Travel restrictions might not sound like something that connects to writing, but our growing inability to move about our planet has a direct bearing on how we view the world and how much freedom we have to explore in words the world we observe.
A few years ago, the State of California began to list states that were “off limits” for work-related travel that would be reimbursed. As an employee of Cal State East Bay, this list applied to us. As the last few years have passed, the number of restricted states has grown for reasons primarily related to behaviors and beliefs with which our state does not agree. As of August 20, 2018, the list was as follows:
- North Carolina
- South Dakota
If you are a historian or a mathematician, for example, and your disciplinary association holds its annual meeting/conference in Kentucky or Texas, the state won’t support you financially or in terms of “release” time to attend that conference.
While I’m all in favor of polite disagreement, I worry that this limitation encourages us connect with only those who share our beliefs and values. There has been concern about this in the online environment, but it also applies to face-to-face connections. If we are discouraged from inter-relating with people in states that carry policies we oppose, how will we—or they—have any hope of understanding each others’ points of view, even if we continue to disagree?
For a long time, globally, places have been “off limits.” As a child, I remember being taken to Ephesus and, even at a young age, feeling a sense of amazement and awe, and a desire to visit again when I was older. Today, I have reservations about traveling there for safety reasons, and many parts of the world are on a growing list of “some day, but not now” destinations.
As a writer, travel is an important element of expanding our view of the world and our beliefs about issues, regardless of our writing genre or our subject matter. For a historical fiction writer, the need for travel is more specific. We can read extensively about a period and a setting, but nothing is better than going there for oneself. For a travel writer, I can only imagine what this limitation must mean.