Travel Inspiration: Fiction or Otherwise

A few weeks ago, dreamy photos of Bora Bora floated across my social media platforms, reminding me it’s been six years since I was in that amazing part of the world. It got me thinking: how did I choose that particular speck on the globe of all the specks on the globe there are to choose from? I tapped into the collective memories of Hubby and daughter, KD, who came on the trip. What sparked our imaginations? KD remembered it went something like this:

‘Let’s go to Bora Bora,’ she says.

‘Why there?’ Well, I hadn’t seen the photos at that point so it was still a question. (Warning: once you’ve seen photos it’s all over bar the booking.)

‘I saw it on the Kardashian show. Looks great.’ KD nods her head, thoughtfully.

‘Then no. In fact, hell no!’ I’ll do nothing inspired by the Kardashians otherwise it makes them influencers and God knows I tried hard enough to stop them influencing my daughter in any way. (Still hadn’t seen the photos at this point.)

KD shares a link to a Bora Bora website. My jaw drops and the old travel addict drool starts. Splutter…splutter… Search for reasons to say no. ‘One question: Kardashians aren’t still there, are they?’

‘No.’

I study the website more. The pounding of my heart and rapid breathing denote an adventure is afoot, as Sherlock Holmes would say. I scroll through arial shots of Mount Otemanu, the dormant volcano, presiding over the lagoons, the atoll, the tropical fish, and the stunning flora. Luxury villas beckon, floating over crystal-clear waters, with glass panels set into the floors allowing views from the living room, deck, and even the shower room, of fish swimming underneath. My eyebrows hitch higher at the little boats delivering breakfast to your villa, bedecked with flowers. That’s it. I can now truthfully say I’ve been influenced by KD and this web search. I will say no more about the initial influence. ‘Let’s go.’

We were living in Wisconsin at the time so all it took was a hop from Chicago to Los Angeles, followed by a further eight-hour stumble to Tahiti, chased up with a ferry ride to Mo’orea and a final flight to Bora Bora. Nothing to it.

I typically struggle with jetlag. Not this time. The brain is too busy processing the arial view of the island as it comes into focus. Initially a dark splodge in an ocean of aquamarine, it clarifies into a volcanic cone, ringed by the lagoon in a million shades of blue. Little lines jut from the atoll; the overwater villas of the resorts. The small rotary prop plane lands and the trip through the airport takes about ninety seconds, luggage wheeled to a waiting boat. The backdrop as the suitcases are stowed is Mount Otemanu, and the entire boat ride is one long gasp of disbelief at the beauty of it all. 

‘See, KD says. ‘Told you we should come.’

‘About time you made yourself useful,’ Hubby replies, then mutters something about KD’s college bills.

‘From the mouth of babes,’ I whisper, glued to the scenes splashing by, the hotel pier coming into view, already sure we haven’t booked a long enough trip. The logistical questions follow of how to sell up everything in Wisconsin to move here without ever setting foot back in the US.

Our butler appears. Well, of course we have a butler, darlings.

(Whispers to Hubby, ‘Did you know we had a butler?’ He shushes me, busy acting nonchalant about the whole thing. We’ve spent a lot more time in Motel 6’s than with butlers.)

The tour of the St Regis Resort is another lesson in trying to keep our mouths closed and the gasps to a minimum at the risk of coming across as a little … out of our league. The bicycles are a surprise too. You have the use of them to get from villa to pool to restaurant to boats. No cars anywhere.

I won’t regale you with more details to avoid spoilers for those thinking maybe a Bora Bora trip would be nice. This blog is supposed to be about what influences our choices in destinations but mental images of the spectacular South Pacific refuse to free up bandwidth set aside for blog writing. Focus, Tracey!

Bora Bora in the rear-view mirror, I get back to the question of what influences me to travel to the places I travel. It’s not typically the Kardashians. Thank goodness. Some places are on the beaten track and some are not. Crossing from Belize into Guatemala, being handed from one taxi driver to another on each side of a concrete hut, wondering if we’d just been trafficked, was a unique experience. The ancient ruins of Tikal certainly made the apprehension worth it. I honestly don’t know how we chose that location but chances are good it was mentioned in a book I read.

I travelled to Carcassonne in France after reading The Labyrinth by Kate Mosse. Anne Morrow Lindburgh introduced me to the Connecticut coastline in Gift From The Sea long before I found myself living there. Deborah Lawrenson’s The Sea Garden puts Porquerolles off the coast of France on my TBE (To Be Experienced) list, along with the Oxfordshire countryside recalled in Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson. Sadly, some of my favourite more recent reads see me yearning to experience places it’s unlikely I will ever see, such as Syria, based on City of Jasmine by Olga Grjasnowa, or Iran, based on the exquisite Maman’s Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan. I may have to settle for the images conjured in the extraordinary writing of setting in these tales.

Setting is key in my choices of books to read. I also write about locations and how they make us feel and how they change our lives or influence our decisions. To think that my words could possibly influence another to make travel plans is exhilarating and a little intimidating, to be honest. What if you hate it and mention me in your TripAdvisor review? (Please don’t.) But I thank those of you who have shared with me your own vows to visit places I’ve mentioned in my novels, such as Exmoor National Park or Costa Rica. I have another place for you to add to your TBE list, coming up in my third novel, Life Like Lavender. (No spoilers but have a look at Les Baux-de-Provence. You won’t regret it.)

I’m off to London next week for the coronation of King Charles. I’ll wave to you from the sea of faces on The Mall. I’ll sure there’ll be books written about it.

I wish you happy reading, happy traveling, and happy daydreaming about the next adventure.

Images: author’s own