5 Tips to Enhance Your Creativity Abroad

Traveling abroad is an excellent way to expose yourself to new ideas and spark your creativity. As a designer, I travel to foreign lands to refresh my train of thought and to see things in a different light. There is unlimited potential out there to learn something new that can fuel fresh ideas. Everything you experience is filtered through your soul and your creativity is an expression of that. I’ve given you a few tips below that can help you enhance your creativity when traveling abroad.


1. Choose the right destination.

Choosing a destination that you will get the most out of is important but is sometimes difficult to plan. If you haven’t been to a place before, how will you know what it is like? Honestly it can be kind of a hit or miss, but if you want to maximize your creativity, you probably don’t want to go somewhere that is exactly like home. The more different things you can plunge into, the more new things you can learn. For example, if you travel to a destination where you don’t speak the local language, you might learn how to communicate more effectively with your hands and facial expressions. This forces you to get creative with your body language and trains your mind to process information in a different manner.


2. Leave your preconceptions and opinions at home.

If you carry stubborn opinions locked and loaded to spring onto others, you are only going to block the potential absorption of a new perspective. Whether it be political agendas, religious beliefs or even cuisine preferences, try to be as flexible and understanding as possible. You don’t want your brain to be stale and hard like an old sponge. You want to be able to absorb all the new ideas you’ll encounter. You don’t travel abroad to learn what you already know. You will be much better received if you are interested in learning about the lives of others. In return for your curiosity and interest, locals will begin to open up and show you a side of themselves that foreigners wouldn’t normally see. Being close minded will only hinder your creative potential, while being open to the unknown will propel you to exciting new places.


3. Immerse yourself in local culture.

Get off the beaten path. In touristy areas, there are usually cultural facades that have been tailored by merchants and salesman to appeal to foreigners. Most of the time, this display of culture does not accurately represent the true essence of what a place is. Try to move past the tourist gimmicks and experience the culture for yourself. Jump in and talk to the locals. Even if you don’t speak their language they will engage you in one way or another. Talking and relating to people opens up the door to a more accurate reality of a place. The spirit and soul can be revealed through simple interactions with locals. Don’t be afraid to try different foods, absorb the scents and smells, learn a new dance, or generally make a fool of yourself. This will awaken senses and emotions that you never knew existed before, allowing a new breeding ground for your creativity to blossom.


4. Start a collection of materials.

Begin to gather a collection of symbols, cultural icons, patterns, textures, colors, fabrics, etc., to use as a reference in the future. These can be used to spark your creative thinking for future projects. Take plenty of photos, but be respectful and ask permission when necessary. Try to note the meanings of what you collect. Ask yourself questions like: why is this pattern the way it is? What does this deity represent? Why do people wear this color all the time? These inquiries will help you gather ideas and the answers almost act as glue to stick all the different puzzle pieces together. You will start to see how things relate to each other and you will gain a better understanding of the culture.


5. Keep an active journal.

I think this applies to all fields in the creative world. Whether you’re a writer, painter, poet, designer or photographer, you need a medium to filter and record your experiences. In an environment that is 100% foreign to everything that you are familiar with, nearly every interaction or encounter will be new to you. Every day you are introduced to new thoughts and your brain is constantly working to connect recently awakened paths of understanding. If you fall behind in writing or recording your thoughts, they will certainly fade into the depths of your subconscious. These records and notes can re-kindle your creativity with memories, feelings, and emotions that have been brought back to your conscience. This can be used as a tool when needed to recall your experiences.

How does travel enhance your creativity? Do you have any tips of your own to add? Your suggestions and comments are more than welcome.



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  • Join the discussion

    • February 27, 2010 at 4:55 am

      Totally agree! I’ve spent 7 years on the road from Ecuador to China, New Zealand to France (and lots in-between)! If I ever run out of inspiration, different perspectives or sheer wonder at the world then you have permission to shoot me!
      I’d just add volunteering to immersing yourself in the local culture. Teaching children English really keeps your imagination active, especially in a second language.

    • February 27, 2010 at 12:36 am

      Omg I would just love to pick the brain of the person who owns that journal…this really makes me want to go traveling now :)

    • February 15, 2010 at 11:43 am

      Dell marka notebooklar hakkında her türlü paylaşımı bulabileceğiniz amatör blog sayfam yayına girdi.

    • January 31, 2010 at 12:51 am

      This is great advice that cannot be stressed enough! Traveling not only opens your eyes to new ideas and cultures, but the aesthetics can introduce you to an entirely new way of interacting with and experiencing art.

    • January 27, 2010 at 1:26 pm

      Thanks for the tips…


    • January 26, 2010 at 10:02 am

      Great article! I am regularly inspired by architecture and public spaces. If I’m ever feeling creatively stale I find it useful to apply these same principles wherever I am.

      Try to find something new in the city you live, explore interesting neighborhoods. Walk around downtown cities, and don’t forget to look up! Buildings have great design from the ground floor all the way to the top!

      This makes me want to travel again!

    • January 26, 2010 at 5:18 am

      This is an interesting post as traveling and new experiences do fuel creativity. I like the idea of keeping a journal and also any textures, materials or anything that you find inspiring, like a scrap book, this way when you return from your travels, you can always refer to this book for inspiration.

    • January 25, 2010 at 10:13 pm

      I’ve lived in China for six years and traveled extensively during this time. I agree with most of what the article says.

      Start a journal
      Get off the beaten path
      Take pictures
      Immerse yourself

      But also be respectful, connect with the locals, and seek out those things that you really enjoy and do them a lot.

      For me I enjoy trying new food so I’m constantly sampling new dishes, and I enjoy visiting zoos so every country I go to I try to see their zoo.

      You should also maximize your time. Get up early and go to bed late. Always be doing something, and remember just walking from one place to another is doing something.

    • January 25, 2010 at 7:34 pm

      Thank you Chelsea. I am sure you’ll find a ton of sources of inspiration in Europe.

    • January 25, 2010 at 11:11 am

      Excellent article! Looking forward to touring Europe for three months this fall and its good to have solid, easy to understand and useful advice to make it worthwhile creatively.

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