Finding Creative Inspiration Part 6: Travel

6 somewhere new

Last week we looked at ways in which nature can provide us with creative inspiration. This week we will expand on that theme by looking at travel in general. Whether you’re travelling to the jungle for a big dose of nature or to a metropolis, travel in itself has several key ways that it can inspire us:

New physical space means new mental space

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. – Marcel Proust

Ever walked into a room and forgotten what you went in there for? You will often then go back to where you originally thought of the thing you needed and then remember it. This may have less to do with senility and more to do with how big a role physical spaces play in psychological states. Studies show that if you prep for an exam in the same or similar environment to that which the exam will be held in you will recall more and do better, and this applies more broadly. We operate more effectively in a physical space we have performed particular tasks in before, associating particular physical spaces with particular, thoughts, actions and ways of being.

If we turn this on its head, visiting somewhere new provides a new mental space and so an opening for new thoughts, emotions, ideas and psychological states. As we assess and interact with a new environment we are temporarily unbound from old patterns of behaviour we would access in a familiar setting and so freer to experiment to find new ones. When I recently moved house and finally had my own dedicated studio space, I set it up to stimulate me creatively and made myself do the majority of my creative thinking and doing in that space, to create an environment I psychologically associated with being creative. I deliberately used the new space to set new patterns of behaviour. Before this I had practiced creating spaces on temporary basis when travelling, because the newness of a space opens our consciousness to new insights and plenty of new stimuli to play with.

New people and places mean new stimulus

When you’re travelling constantly, every day you become inspired, and it shows in my work, sonically, lyrically, visually. Conversations with women with different accents and stories told in those accents. I like to create characters based on different people I’ve met, and relationships. I like to tell stories loosely based on real-life events. – The Weekend

I talked before about the benefits of random image or word stimulus for finding inspiration. Travel can potentially provide you with a huge variety this. New places will be full of detail to explore and ask yourself questions about. The people you may meet on your travels, perhaps even only once, can provide much in the way of character inspiration, narrative, or even just pure aesthetic appreciation. These can be the basis for fictional, auto-biographical or biographical works of many kinds.

If you travel with a mission to be inspired you will be. Every new place and face can provide you with creative opportunity if you’re looking.

6 explore

New stimulus means more attention to detail

Pay attention to the beauty surrounding you. – Anne Lamott

When we enter a new space or situation its potential to unbind us from previous expectations and patterns of behaviour seems very much linked to a heightened awareness of detail. Simply put, we pay more attention because we don’t know what to expect. This heightened awareness can be thoroughly hijacked for creative purposes as, when we are more focused on new and unusual details, we are more open to creative inspiration. Suddenly that glass on the bar is more than just a whisky, it is a small and silent world of beauty; the sound of waves over rocks isn’t casually ignored, but reminds you profoundly of something you had long forgotten; the cat playing by the pool, rather than going unnoticed, captivates you and makes you wonder how it might be a god in disguise.

This ability to free ourselves from expectations is crucial for creative input and inspiration. By practicing it enough we can bring it to bear on familiar environments, and when even the familiar can be the basis of seeing things in a new way, then our potential to be inspired escalates, along with our ability to generally enjoy life.

In summary

Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. – Ibn Battut

Travel exposes us to new mental as well as physical spaces, granting us the opportunity to experience the world from a fresh and open perspective, exposing us to many novel and exciting stimuli, and forcing us to pay closer attention to the details of the world around us, rather than just running on expectation. Have you been anywhere that really inspired you? Where would you like to go and why? As always, I’m interested to hear from you – so let me know what you think in the comment’s box below.


  1. What stimulates me the most on the road, I suspect, are the moments which are all-consuming. Not necessarily grand and spectacular, but rather unforgettable in the way that they make the world around you disappear for a few seconds, you are there and nothing else matters; home, friends, future, past.
    Those are the moments I cherish and like to immortalise in words.

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