As the ultimate pursuit of curiosity, travel is integral to adaptation, communication, and creativity breakthroughs. Here’s why.
There’s no greater joy in life than meeting people, learning about their lives, stringing together their pearls of wisdom. Such is the case, I’ve spent most of my twenties and thirties treating the world as my oyster.
As a writer who likes to travel, I have always admired Anthony Bourdain (R.I.P.). I think he sums it up best,
“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you.”-Anthony Bourdain
These marks, forever tattooed on our soul, are powerful. They resurface when we least expect, their wisdom taking on new meaning and evolving as we grow and change.
Travel is NOT Vacationing
Before I get in too deep, I’d like to make a delineation between travel and vacationing. Both are amazing. Each have their time and place. There’s no doubt I enjoy kicking back with a sugar-infused overpriced bullshit frozen cocktail on a beach, or cozying up fireside with a book in a cabin in the woods. By my definition, that’s a vacation.
Traveling on the other hand is the ultimate pursuit of curiosity. It pushes you to discover something new about yourself or others. It is marked by highs and lows. It demands flexibility and ingenuity. It challenges you. Traveling is work.
Traveling on the other hand is the ultimate pursuit of curiosity.
To take it a step further, I would argue this is some of the most important work that you do. Not only for personal development, but career development as well. And it is particularly beneficial when working in a creative field. How so? Well, just like the complex nature of travel, there isn’t one simple answer.
Travel Pushes You to Challenge Your Own Beliefs
First and foremost, traveling provides you with the unique opportunity to challenge your own beliefs. There’s one particular trip that comes to mind when reflecting upon this notion. My friend and I were traveling to a region called Tana Toraja in Indonesia. We had read about how this remote culture had an extremely unique perspective on life and death. That is, they live their life in preparation for their death. This differs greatly from American society, where death is often feared and conversations about it tend to be avoided.
Upon arriving, we spent the first couple of days visiting the unique burial grounds and neighboring villages. Our guide, a local Torajan, shared with us their beliefs and traditional rituals. These include living with the deceased, mummified in your home often for over a year, animal sacrifices during funerals, regularly visiting those who are buried, leaving offerings, and annually cleaning corpses exhibiting them in their village with new clothing.
Despite aspiring to have a very open mind, I admittedly struggled with all of the above. And then, we were invited to a funeral. This surely couldn’t be appropriate. Funerals are private affairs…right? We debated whether or not to go. Ultimately, we decided, when in Tana Toraja…
And I’m glad we went. By setting aside my own beliefs to observe the tradition firsthand, it finally became clear to me just how significant this event is to the entire community. The rituals we had learned about took on new meaning. What started as a somewhat bizarre perception in my mind, transformed to one of greater understanding of another culture’s unique grieving process.
Travel Hones Your Empathy Skills
This experience, along with others that I have collected through my travels, constantly remind me to stop and think about others. What is their experience? How do they see the world differently? How do they feel? And through traveling, I have learned to approach these conversations with empathy.
What is their experience? How do they see the world differently? How do they feel?
Traveling to Tana Toraja made me recognize some of the unconscious biases that I held, which is extremely important when working in a creative field. New experiences demand you confront implicit biases head on. Reflecting on this scenario, my mental constructs of death and morality instilled in me as a child manifested in undue preconceived judgements. I am grateful to our guide for sharing their beliefs and for the people of Tana Toraja for greeting us kindly and openly, allowing me to gain a new appreciation for, and perspective on, life and death.
Travel Forces Your Perspective
Forced out of my comfort zone, I hone my ability to find common ground with the people I meet. This makes it easier for me to identify creative solutions that appeal to a broader audience. And on the flip side, immersing myself in unfamiliar cultures very importantly gives me more to draw upon when I’m assessing whether creative may be interpreted as insensitive. Ultimately, travel is integral to providing greater perspective. It creates an opportunity to connect, bringing us back to the heart of what it is to be human.
Ultimately, travel is integral to providing greater perspective. It creates an opportunity to connect, bringing us back to the heart of what it is to be human.
Speaking of what it means to be human, outside of confronting our innate unconscious bias, travel is instrumental in developing our essential ability to adapt. Nature demands survival of the fittest and flexibility is necessary when it comes to surviving the inevitable ups and downs that arise while traveling. One of my all-time favorite quotes sums this up perfectly,
“An adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”-G.K. Chesterton
This quote quickly became the theme for a trip I took with my cousin to trace our family roots in Norway. A word of advice for those visiting Norway – avoid travel during the Christmas and New Year holidays, unless you are visiting friends and family. Norwegians are very family-centric and most of the country shuts down. While I had read this, being an American I could not fathom how this was possible. Surely the grocery will be open for last minute ingredients? And bars must host New Year’s parties, right? Think again.
Travel Thrives On The Unexpected
Needless to say, my meticulously planned trip required regularly devising a plan B, C, sometimes even D. But navigating these daily ‘inconveniences’ created amazing opportunities. Rainy slopes in Lillehammer meant we befriended Anton, who worked at a night club and got us in VIP to the biggest party night in Lillehammer. Shuttered bars on New Year’s Eve resulted in a post-fireworks invite to a black-tie frat party in Trondheim. Cloudy nights while chasing the Northern Lights in the Arctic Circle made for lasting memories as we experimented with camera exposure while running across an icy parking lot with a glow stick. And a drunken Air Bn’B host sparked a friendship that led to a trip to Munich for Oktoberfest the following Fall.
Travel Is Essential To Our Ability To Adapt
Sure, we could have been disappointed by best made plans being crushed. But the ability to adapt and go with the flow made for some of the best memories.
There is magic in the moment.
And it is this sentiment that I think that translates so well to working in creative. I of course always strive to put my strongest and best creative forward first round, but there’s often the inevitable second, third…and sometimes that dreaded thirtieth round. But like in travel, if I embrace the opportunity in inconvenience, instead of resisting change, I open up a door for new ideas and unleash potential for even better final product.
And for all my producer and production manager friends out there, I realize this goes against our every grain. But we, more than anyone, need to be able to think on our toes. Whether I am on location and the weather isn’t participating or conducting an interview that is falling flat, creative solutions lie within these inconveniences. Traveling affords me the ability to recognize opportunity in unexpected places. Exercising these muscles through these new, sometimes unanticipated, experiences may just be what saves or sets my next project apart.
Travel Fuels Our Insatiable Curiosity
While I could write an entire dissertation on the benefits of travel for creative careers, I know that you aren’t coming to this blog looking for that kind of commitment. So, thank you for sticking with me this long! I think we can all now agree, that indeed, there is no simple answer to how travel benefits creatives throughout their career. But it certainly provides us with the opportunity to continue our journey as forever students. Whether we confront our unconscious biases as we explore new cultures or learn how to seize opportunity in the moment…
…we are able to apply our experience and broadened perspective to our work. And quite possibly the coolest thing of all – we as creatives get to use this magic to leave our own mark on the world.
To see more places our staff has traveled… https://www.facebook.com/alteregocreates/photos/pcb.2290197281067644/2290185577735481/?type=3&theater