The best ideas always come when I’m traveling and meeting new people. I truly believe that’s why some of the greatest writers in history have lived all over the world – just take Hemingway as an example. (He also hopped from Toronto to Europe, so I’m in good company!)
Why do we get so inspired when we travel?
Travel stimulates the brain. It arouses our senses so we can absorb all the information around us, and new neural connections are formed to help us make sense of the experience. That’s why, to this day, I still think of a childhood trip to Canada’s Wonderland whenever I smell sunscreen. They’re connected in my memory, and even as a physical pathway in my brain.
I truly believe that creative inspiration comes from that: connecting two seemingly disparate things; or connecting two familiar things in a new way. So often it comes down to this shift in our perspective. And travel is a great way to jump-start the process.
The inspirational power of travel is also why, in ordinary times, I’m constantly on the move – and why I’ve adored the freedom that comes with being my own boss. Spend winter in Spain? Sure thing! And why don’t I get a rail pass so I can check out a different city every weekend? There’s no reason not to! After all, I’ll come out the other side with new friendships, new compassion, and new stories to share with the world – and specifically, with my readers.
Now, I know not everyone can travel to far off lands at any given time. Neither can I, even though I have no mortgage and I’m location independent. I care too much about having intimate friendships to be a true ship passing in the night. I’m a slow traveler, spending months at a time in any given place. So how can we find inspiration at times when travel isn’t really an option?
This topic is timely because I’m writing this during COVID-19 which means that travel has almost completely stopped on planet Earth for ordinary people (excepting those who work in critical transport). Never before have we been so literally stuck in one place. So let’s find some solutions.
How do we find inspiration when we can’t travel?
1. When you’re locked down at home.
During the most intense periods of confinement (which I went through for a few weeks in Spain and then for 2 weeks of quarantine upon my emergency repatriation to Canada) all I could do was work and watch videos. I could hardly write during that time, because fear focuses humans on our most pressing survival needs – which for me, included human connection, fresh air, and enough food. All of which had entered major scarcity in the blink of an eye.
Every day was the same. I woke up and looked at the wall, then sat at my desk and looked at the screen. Next day, I’d repeat it all over again.
At first, I tried to find inspiration by watching travel documentaries from The Time Before. (Which is what I’m calling life pre-COVID now.) Thank goodness for Telelatino in Toronto and Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix. When you’ve been forced to stay home and all you have is a TV screen, these programs provide a window into the new experiences and unexpected combinations that get our creative juices flowing. Even if the travel journey is all in our own minds.
2. When you can leave your house (but not your homeland)
Thankfully, summer came to Toronto and we entered Phase 2 of the COVID-19 recovery plan at about the same time. The streets of Toronto are full again – for better or worse – and parks and patios are open. Critically, so are highway rest stops. That means I’ve begun to small scale travel again, on day-trips within 4 hours (max) of our house. One day each weekend, my family and I drive out to a new part of Southern Ontario – our little corner of the world. They’re like mini travel adventures. Whether to score a pecan butter tart or to check out a small town on Lake Erie, these tiny adventures are providing a bite-sized sense of novelty. New connections, new places and faces – these are ultimately where travel inspiration comes from. They’re just not shockingly new, since they’re in my own backyard.
There are actually a few advantages to traveling your own backyard that big trips might not have. One is that it’s super cheap – just the cost of gas, coffee, and lunch, at most. And you still get the inspiration reward. But the best part is that I get to do these trips with family. No one else in my family is location independent – in fact, most people in the world aren’t, unless they’ve taken the leap to create or work for an online business. So most of my big, months-long travel adventures have been solo!
While I miss the sense of freedom and intensity that comes with big trips – and I also miss my second home of Spain, my heartland of Italy, and even places I haven’t visited yet – these day trips are also a nice opportunity to spend time in the presence of loved ones and get to know them all over again. That includes getting back in touch with my childhood home. Ontario is beautiful, green, and quiet. I can’t wait to visit a new part next weekend – maybe I’ll feel inspired to write about it.
Tell me: is travel your big inspiration? How do you find creativity if you’re stuck at home, or behind a screen? Please share your tips with me and others in the comments below. It would really help us out!