Travel is the perfect way to get out of a routine and reframe your existing knowledge and experiences in order to expand your creative mind. In my last article, I looked at how travel can be seen as a process, just like art or design. A sketchbook is also a miniature version of the whole creative process...and sometimes it doesn’t end up where you think it might!
Going on this latest adventure, I was excited to collect colors, patterns, shapes and other inspiration in the sketchbook that I carefully selected for its bright cover and perfect size. I spent a short creative session hand-lettering the title page, and improved my skills as I practiced. There was no way to predict how it would turn out.
We went out backpacking through Central America, and I began settling into a travel haze. Very quickly, familiar creative stressors crept in. I felt that I wasn’t sketching enough, wasn’t taking enough photography, and forgetting to collect all the things that I had expected to be inspired by. And then, thanks mostly to some deliberate work on mindfulness and self-care, my brain went STOP!!! Who cares?!?! There’s no client, no deadline, and no pressure, so WHY should a little sketchbook be able to take over my creative thinking? So I stopped.
I jotted notes in my most natural handwriting and documented details of our days that began speeding by. The most “styled” part of the layouts ended up being oversized keywords that helped describe the highlights. For the rest of our trip, I thought I might sketch when we returned home. Sketching is essential to the creative process, right?
So when we returned home after our amazing experience, and I still didn’t feel like sketching...I started stressing again. After a few deep breaths and days of client catch-up work, it was obvious that I wouldn’t be sketching. But social media calls! And as a visual creator, HOW could I possibly post a sketchbook WITHOUT ANY SKETCHES??
When I went back and flipped through the sketch(stress)book, I realized it once more...who cares?!?! My creative process is just that...mine. If it wasn’t time for my creative brain to be sketching, forcing it to sketch wouldn’t have helped it grow.
As I read through my travel notes scrawled messily across the page, the inspiration from our journey became clearer. It wasn’t the beautiful visual world we experienced that triggered my creative thinking...this time it was the language. I’ve always had a love of languages, thanks in part to my French- and Spanish-teacher mother (who also gave me the travel bug). I’ve been practicing on my own for a few years and have improved on each trip to Hispanic countries, but have always stumbled over verbs and pronouns. On this adventure, I was more confident to practice speaking and try out vocabulary and grammar that was previously out of reach. The creative growth that happened for me was not from the visual elements that I expected, but was instead from growing my creative thinking skills linguistically.
Saving time and money for travel can feel impossible, and I’m not trying to convince anyone to *hashtag* jetset. But part of the creative process is gathering inspiration, and your creative thinking skills will grow when you feed it new content. Prioritize this and give yourself some new experiences, however adventurous or hometown this might be. And most importantly, be OPEN to the creative process, which has no defined outcome! Be kind to yourself and nourish your creativity in whatever way it’s crying out for...you never know where it will take you next.
I’m (nervously) looking forward to sharing the products of a major creative process I’ve attempted this year. My goal is to help you build YOUR creative thinking skills and creative process by sharing my art and design experience with the help of my education background. If you’ve (actually??!) read this far, and you’re interested in improving your creative life, follow @delightfulthingsco on insta for the latest updates.