[Feature photo: D. Miller]

If you’re on your way to being a travel writer, you probably know the condition of roadheart. If not, here’s a take on it. You head out on the road and suddenly everything is amazing. “Whoa! Look! There’s a gang of kids riding bicycles! The clerk in the convenience store has the eyes of an old wise man! Light falls across the little shopping center in the little town five miles from your departure like liquid copper!”

Roadheart is a condition of experiencing that lifts us above routine. For me, it kicks in that instant I drive away from the daily, the required — ie, the computer. If you haven’t felt the gift of Roadheart, try this: Pack as though you were going on a short day hike or climb or research trip: water, a sandwich, your favorite beverage, binoculars, your standard gear — and a notebook and pen. Leave your phone/iPad behind.

Take a day to travel in and around (no more than five miles distant from) where you live. Drive and walk slowly. Take notes in your mind and notebook. Use all your senses. If you decide to stop to eat, go to a restaurant you’ve never gone to. Talk with (“with” – as in listen hard) at least ten people.

If you most often hike the same trails, try a new one. Or go off-trail. If you usually grab coffee or a beer in the same beloved coffeehouse or bar, go somewhere else. Wherever you go, be invisible. Eavesdrop. Pay attention to colors, light, and silence.

Avoid the familiar. Dive into the unknown. Travel the untraveled. The next day, begin writing with this: “I’ve been somewhere I could never have imagined.”