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Guest Writer–10 Creative Capabilities Enhanced by Travel

Buff Up Your Creativity: 10 Creative Capabilities Enhanced by Travel

Guest Writer: Cynthia Morris

Creativity is a combination of skills, qualities and perspectives that allows someone to bring ideas into form. Identifying and cultivating those capabilities allows you to be more effective in life and work.

It’s no surprise that the rigors of travel build our creative capacity. Both endeavors push us to our physical, mental and sometimes emotional limits. Travel and creativity (in art making, business or life) aren’t for pansies.

Fresh from the road, I’ve charted ten ways that travel cultivates creative aptitude. Check my list to see how travel has contributed to your creative capabilities. (Psst…you can travel without leaving home; see how these aptitudes can be sharpened from your home turf.) 


1. The wrong! capacity is strengthened. When you travel, you find yourself off target at least five times per day. You have an inaccurate address, incorrect opening hours for the museum, you say something inappropriate, you pay too much…it’s endless. Creative pursuits involve a lot of wrong turns and dead ends. The wise creative person knows that being off course has nothing to do with intelligence. You’re not an idiot but you’re going to be wrong a lot.

2. Willingness to be uncomfortable. Travel and creativity both require a person to be comfortable in the uncomfortable, or better yet, to even forget the notion of a comfort zone. We travel and create to surpass our known world, and we might as well embrace discomfort rather than try to contrive environments where we feel too ‘safe’. Shrug off your attachment to your comfort zone.

3. Ability to process and decide easily. While traveling, you amass thousands of new impressions daily. You have to make decisions based on limited information. Travel forces you to sort, filter and critically assess information easily so you can simplify decision making. I use my creative travel tools to jot lists, capture names, and render in quick sketches what I was experiencing around me. Strengthen your ability to sort and process new information to keep what’s useful and discard what’s not.

4. Resiliency. When things are go wrong, how do you respond? Travel shows you that you are more resilient than you think because, well, when you’re out there trying to find food or lodging you have no choice but to keep going. You find you’re able to bear greater challenges, and perhaps even rub your hands with glee when facing difficulty creating. Suck it up: you can do and be more than you think.

5. Flexibility. If you’re not flexible while traveling, you’re going to be frustrated a lot. So you missed that train in Florence. Do something unplanned; it won’t kill you to veer off schedule. The ability to quickly shift from one approach to another is a sign of a developed creative mind. So the structure of your book isn’t what it was when you started; adjust your expectations. Be nimble – but not flaky — in your creative process or you’ll be very miserable.

6. Surrealism. Experiencing life in another place can provide fresh solutions for problems you’re facing at home. Creative people are adept at taking one thing and pairing it with another for a fresh new idea. The surrealists have a penchant for pairing disparate items for the sake of jolting the mind out of its predictable path. Cultivate new associations based on what you’ve seen elsewhere.

7. Ability to relax dualistic thinking. We’re naturally prone to comparisons that lead to judgments. But that can hinder insights. If you’re caught up in thinking that it’s better in the US because shops are open on Sunday, you’re missing the opportunity to see what could result from doing things differently. Your willingness to set aside a comparative or competitive mindset makes life richer. Creative thinking goes beyond black/white or reductive thinking. Compare for the sake of opening your mind rather than solidifying an entrenched mindset.

8. Ability to adjust your pace. Perhaps the places you’re swim upstream, defending your own pace, or you’ll adapt and enter the flow. Creativity has its own timing and pace, and being able to adjust according to the ebb or flow makes things much easier. Be responsive to the flow of life around you.

9. Randomness. I call this juju – when unexpected connections surprise me. Juju appears most often when exploring with little or no plan, or as the French say, flaner. I always encounter something remarkable that sparks a new idea for my work or art. Random or unplanned occurrences are gold for the creative process. Don’t try to control your circumstances or projects too much; leave room for creative juju.

