Planning, for travelling and for writing - Jo Carroll

It's that time of year again. The nights are drawing in and our thoughts are turning towards the winter.

Which means my thoughts are turning towards a winter trip. Where shall I go this year? I've long since abandoned any soul-searching about why I go away in the winter, leaving the rest of you in the dark and the cold. Just as I've long since stopped trying to work out why I write. I just do.

And researching the trip has writing parallels as well. Firstly, to choose a continent: I want to go to Africa as it's the only continent apart from Antarctica that I've not visited on my own. (Would I explore a new genre for the same reason? Possibly.)

Africa is huge. So I need to narrow things down a bit. Firstly: I'll stick to sub-Saharan Africa. That's still huge. So the next exclusion is anywhere obviously unsafe. In spite of all the hoo-ha, a trawl through the Foreign Office website and a couple of travel forums show that that most of Africa is fairly safe. Though I think I'll give the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia a miss.

Next, how easy is it to get about? Things begin to get tricky here, as some countries are fine in the dry season but have impassable roads in the wet.

Then, is there enough to of a tourist industry for me to be able to find agents and hotels? Will there be stuff to do? I don't need to be entertained every day, but I do want to get out and about and meet people and see the countryside.

Then - and this is often my final question and often a deal-breaker - are there elections when I want to visit? I choose not to visit any country when there are elections (I'm glad I'm not in America at the moment!).

The result: I'm off to Malawi after Christmas, for six weeks. I've a hotel in Lilongwe for three nights, and then ... who knows?

I approach each new writing project like that. I love every minute of the research, the planning, the what if ... then ...

And you? Even those of you who hate planning, surely you have a process of preliminary thinking that sets you off? Or do you really just start with a blank page and go for it?

(Maybe one day I'll try I turning up at an airport and seeing where the next flight goes?)

If you want to read more about my previous trips, follow the links on my website:


Sandra Horn said…
It sounds wonderful. Have a great rip!

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