A study published by Adam Galinksy, a management Professor at Columbia Business School, and summarized last week by The Atlantic, found that people who traveled to places with unfamiliar cultures, or who surrounded themselves with other people who travel, were more likely to come up with creative ideas.
Galinsky theorizes that this has to do with how our brains are wired. These neural pathways are influenced by environment and habit, and being exposed to new smells, sounds, and languages forces the brain to be more flexible, which in turn makes it more creative.
But what if I can’t travel right at this second?
I love traveling and have definitely felt that boost of creativity any time I’m in a new place. Of course, I don’t always have the cash to fit travel into my budget or the time to fit it into my schedule.
The good news is that the study says our neural pathways can get a workout just by switching up our routine. According to Galinsky, “a fresh cultural scene” is enough to get those creative juices flowing. This could mean taking a short trip to a new neighborhood, talking to someone of a different cultural background, or even just taking a new route to work.
In other words, all we need to do in order to experience a creative boost is to force ourselves out of our bubble and engage with a new environment.
There’s a quote I really like from The Artist’s Way, which I’m reading now: “Changing a known route throws us into the now. We become refocused on the visible, visual world. Sight leads to insight.”
When you follow a routine, it’s easy to take that visible, visual world for granted. You become so used to what’s around you — every day you pass the same coffee shop, bodega, and library on your way to the train — that you don’t really see it anymore.
One of my favorite things about travel is its ability to let me see the world through fresh eyes, and more importantly, how to take that constant search for a new perspective and integrate it into my life when I’m back home.
I notice, then, that even the simple, local surroundings I had gotten so used to, now never cease to inspire me.