Writing without Traveling
Normally, I like to visit the places I write about. One of the major reasons I set ICHI in Washington DC, it made it easier for us to investigate. We even took a quick trip to Georgetown to check out the infamous Exorcist Stairs. Let me tell you, those suckers are steep!
But then I hit a scene that I wanted to base in Tibet. Obviously, the budget isn’t there for any kind of trip to Tibet.
So what’s an author to do? Bless the power of YouTube and Google. I found a beautiful place in Bhutan, the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. I spent hours researching, watching videos from traveler’s and reviewing pictures.
Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Bhutan
Taktshang, which is the most famous of the monasteries in all of Bhutan, is located on a 3,120 meter cliff and is more than 700 meters above the Paro valley. The name of this beautiful monastery was derived from the story of Padmasambhava, who was said to have flown to the monastery on the back of a tiger. There are a total of seven temples in the monastery, all of which can be visited, though visitors must either climb to the monastery by foot or ride a mule in order to get there.
Four hours later and about 4,000 words later, I had a beautifully crafted scene. I thought I’d share a bit of it here.
Shia started up at the mountains looming overhead, majestic in their grace. She inhaled, letting the scent of greenery, fresh water, clean air flow over her.
It was good to be home. Or, a home of sorts.
She settled her pack over her shoulders. Her loose linen clothes would keep her cool and warm as she hiked up the trail. She’d donned more traditional garb, with a few modifications and in all black. She bent down, checked the condition of her warm mountain boots. She’d need to replace them after this trek. They’d be worn through and through. Her swords nestled against her shoulder blades. All around her, tourists flowed, snapping pictures, talking excitedly about their expedition. She half smiled. Most would exhaust themselves a quarter of the way into the trip.
She eyed the mouth of the footpath. Barring any incidents with tourists, the hike would take her several hours at best to reach the top. She tucked her phone into a hidden pocket in her shirt, adjusted her pack one more time and set out on the trail, meaning to be well ahead of the pack of tourists milling about waiting for their guide. She wasn’t carrying the required permits and wasn’t interested in delaying herself to get them.
“Excuse me, miss?” a voice called out.
It took a moment for her to realize one of the tourists beckoned her. She glanced over her shoulder. A college student, young, blonde, female smiled over at her. She lifted an eyebrow, but a quick look around told her no one else paid her any attention, or, more importantly, they avoided her gaze so as not to see her. Wise people.
“You wouldn’t happen to be our guide, would you?” she asked.
Shia shook her head. “No, you’re on local time here. They don’t run by clocks. Your guide should arrive in about 10 minutes or so.”
“Oh.” The girl looked heart broken. “Thank you.”
Shia turned back to the trail. She would not offer to take them to the top. Another day, another time, she might have. She needed to move faster than they did. Her feet fairly flew over the rough hewn path. The monks kept the footpath clear enough for themselves to make the trek to town and back. They never made it any easier for their guests to reach them though.
She hiked in silence, letting mother nature’s sounds flow all around her. Out of respect for the monks she’d had Raisa bring her to town rather than the top of the mountain. In the distance she could hear the rush of the waterfall. Rocks and crawling vines littered the ground, making each step tricky. She thought of each step as she took it. She neared her destination as the roar of water added to the sounds of nature flowing around her and colorful flags began to decorate the trees along the path. The fencing went from long sticks thrown together to the more ornate carved designs as she drew closer to the bridge over the falls.
Most of the time I love creating fictional places, but every so often I love blending reality into the fictional realm. I’m looking forward to adding Tiger’s Nest to my bucket list of places to visit.
What places are on your bucket list?
Stacia D. Kelly, Ph.D., is the author of the fiction works, “Phyxe: Goddess of Fire”, “Ichi”, and the upcoming “Gaian.” Her non-fiction work includes “Reduce You”, “Muse”, and “Nine Months In, Nine Months Out.” Read more at www.staciakelly.com.