Can Travel Make You More Creative?

By: Michael Youngblood, Co-founder, Unsettled

June 19, 2018
Mexico City

I’m in a creative state of mind.

I haven’t felt this sense of infinite curiosity since maybe a decade ago as a young student soaking up the intellectual world of a university.

Three things, more than any other, are driving my current heightened state of wonderment.

First, I’ve surrounded myself with people who spend the majority of their free time in a diagliage of questions, ideas, and inquires into how things work. Such as the process that lies behind an artist’s first act of creation towards a new piece or a conversation that digs deep into the craftsmanship behind the food and drinks that we consume.

I’m a strong believer that you become most like the people you spend the most time around. For most of human history, this would have been your family members and a tribe of people you were born into. Think about how important of a decision this becomes. What family do you choose to spend your time with? What will you learn from them? Who do you want to be like? Who might you become?

I travel a lot. I’m spending much of my summer in Mexico City this year. I’m privileged to be able to work from just about anywhere, however, I find that I’m very specific in choosing where I spend my time based on who I know where.

These last couple of weeks I’ve surrounded myself with some of the most intellectually curious and creative people I know: People I work with like Lala and Vibol, a crew of neon pirates in the caribbean, and a gang of creatives in Mexico City. This has become maybe the single most important part of my life — who I spend my time with on a regular basis.

Like many of my peers today, I do not work from an office full of colleagues. I don’t belong to a church or temple. I don’t live with my nuclear family. Society today is comprised of more choices than ever before. Who do we live with? Who influences my spirituality, if not a belief system passed down by lineage? With whom and how do I spend my free time?

ayesha lobo sailing unsettled

My creative recipe: One part weird people. A beautiful place. Work that gives you meaning. Photo: Albert Khoury

Last month, I spent 7 days sailing in the Caribbean on a boat with 8 people from 6 countries. We had about 30 square meters shared among us, or about 3 meters per person to cook, eat, dream, love, sing, laugh, dance, and play together for a week. Ponder this: new research shows that close friends actually develop the remarkably similar patterns their brains. We don’t just mirror each other’s behavior, but the structures of our brains may be physically connected with the closest people in our lives. No big deal: replace, ‘you are what you eat’ with ‘you become who’s around you the most’.

The way I see it, you can simply move through time, or you can choose how and with whom you spend that time with.

Second, the places I go are making a deep effect on my creativity, my mood, and my work.

When we were sailing in the Caribbean, we had to pay attention to the slightest changes in the breeze, the tides, and the phases of the moon (both for navigation purposes and for full moon, neon pirate parties). The newness of this environment, had me zooming in and out of the details, gazing into the moon’s reflection on the water, watching the shadows bouncing off each other, and telling make-believe stories about the shapes in the clouds. I let my mind wander like a child who never grew up.

ayesha lobo sailing unsettled

In Mexico City, it feels as though around every corner there’s something new to explore, to learn, to sense and to experience. It energizes me and excites me to be alive today.

Third, my daily work is giving me more purpose than ever before. Lately, if I had to describe my job to a child, I would say that I spend my day trying to understand problems and I use my imagination to think up solutions. While surely that’s an inconcise description, I do feel that I get to engage my imagination and apply this great sense of wonderment and creativity in my work. It’s the privilege of a lifetime, and without the people in my life and the places I’m exploring wouldn’t be complete. The connections among three areas in my life — people, place, and purpose — are greater than the individual parts. And feeling it all come together, I know this is exactly where I’m supposed to be in this moment.

By surrounding myself with people who show up as life explorers, I find myself becoming more real, inspired, and creative. By breaking out of any semblance of a routine that I have, the world opens up around me and I experience the sights, smells, art, music, dance, and conversations like a child who is seeing everything for the first time. And by engaging my imagination at work, I pull it altogether in the greatest sense of purpose I’ve ever felt. It’s all coming together. Keep moving. Keep breathing. Keep creating.


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