10. Physical fitness. Travel is tough on the body. Hauling luggage over cobblestones, eating too much strange food, and sleeping poorly can take a big toll. When your body is strong and resilient, you’re able to think beyond your basic physical needs. The same is true for creative work. If you’re not taking good care of yourself, chances are you’re not able to produce your best work. Build a strong physical foundation so you have energy to create and explore.

11. Bonus: Math smarts. Travel calls for all kinds of quotidian math. Calculating currency conversions, estimating costs, and juggling timetables all build your numeric literacy. Any creative project – writing a book, launching a business, or publishing a blog calls for a nimble numbers mind. Don’t leave math behind; make it work for you and your projects.


The next time you embark on a trip, know that your journey will build your creative capacity. You don’t have to do much other than hit the road and be open to the world’s gifts.

Copyright 2009 Cynthia Morris. Cynthia coaches creative people to confidence and completion and inspires life as a creative adventure. Visit to get an infusion of inspiration for your art, writing and life.

9/21–Preparations & Departures


(This print is available in 4×6, 5×7 and 8×10)

Today was all about what would happen at the end of my work-shift–VACATION! I am taking 4 days. The last time we traveled to the west end of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Mike and I took photos in the Porcupine Mountains. One of those photos is my most often sold item, it has the highest hits to my website, and has become my signature photo, “Mist Woods.”

I went to Balanced Bodies for physical therapy at 7:45 a.m. and had Jeannie Wagner teach me how to “tape” my shoulder with KinseoTape. I also purchased some BioFreeze in a roll on applicator for Mike’s back. I prefer oils of my own making, but this BioFreeze will pack well on the trail.

My hours for the week are submitted. My end of the month paperwork is in. All that is left is to buy ice for the cooler and visit the bank on the way outta town.

The laptop is coming but I do not expect Internet where we’re going. Basically it is coming along (the laptop) just in case my camera’s memory cards become full (I am taking an 8 and 4 gig). So the next, posts on my 21-day Promise will have to be scrolled into a travel journal with ink-pen.

Today, I owned my morning. I prepped. I ate healthy. I was very hopeful.

Still Processing Digi-Captures from Trip


Memorial Day weekend, Mike and I headed to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and I’m still processing some of the 1960 digi-captures. It was a trip of freezing cold nights some where we did not return from trails until close to midnight after riding 25 miles on EMPTY hoping gas stations were open in Grand Marais. Trillium blanketed hillsides. We hiked 20 plus trail miles in 3 days. The photo above is the backseat of our Blazer and it has notes (at Flickr) so you can view each item and what importance it might have. The photo below is a self portrait of me in the door of the West Bay Diner. We ate there on the way home. It was heavenly–I ordered the steak sandwich with grilled veggies and fries–it came with a malt in my choice of flavors, too! Be sure to check out the Flickr set of our trip for everything from super-macros on the forest floor to dune and beach vistas.


Contours–The Recommit

Church of the Wildwood, Window in Corner, photo by Kim Nixon

Contours, the curve of a street, the arch of an overpass, a rolling field of grass, and our own edges that attempt to define us, and confine us. This summer I, too, reach past boundaries and edges. The word, contours, more feminine and soft, more curve and allowance, more spent, sexy, wild even.

I wanted to start a new blog called Contours. The name is taken so you can instead visit the category here at The Dailies. Contours, a theme for my year, like abundance. I am moving beyond the definitions that have bound me. This summer I dedicate to travel, a new genre of art, a return to daily writes, morning writes, and work on my poetry and books.

I have been following another writer’s adventures, Cynthia Morris explains, “Journey Juju insists that life is a creative adventure, that the wonder and delight aren’t just for kids, and that you have everything you need to embrace your life as a creative journey.”

The school year is coming to a close and I recommit to my journey. It seems I still panic at the concept of less income on a weekly check. I become rigid. Flow stops. I block. And, in doing so, even my body freezes up with back pain.

This photo was taken on the trip to Michigamme in May. The empty wiondow is sitting on top of furniture leaning in a corner. Lines that attmpt to define in a church gone art shoppe. Church of the Wildwood, and I here a psalm whisper in my ear.

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