I don’t normally write poetry while travelling, with the exception of a few random lines here and there. On this trip, however, I did fill one-hundred-and-six pages of a travel journal. But as a writer, you can get more out of travelling than copious notes on the appearance of local junk shops and unfortunate spelling mistakes on menus. If you travel to a country where you speak the language, you have the opportunity to learn endless oddities you’ve never heard about before—for instance, while in Budapest I learned that the Hungarian word for paradise is the same as the word for tomato, and managed to find a copy of Milton’s Tomato Lost in a used bookstore. If you travel somewhere where you can’t speak to others, you have the chance to see everything you miss when you get caught up in text and easy communication. Everything you do suddenly becomes an adventure, as you muddle through the simplest of tasks. You also get to see how people react to you when you can no longer speak to them—suddenly, you have to really communicate with them, paying close attention to their body language and facial expressions. You also have a chance to see how other people live, even if their culture is in many ways similar to your own. Everything from only having coffee to stay, to closing all the shops on Sunday pushes you just a little to rethink your automatic actions and reactions to the world around you. This defamiliarization of mundane details makes everything stand out more sharply, making the world more poetic. Most of all, travelling changes the way you see home. Returning from a long trip always makes Calgary seem new and a little strange to me. The streets seem wider or more narrow, the buildings are taller or shorter, the people or more friendly or suddenly distant, depending on where I have returned from. No matter where you go, or how close or far away it is, travelling refreshes the world around you—a quality travelling shares with poetry. Even you don’t want to write about your trip, it’s hard to not be inspired to write upon returning home… suddenly, everything is new again.
Helen Hajnoczky holds a BA Honours in English and creative writing from the University of Calgary, where her research focused on feminist avant-garde poetics. Her work has appeared in Nod, fillingStation, Rampike, and Matrix magazines, as well as in a variety of chapbooks. She is the current poetry editor of fillingStation magazine. Her first book of poetry, Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising, is forthcoming from Snare Books.