by | Aug 5, 2018 | Chris Goff, The Writer's Life | 7 comments

by Chris Goff


View entering the harbor, St. Petersburg, Russia

One thing I’ve noticed since becoming a writer is how many of my friends travel to research their books. The question du jour is, are they choosing destinations they want to visit and incorporating them into books or do they have an idea for a book and are then visiting the locations where their stories take place?

In an attempt to weigh in, I decided to take a look at some of my own past travel excursions.
My first BIG oversees trip
The author and Laura

In 1975, my bestfriend from childhood and I took a GAP year from college, saved some money, bought plane tickets and Eurail Passes, and spent six months in Europe visiting 13 countries, making countless friends, sleeping in hostels and pensions, and spending our allotted $5 a day. (At least that’s what the book claimed you could do it on.) If we overspent one day, we underspent the next. Despite a few harrowing adventures, we lived to tell the tale—and I didn’t write anything off. Though, I have used my experiences numerous times in my writing. Is it too late to amend a 43 year-old tax return?

More BIG trips
Danielle in Jerusalem

I’ve been a number of places since then: London, Paris, Venice, Florence, Tuscany… I’ve taken trips to Mexico, Africa and Ireland, and traveled with family and friends.

In 1999, my middle daughter and I lived in Israel for two months. Several of our experiences are featured in my debut thriller, DARK WATERS. Or, at least, our adventures provided the inspiration for a number of scenes. There was the uptick in suicide bombings and car searches; the car bomb that exploded in the market while we were in Tiberias; the soldier making out with his girlfriend at movies with his rifle propped between his knees; and the time we missed our bus stop and ended up south of Tel Aviv in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community dressed like Americans headed to the beach. Another tax return to amend!
Legitimate research.
Kiev/Kyiv, Ukraine
In 2015, I took one trip I did write-off. For two weeks, my youngest daughter and I explored Ukraine, Poland and Germany doing research for my second thriller, RED SKY. My daughter is an eighth-grade social studies teacher and the perfect research assistant. She’s the one who noticed that every woman and girl in Ukraine wears heels. From twelve to eighty, no matter if they wore pants or dresses, they walked the cobblestone streets in three-inch spikes.
L’viv, Ukraine

In Kiev we logged forty miles on our Fitbits. We rode multiple trains through the countryside, and the only reason we didn’t end up in jail crossing the border from Ukraine to Poland was because of Mrs. Dix and my middle-school French. (Next time you see me, ask me about it.)

And most recently…
With husband at Tvinde Waterfall in Norway
This year my husband and I spent a week in Sweden visiting some of my relatives, and then we boarded the Viking Sea for a two-week cruise of the Baltic. Sailing from Bergen, Norway, for the next two weeks we toured the Norwegian fjords and visited Denmark, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Russia and Finland, before returning to Sweden. Eight countries in fifteen days. It was reminiscent of one of my favorite childhood movies, If It’s Tuesday, This must be Belgium, starring Suzanne Pleshette―only nicer. But the main reason for cruising the Baltic Sea was not research related. It was a honeymoon trip, thirty-six years in the making. Still, it’s a safe bet there’ll be scenes in my third Raisa Jordan novel inspired by certain events. Anyone know what percentage of a trip must be work-related in order to write it off
Future travel.
I can’t deny it, I’ve caught the travel bug. I’ve infected my children, extended family and several of my friends.

Adding Rum to the Fish Soup

Most of my travels have been for personal enjoyment (like my recent trip aboard my brother’s new schooner, the Boyd N. Sheppard out of Rockland, ME), and it’s mere coincidence when they’ve come with the added benefit of providing material for the novel-in-progress.

But, for what it’s worth, I may have another research trip coming up. I’ve never been to Prague, and Raisa needs to go there. Anyone know how much fun one can have on a work-related journey before the IRS calls it a pleasure trip?

The Rogues would love to know where you’ve traveled or where you want to go. We also invite you to post comments on our Facebook pageWhat destination is next on your bucket list?

Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Robin Burcell

    Oh, Prague! Let me know when you're going. I want to go! Never been, but it's on my bucket list. Youngest did a summer there for study abroad. She was too chicken to do a whole semester, but once she was there and assimilated, and traveling on the weekends, she wished she'd changed her mind.

    As for writing it off, to me, every trip is research, so you can at least write off your portion. Your tickets, your half the hotel, etc., right? (Not a tax attorney.)

  2. Karna Bodman

    Please tell me too when you are heading to Prague – never been there, would love to do a "Rogue research adventure." As for writing off travel for research, don't think we can amend our returns from years ago — but thinking back, I traveled to a ton of places that I used as settings in more current novels such as the DMZ in the Koreas where I had a "CIA briefing", a dinner inside the Kremlin, having luggage stolen in Brasilia, but there's no way I cold compete with your multitude of travel adventures, Chris. Now, do consult your accountant and let's plan Prague.

  3. Chris Goff

    Sort of how I look at it, too.

  4. Chris Goff

    I imagine there's a statute of limitations on amending a return, LOL. A Rogue trip to Prague. Now there's an idea!

  5. Gayle Lynds

    I loved to travel for a very long time, but now I'm finding I'm nesting. One reason is the misery of commercial flying these days, at least for me. So reading your post, Chris, was a fresh breath of travel air. Bon voyage & happy trails for the next journey. I will enjoy very much your vivid descriptions & adventures!

  6. Chris Goff

    I will do my best to let you experience my travels vicariously. That said, I understand the nesting urge. When I travel a lot, I'm always so happy to come home.

  7. Chris Goff

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.