Five ways you can travel more and nurture your creativity - Matt Essam

Five ways you can travel more and nurture your creativity

As I write this, I am on a train travelling through New Zealand. I am here for just over three weeks, mainly visiting family. I have always loved travelling and I am lucky enough to have been to most of the continents on the planet, before the age of thirty. I now find myself getting itchy feet if I don’t leave the country for an extended period at least once every two years. Fortunately, I’m also able to work whilst I travel which makes the whole experience even more enjoyable. Although part of the reason for leaving the country is to escape the depressing English winter, there are other reasons that have become much more apparent to me over the past few years.

When I travel I seek out to try and meet as many like-minded creative and interesting people as possible. One common trait I have noticed is, those creative people also love to travel. They seem to get itchy feet as much as I do and are always planning an adventure somewhere. It also comes up a lot in my one to one coaching sessions that I run with artists. I asked one of my clients recently why travel is so important to them and in response, they said that they felt it was important to gain a different perspective on life and draw inspiration from a variety of sources.  Once I heard this, I noticed how many people have the same motivation. I also realised that it can be a powerful tool when trying to develop new work, or overcoming creative blocks.

Creativity blocks are often due to lack of inspiration from our immediate environment. This often happens when we stay in the same place for too long and start to ignore our surroundings, as there is no new information for our subconscious brain to alert us to. Travelling to destinations and environments we aren’t familiar with, enables us to shift our perspective and draw inspiration from things we may have never been able to experience if we hadn’t left home. Being exposed to new cultures, languages and climates, has a profound effect on our creative output. There has been a great deal of research that suggests taking a holiday (or vacation depending on where you’re from) has positive benefits for creative work. It allows our subconscious to process information and communicate it to our conscious. I’ve written about it more here. Often when we feel stressed or overwhelmed, it’s because our brain is overloaded with information. This essentially means that we cannot process things related to creativity, hence the phrase creative block. By taking time out to travel, you allow your mind to focus on other things which in turn frees up some space to process other thoughts. This is when our creative genius can get to work.

But I have a full-time job, I can’t just jet off to the other side of the world whenever I like!

I hear you, I’m not saying everyone should be able to just sit on a beach in Thailand writing novels for six weeks at a time. However, there are ways that we can take extended breaks that most people don’t try because they just assume it won’t work. Below I have listed five ways you can travel more and nurture your creativity:

1: Go freelance

This is the most obvious one and probably the most difficult. The freelance lifestyle has some great advantages, one of which is freedom. In the right industry, you can work remotely from anywhere that has an internet connection. It’s certainly not for everyone but for those who just can’t fit themselves around a nine to five lifestyle, it may be the answer you are looking for. Check out this article to see if it’s something you would be suited to.

2: Take a sabbatical

One of the easiest but scariest options for a lot of people. If you are good at your job, most employees won’t want you to leave. Therefore, if you said you wanted a six week, unpaid sabbatical, they would be pretty stupid to say no. In my experience, asking for something that requires a fairly big decision, is usually best proposed using a technique called anchoring. This is where you ask for something that is above and beyond what you really desire, such as, a six-month sabbatical first. They will likely reject this straight away but you have set the anchor in their mind for what is acceptable. Then you keep reducing your request until it seems a bit more reasonable. Find out more about anchoring here.

3: Work remotely

This won’t work for all jobs but it does work in a surprising number of cases. Again, if you are good at your job and you could do it remotely, your boss would be stupid not to agree. Anchoring can also be a good technique to use in this situation. I would advise starting with a trial period working from home. Suggest this to your boss and say that if at any point they feel it isn’t working, you will come back into the office immediately.

4: Get a job that involves travel

This one is fairly obvious and most people love the idea, but rarely explore it. There are some occupations that are more suited to travel than others, for example, photography. Do some research in the industry you want to work in and find out what roles usually come with travel as a benefit. Ask around, do you know anyone that travels a lot? What is their job or even role within that company? Could you find a similar role in your industry? Do be aware; business travel can seem glamours from the offset but the reality is often far from it. I regularly speak to people who have been to some exotic parts of the world but only ever saw the inside of an office and hotel room. Do your research and find out specifically what the travel involves before jumping into anything.

5: Save money and quit your job

This is what a lot of people do when they get to breaking point. They are so fed up with their job and the country they live in, they just quit their job and go travelling. I have been travelling quite extensively where I didn’t have a specific reason or purpose for travel. I lived off savings and the odd job here and there, sleeping on sofas and staying with family. It is very different to travelling and working on your own projects or for someone else. It is like an extended holiday and often involves a bit of soul searching and time for reflection. After doing this several times, I definitely prefer travelling with a purpose. I tend to find myself meeting more relevant and interesting people as well as making connections I am likely to keep for a longer period of time. That being said, both of those things are possible when you just explore for the sake of exploring. A balance of the two is important and travailing somewhere to explore without an agenda is great for the soul.

There are lots of ways to travel more and if you are creative, I believe it’s an essential tool which can help us reach our full potential. So travel, make time for it. If you feel stuck, uninspired or like giving up, find a way to take a holiday.

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” – Seth Godin

How often do you travel and how do you do it? Let us know in the comments below.

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