ibn-battuta4It seems to be the case that some of the best writers tend to also be travelers. In fact, one of the fastest growing genres in creative non-fiction is travel writing. With the success of mega travel writing hits like Eat, Pray, Love and others, it’s not hard to imagine why readers enjoy reading about the travels of others through their books.

Reading itself is a kind of traveling, where new and exciting places take form in the mind’s eye and we get to meet all kinds of characters on different adventures. The sights, sounds and smells that are evoked when we read excellent writing have a power all unto themselves. In fact, psychologists note that there is little difference between actually experiencing something, seeing someone else experience it or reading about that experience.

So we know that traveling makes for better reading and that reading is a kind of traveling, but how does travel affect your writing, even if you’re not penning prose about being on the road?

New Perspectives. The most obvious way is by offering new ways of looking at things by being exposed to landscapes and people never before experienced. The sensations of a new place can have a similar neurological effect as learning a new skill or hobby, so it’s no surprise then that traveling to different places will cause your brain to grow and adapt in marvelous ways. Being challenged on a regular basis and having to come up with quick solutions keeps you thinking on your toes. This is particularly helpful when there are linguistic hurdles to overcome during travel. You start to deeply value your mother tongue and your ease of communication while using it; however, the reality of having to make yourself understood is the challenge of every writer, well-travelled or not. Traveling just makes you better at understanding the challenge and more inventive in finding ways around it, even when your audience speaks/reads your mother tongue too.

Sensory Data. The sheer volume of inviting things found while traveling will be enough inspiration to produce encyclopedias of writing. It is not even that you have to write about these new things. It is that you get to look at things with a fresh pair of eyes. Like any artist, a writer gets to explore with the eye and translate what they see through words. The more practice you get in learning to describe even the most foreign things to your home audience, the better a writer you will be.

Othering. Most of the time when you travel, a form of othering starts to naturally take place where you start to measure yourself against the culture in which you find yourself traveling. While this can have negative consequences when a value (ie. good or better) is assigned to either your culture or theirs, it can be a positive practice when this juxtaposition is used for the purposes of illuminating the familiar and the forgotten in ourselves and our worldviews. Unsettling ourselves from our cozy cultural abodes is the first step to being able to write about them properly. It’s not an outsider’s view per se, but one that combines disparate threads of knowledge to make a cohesive picture through the written word.

Stay tuned for The Drawing Board’s list of top travel books of all time, our “Countries Traveled” list, and our “Wish List” for future travel destinations .

dubaiNot a lot of people realize that we write and design catalogues, eBooks and informative handbooks at The Drawing Board. This past month, we had the incredible experience of developing an employee handbook guide about doing business in Dubai for one of our favourite clients! The experience of researching, writing and designing the handbook was great and we learned so much about Dubai that now we are thinking of booking a trip there! This is just one of the many perks of writing for a living and getting to work with ultra-cool businesses. Below are some of the fun facts we learned about Dubai in the process of our writing…

1. The Emir of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed is worth more than $4 billion and has been a visionary in expanding and developing the city. He is responsible for its massive growth and has spent much money on entrepeneurial, arts and charity endeavours to raise the status and prestige of Dubai.

2.Dubai is part of a federation of 7 emirates called the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which are ruled by hereditary Islamic rulers.

  1. Stuffed camel is a popular dish in Dubai, particularly for special occasions. Al Harees is also popular and is a dish made of meat mixed with wheat paste and baked.
  2. The official religion of the UAE is Islam but they are also tolerant of religious diversity and host a large population of Hindus and Christians. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and is part of the Abrahamic tradition which includes Christians and Jewish people. Muslims typically pray 5 times per day so don’t be surprised if you see people pulled over on the side of the road, prostrating on little prayer rugs. It is a normal part of everyday life and is as natural as anything there!
  3. Developing strong personal relationships with potential business partners is very important. It is customary to have longer conversations with business contacts and to ask about their family and personal life (within the boundaries of decency), health and wellbeing.The work week is from Sunday to Thursday. Try and schedule meetings during this time and do not plan meetings on Friday, which is the Muslim holy day and a day of prayer and rest.

6. Some of the top sites to visit in Dubai are the following:

Burj Khalifa: The tallest man-made structure in the world at 2,722 ft. high. Outside the building is The Dubai Fountain which cost $217 million, is illuminated by 6600 lights, runs 275m long and shoots water490 ft in the air.

Dubai Creek: The original saltwater creek that formed the main sector of the city’s economy. Has been artificially extended and there are plans for further extension into The Lagoons in the future. Worth a cross to see great views of the city and crossings.

Dubai Museum: The main musuem in Dubai and located in the 1787 Al-Fahidi Fort, the Dubai Museum aims to present the traditional way of life in the Emirate of Dubai. It also shows life before the advent of oil.

DUBAI MALL : The largest mall in the world and is part of the $20 billion Downtown Dubai complex. Home to 1200 shops, the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, as well as the Ice Rink. Top of the line shopping experience.

PALM ISLANDS : Another amazing artificial archipelago in Dubai. Its aim is to extend the Dubai coastline into the Persian Gulf by 520km and is home to a number of hotels and resorts.

THE WORLD: An artificial archipelago constructed in the shape of the world map, located in the Persian Gulf, four kilometers off the coast of Dubai. They are supposed to be developed commercially with time.

SKI DUBAI : Inside the Mall of the Emirates, Ski Dubai is an indoor ski resort with 22,500 square meters of indoor skiing area. In case you think it is child’s play, it boasts a 400m long run and the world’s first indoor black diamond run.

JUMEIRAH MOSQUE : The most photographed house of worship in Dubai, this mosque is worth a visit for its beautiful architecture and a real cultural experience. Tours for non-muslims are available.

JUMEIRAH BEACH: This white sand beach is in the heart of Dubai and features numerous resorts, the Wali Wadi Waterpark and luxury hotels that are (literally) the best in the world.

BURJ AL ARAB HOTEL: This is the only SEVEN star hotel in the world and is one of the world’s tallest. Its central atrium alone is 590ft tall. One of its restaurants, Al Mahara (The Oyster) is accessed via a submarine voyage in a seawater aquarium. A tour is well worth the visit but staying there is highly unlikely. The Royal Suite goes for $18,000+ per night!

DUBAI DOLPHINARIUM: The world’s first fully airconditioned indoor dolphinarium has its home in Dubai. The dolphinarium has a number of shows to choose from and is incredibly popular with the public.

FALCONCITY: An unprecedented project, this is the creation of a mini-city in Dubai that houses life-size models of all the wonders of the world including the Pyramids of Giza, the hanging gardens of Babylon and much more. Under construction.

SAFA PARK:This beautiful park is in the center of the city and measures around 64 hectares. It contains 3 lakes, over 200 species of bird, and nearly 17,000 species of plants. There are waterfalls, touring boats and beautiful fountains.