Anyone who’s travelled to a foreign country can tell you that a bit of creative thinking is sometimes a necessity just to get by. But can travel have long term benefits on our creativity? Is a learning holiday to rediscover our creative selves the perfect way to set free the creative gift in all of us?

 There’s no question that taking time out to explore the world has benefits that stay with us long after we’ve settled back into our everyday routine. Not only does travel give us the chance to set aside our daily preoccupations, reset and refocus, it expands our knowledge and perception of the world and deepens our appreciation of our own lived experiences. And it’s precisely this that helps us to not only become more well-adjusted, open-minded individuals, but also provides fuel for reawakening and revitalising the creative parts of our brains.

Travel and creative genius have a long association. From renowned authors such as Ernest Hemmingway to musicians like the Beatles and great painters of the likes of Gaugin , travelling to far-off lands has deeply influenced how, and why they create art.  But it’s not just the artistic giants who experience creative awakenings through their travels.

In recent years, researchers have been studying the link between overseas travel and creativity. As it turns out, travel can be an amazingly powerful tool for discovering, or enhancing your creative abilities, but it does depend on what kind of vacation you choose.

A week lazing by the pool in an all-inclusive resort isn’t likely to do much to ignite the imagination beyond learning a few new cocktail recipes. On the other hand, dropping yourself in the midst a foreign culture completely different from your own stimulates an explosion of activity in the brain. New sights, sounds, smells, tastes and languages all spark different synapses in the brain. Navigating our way through a world of unfamiliar scenes and sensations increases our cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility is the mind’s ability to jump between different ideas, a key component in creativity.

Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of several studies on travel and creativity, explains:

 “The key, critical process is multicultural engagement, immersion, and adaptation. Someone who lives abroad and doesn’t engage with the local culture will likely get less of a creative boost than someone who travels abroad and really engages in the local environment.”

Essentially, immersive travel experiences are exercise for the creative brain, leaving our minds feeling re-engerised and reactivated.  But beyond the science, there are other reasons travel can give us the inspirational breakthrough we need to chase our creative dreams.

For people who set out on journeys with a creative goal in mind, it’s often not simply a change of scenery they’re seeking, but a determined effort to soak up influences and create whilst travelling, with their minds completely free from the daily distractions of home.

Travel can also provide one of the most invaluable experiences a creatively-minded person can have – the chance to see how their artistic medium is interpreted in different cultures, and to interact, and learn from other artisans and creators.

For many, travelling provides the chance to discover and connect with the roots of their chosen art form, and to meet, learn from and be inspired by masters of the craft.

From journeying to China to practice martial arts, to learning tribal drumming and dance in Africa, one can find themselves totally immersed in the practice and creation of art as a way of life, with an unbroken tie to traditions that span generations.

More and more, travel is being linked to a purpose beyond simply relaxing and seeing the sights, instead focusing on exploring the intersection between creativity and cultural exchange.

There are now tour operators who can arrange ballet courses in Russia, and teach the ancient arts of metal, stone and woodwork direct from artisans in India. Work alongside a sculptor in a traditional Indian village and you’ll witness firsthand how generations of knowledge have been passed down, something no institutional training course can provide.

Travel can put us in touch with skills, techniques, aesthetics and ways of thinking that we can learn from to develop our own forms of creative expression. It’s little wonder so many of the world’s artistic geniuses had a deep love for travel. After all, what is creativity but the exploration of the mind, and the world, as we see it?

 To learn more about overseas trips designed to travel, learn and create, visit Skillstourism, a small, ethical tour company that teaches handcrafted stone, metal, woodwork, fabric and painting skills for beginners to professionals, direct from artisans and craftspeople in a traditional environment.

Guest blog post Written by: Fiona Davies 20th May 2016

‘Fiona Davies is a Sydney-based freelance writer who regular writes for well-known publications on lifestyle, travel and adventure.”

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