Applying the travelling mindset: embracing creativity

What, then, is a travelling mindset? Receptivity might be said to be its chief characteristic. We approach new places with humility. We carry with us no rigid ideas about what is interesting. We irritate locals because we stand on traffic islands and in narrow streets and admire what they take to be strange small details. We risk getting run over because we are intrigued by the roof of a government building or an inscription on a wall. We find a supermarket or a hairdresser’s unusually fascinating. ~ Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton described the traveling mindset as one of receptivity and openness. In 1794, Xavier de Maistre applied this mindset to his own everyday space. In my own experience, of traversing thirty three countries so far, travel is learning. Being submerged in the unfamiliar brings to the surface captivation, imagination and vulnerability.

I think being abroad is sometimes where we feel we can be most ourselves, untethered by daily routines, obligations, expectations and the mundanity and productivity of daily life.

So how is an educator to bring this outlook to professional meetings and visits abroad? My approach is one of embracing creativity.

@debsnet New York Journal

Research connects creativity with productivity, adaptability, novelty, divergent thinking, idea generation, flexibility and problem solving (see Dr Mark Runco’s 2004 article on ‘Creativity’ in the Annual Review of Psychology). For me, writing, drawing, painting, doing and making are physical mind-body processes which facilitate right brain thinking, foster creativity and enable authenticity – of thought, of action, of being.

Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED Talk on how schools kill creativity has been viewed almost 30 million times. In it, he champions the cultivation of creativity and questions the rigidity of education systems which encourage conformity and compliance.

The #makered hashtag on Twitter and have plenty of ponderings, resources and perspectives on the meaningfulness of making and doing for our students.

Of course social media and this blog are 21st century extensions of traditional creative media but I am intending largely to ‘go retro’ on my October professional journey: reading print novels, keeping a visual journal, collecting tactile ephemera and enacting mindful pen-to-paper thinking. Using the camera and a journal to explore thoughts and experiences is a method of creative, reflexive, deliberate inquiry, as well as a way of recording both professional visits and New York herself.

New York #artjournal page by @debsnet

I hope this flânerial approach – that of the wanderer who is finely attuned, keenly observant and totally immersed – will help me to be at my most receptive, flexible and open to new learning.

9 thoughts on “Applying the travelling mindset: embracing creativity

  1. Great piece Deb I particularly love this line: “I think being abroad is sometimes where we feel we can be most ourselves, untethered by daily routines, obligations, expectations and the mundanity and productivity of daily life.” It’s so true, especially when I think about my own travels abroad. I too keep a visual diary for all my adventures. In them I tear up and paste bits of flyers and booklets I collect on the way, I tear letters and phrases from newspapers and magazines, museum maps and travel guides. I paste in and draw over bits of wrapping paper, I draw and doodle and I write – I write reflections which are so overwhelmingly and personally powerful at the time and then when you open the dairies you are transported back to the time and place. You can smell it, hear it, feel, and taste. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jo. Nice to find a kindred collector-scribbler!

      I find that the physicality of drawing, writing and pasting, as well as the framing of experiences through taking photographs, collecting ephemera and writing impressions, is part of the travel experience for me, anchoring me in the moment and processing its personal meaning.

      This is also a mindset I try to take into my everyday life: openness, wonder, noticing details, being present and finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. A few years ago a colleague and I gave ourselves a ‘be a tourist in your own workplace’ assignment. For a week we took tourist-type photos in locations around the school, then made them into a postcard which we ‘posted’ to other teachers on staff. Anything to encourage new ways of seeing the world around us, whether familiar or foreign!

      I also like to try and encourage my students to really look at their environments, to see through different lenses, especially through their creative writing. I currently have a class of students who turn up to lessons with their notebooks and other things which they consider writerly accoutrements (funky hats, favourite pens and one asked if he could grow a hipster beard) ready to venture outside our classroom walls to practise our seeing and our writing. I do love technology as an educational tool but I find that students also benefit from portable pen-and-paper thinking. I love to see them lying in unexpected nooks looking around with curiosity or furiously scribbling. 🙂


  2. Pingback: Art journal pages: scribbling as therapy, thinking & anticipation | the édu flâneuse

  3. Pingback: Presence not presents: connect, unravel & be this Christmas | the édu flâneuse

  4. Pingback: Build it and they will come: Creating spaces for learning and working | the édu flâneuse

  5. Pingback: Travel and presence: doors to clarity and joy in life and work | the édu flâneuse

  6. Pingback: The low-tech PhD & whole-document thinking: How I use Microsoft Word to write my thesis | the édu flâneuse

  7. Pingback: The low-tech PhD & whole-document thinking: How I use Microsoft Word to write my thesis | the édu flâneuse

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s