsnyder, Sep 16 2012 11:54PM
One of the great things about writing a novel that takes place in different countries was the research that was required. In writing One Moment in Time, I spent three weeks in Italy, two days in Pacific Grove, eight days in Mexico (seven in Oaxaca and one in Mexico City), and five days in Sonoma. As Jack learned about new cultures and languages, so did I.
In Italy, I realized how similar the Spanish and Italian languages were. Although I was years removed from my Spanish classes in college, the words came back to me rather quickly. I was able to understand about a third of the words I was exposed to, either written or oral. This came in handy when my friend George and I went to Trattoria Milanese in Milan. Just like in the book, there was no English translation on the menu. When George said he wanted something with meat, I found three items with “carne” listed in the description. He picked one, and ended up with a plate of seasoned raw ground beef. I didn’t say I was fluent in Italian, just that many words crossed over from Spanish. Sorry George.
The rest of my trip in Italy allowed me to experience history, culture, and cuisine in an up-close and personal way. If you ever think of going to Italy, here’s a tip I got from a former colleague of mine… Start in the north and travel south. In each city have a pizza. Your first pizza in the northern part of Italy will taste fantastic, but as you move south, you find the pizza becomes more fresh and flavorful. It’s a fun experiment, which proved to be true for me.
I traveled to Oaxaca (pronounced wa-ha-ka), Mexico by myself, and loved every minute. In the mornings, I would walk the town and do research, then go to the wonderful restaurant in the Camino Real (see the picture of the interior courtyard on the photos tab), and write for an hour or two. Then I would go back out in the afternoon for more research and sightseeing. In the evenings, I would enjoy a wonderful three or four-course meal (for under $30) while reading a David Baldacci thriller. Afterwards I would enjoy the warm night and slowly stroll back to the hotel, where I would spend four or five hours writing the chapters that made up the Mexico segment. I would highly recommend a vacation to Oaxaca. It’s affordable and a fabulous place for a trip. Oaxaca is an hour flight south of Mexico City and is about eighty miles north of Guatemala.
My other trips to Pacific Grove (between Monterey and Carmel, California) and Sonoma, were very different. Since I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, each was less than a two hour drive. In both locations, I was pampered with nice hotels, great food, and breathtaking scenery. I didn’t have to worry about a new language or a different culture, but I did try to see the world through the eyes of Jack, Maggy, and Ana.
So even if you don’t write a novel, I would recommend getting out and seeing the world. It’s full of incredible sights, people, food, and culture that is unlike anything you can experience at home.