The way travel shapes our identities and sparks creativity

Have you ever wondered if there is a correlation between travel and creativity?

We at the Artsbot believe so! While researching the topic of travel and creativity, I read about this super interesting social psychologist, Lile Jia who studied at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.  Ironically, my daughter is a rising senior at IU. Dr. Jia studies the benefits of travel and how the concept of distance effects creativity.

When we are home in the daily grind of life, and we are up close with problem and situation, it is believed that our thinking is much more concrete, literal and unimaginative.  When we can “get away”, social scientists believe that our thinking can take more of an abstract course.

Some of the greatest pieces of art, literature, and invention were created while traveling. Ernest Hemmingway was writing while traveling through Cuba.  Gaugin was painting while traveling though Tahiti, Mark Twain was aboard a ship and wrote his bestselling book, “Innocents Abroad”. The solution to the problem of quantum electrodynamics, which is the theory of radiation and atoms, was discovered by a physics researcher while riding a bus in Kansas.

What happens to our brain when we travel?  

We are away from the usual scenery, the usual activity, and our normal everyday thinking.  Getting away from it all, sitting on the beach, climbing a mountain, or being immersed in some exotic culture opens the mind to new possibilities, new viewpoints, new problems, and new solutions.  

Matt Hershberger wrote an interesting article about things that science tells us about travel and creativity.

Travel Stimulates the Mind  – Our brain is environmentally sensitive, so when we find ourselves in a new environment, our senses are stimulated through experience, culture, people, food smells and customs.

Travel Makes One More Open-Minded – It creates the ability to make connections based on travel experiences.  We gain insight into people and their lives.

Time Abroad Correlates with a Creative Output – My daughter is returning on Saturday from a semester abroad in Barcelona. For many kids, this is the first time they are really living on their own.  They need to navigate transportation, cook for themselves, manage money in different currencies and communicate with people who may not speak the same language. Well, my guess is that it is time to access that creative mental bank and start figuring things out.

A study performed by social scientists at Northwestern University studied just exactly what I just described.  However, further studies show that people who lived away and creatively navigated new challenges score better on puzzles and problem-solving.

Many fashion designers are known for creating interesting collections spending time abroad.

The ArtsBot actually started on a flight to New York from a vacation in the Dominican Republic.  I too was away from the usual routine of life and I guess I was seeing things differently, and more abstractly.  I came up with a creative, screen-free solution for traveling families and families on the go. Our kits are compact, mess free and are TSA compliant.  Our company combines the love of travel with creativity and imagination in a “Creativity to Go” friendly, approachable presentation.

The Most Creative People are Ones Who Immerse Themselves in Other Cultures – There are people who travel and see very little and those who really take the time to meet the locals and learn from them.  When traveling through Kenya, there were 2 options to get to the Masai Mara. One was take a quick flight from Nairobi, or to do the 6 – hour drive.  We chose to do the drive. There is no question that much is lost to take the quick flight. To see the culture, meet the locals, hold their babies, visit their homes and shop in their market, one must do the drive.  This is truly where the magic of creativity lies.

Travel Helps Us Identify Who We Are –   According to USC professor, Mary Helen Immordino- Yang, “the ability to engage with people from different backgrounds other than ourselves, and the ability to get out of one’s own social comfort is helping to build a strong, acculturated sense of self.

It is this type of thinking and experience that shape our identity and opens our minds to endless, imaginative, creative possibilities.