Like all works of fiction, fantasy stories revolve around characters and plot. However, in a fantasy novel, the world itself can also be a major part of the story. A good fantasy book sweeps the reader into another realm, perhaps a place of enchantment or magic, maybe a land of fear or terror, but always somewhere different.
For that reason, foreign travel and fantasy have always been linked in my mind. Stepping into a country where people speak in an unfamiliar language is magical. (And if they write their words without using the familiar alphabet, so much the better!) Castles, pyramids, dungeons, ancient glyphs, statues, temples, cathedrals, and walled cities are the stuff of legends. Merely to walk within sight of them stirs the imagination.
While travel is certainly not a prerequisite for fantasy world building, I have always found it helpful. I do some of my best writing while traveling. The novel (no pun intended) sights, sounds, and smells carry the seeds of a larger-then-life realm. There is no substitute for standing beside the parapet of an actual castle and looking down at the countryside. Other tourists may be taking pictures of the hotel below (and so am I), but part of me is seeing knights and besieging armies instead of parking lots and cars.
Even relatively mundane things can kindle (ok, this pun was intentional) the imagination. I remember walking through an outdoor “wet” market in Singapore and seeing exotic fruits and vegetables which I couldn’t even name. I suddenly felt as if I had stepped into a fantasy kingdom.
Part of fantasy world building is creating a sense of otherness. To travel is to experience that otherness first hand. It can be a marvelous inspiration. I highly recommend it for all budding fantasy authors.
Of course, I also recommend that you wait until after the pandemic to start your exploring. At the moment, it is best to confine your travel to the written worlds of our fellow authors.