Look for and photograph interesting textures, shapes, and colors. You can find plenty of images of famous landmarks and objects online. But when you’re there in person, try to truly see what’s before you. Find beauty in tiny spaces. Notice details and patterns. Consider the thought processes of the creative minds that developed them, and the hands of the laborers who built them.
Every night, think about the most surprising thing you saw or learned that day. Camels used by the U.S. Army in the Big Bend region of Texas in the 1860s? Yes! An international scale, high-profile art installation in the lonely desert 30 miles from Marfa, Texas, that is a replica of a Prada store—followed by an anonymous, during-the-night transformation of a railroad building into a Target store about sixty miles away in Marathon? Yes! And get acquainted with other travelers. You can learn a lot from the person next to you on the plane or at the breakfast table.
Play the “what if” game. What if you sold everything you own and moved to the place you’re visiting? What if your antagonist had grown up there? What if you had to make this place the setting of your next work? What if you had a lecture and book signing scheduled next week at the largest venue there?
Ignore the work awaiting you back home. Getting away for a while stimulates our brains, makes us more open minded, and boosts our creativity. And breaking with our daily routines can bring us those “aha” moments that we so often get while in the shower or washing the dishes. To the extent possible, leave your cares behind and make the most of your time away.
Century plant at the Gage Hotel, Marathon, Texas; wall at the Fort Davis National Historic Site, Fort Davis, Texas; wallpaper in the women’s restroom at the Murphy St. Raspa Co., Alpine, Texas; locks on the fence behind Prada Marfa, Marfa/Valentine, Texas