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How Travel Fills Our Creative Wells

*This post originally appeared on my website in 2018, but I found the lessons learned so fitting again this year that I am re-posting!

Traveling forces us out of what is familiar and makes our brains work differently. I think that keeps us young, vital, and full of creative juice and wonder. And what I continually learn every time I travel is also about “filling the well” and restocking the creative stores. So here are some of the things I’ve learned about my own creativity through travel (and the good news is you don’t have to travel to apply most of them!):

 

  1. Meet Your Writing Colleagues in Person

It’s so so important, in the internet heavy reality of our careers, to meet colleagues in person whenever possible. There is nothing that can replace looking people in the eye, giving them a hug, or sharing a meal (or a round of karaoke!), especially if you have “known” them online for a while.

  1. Eat Real Food

I’ve decided that’s the key to French food—it’s actual food. The dishes are deceptively simple but the ingredients are real—not processed, frozen, sugar added or factory farmed.

  1. Walk and take public transportation

Europe does this really well—whether it’s trains crisscrossing countries or metros within the cities, you can walk and take public transportation almost everywhere. I do this already in a limited capacity in Denver; not only is it ultimately cheaper, better for physical health, better for emotional health, and better for the environment, it’s also better for my creativity. My morning journals and first handwritten drafts now happen during my work commute.

  1. Dress up for no reason.

The French have this effortless chic style that I really dig—messy but beautiful and not overdone. But they put effort into looking nice for no reason. And when you look nice you feel nice.

  1. Don’t spend all day on the internet

Duh, right? But in Europe I didn’t have an international roaming plan, so I was inaccessible much of the day unless I was connected to external wifi. No surprise: I was much happier checking in with my online friends once or twice a day rather than all day long.

  1. Take more pictures

I’m a closet amateur photographer, and it was glorious to express myself visually for awhile rather than always with words. And It’s easy to take lots of pictures in an unfamiliar place. It’s good to take a break from your preferred genre and play a little.

  1. Learn another language

Seriously. It’s proven good for your brain as you age anyway, but as writers it reminds us of the plethora of new words out there. I speak mid-level Spanish already but I stared learning French on the Duolingo app in the spring and I highly recommend it. Just 10 mins a day—10 mins not on social media—and I usually did it on the train while commuting.

  1. Put away the phone.

Europeans have phones, and they will pull them out to text one another, but then they put them away. You do not see Europeans on their phones while sitting at cafes or on the metro. Even if they are alone they are watching the world go by. I felt self-conscious being on my phone in public there. I was happy putting it away.

  1. Eat slowly

I tend to eat very fast, like a starving wolf. I’ve justified this my whole life. I also burn the roof of my mouth regularly. I am now consciously slowing down, lingering and enjoying more.

  1. More cultural cross-pollination, please

Not only was I excited to read for new audiences, but I forgot the joy of also being a new audience member. Both in Paris and Bristol I discovered writers with different sensibilities, styles, and subjects. I felt for the first time ever like I was an “American” writer.

  1. Consume more art

When you visit a place like Europe there’s the unnaturally high consumption of art—daily museums, architecture, music. I consume a lot of art already but I’m lucky to get in one artistic outing a week.  Imagine how creative you would be if you did this as intentionally in your own town?

Happy end of summer! I hope to travel with you soon!
Xoxo

Nancy

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