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Creativity and travel

This news is encouraging: creativity may be key to healthy aging. Note the discussion concerning traveling that begins at the fifth paragraph in the article: “People who travel tend to be more creative,” said Darya Zabelina, a psychology professor at the University of Arkansas. The theory is that "traveling encourages people to reexamine their models of reality" and to "enjoy unfamiliar experiences."

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The link won’t let me read beyond the first few sentences without a subscription, but I definitely agree that travel opens our minds to be more creative.

In high school my least favorite subject was history. Traveling in Europe and the US and seeing so much related to history now is fascinating. And I have a hard time passing up an art museum or a church now without stopping for 15 minutes to a few hours.

It also applies to all of our senses, such as taste - yum! I even tried watercolor pen sketching during my last trip to Italy! The art museums definitely won’t be contacting me! But, I added a photo in my photobook of the scene with my sketch in the foreground, and it makes me happy thinking I was willing to try it one evening in the piazza at Montepulciano.

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Interesting idea. Even with travel guidebooks, those that provide a recommended itinerary (see A, B, and C in two days) can serve as inspiration to also explore X, Y, and Z, especially if you have more time to visit, or are creative in substituting your preferences over what’s on the standard recommended sights and activities.

Trying snails and offal are certainly new food experiences, not options offered widely at home. I wonder, would dousing unfamiliar food with catsup be considered a creative way to make it palatable, or would that be taking a familiar approach, and not count as being an unfamiliar experience?

I’d also suggest that people who travel are, or have to become, more flexible, in addition to being more creative.

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The article is broadly about the need for older people to keep exercising their mental muscles. Travel is one of many avenues to do that, especially if you have to problem-solve, think outside the box, experience totally novel things, learn a new language(s) perhaps, interpret and make sense of new sensory inputs (visual and otherwise), and add some stimulation and change to your normal routines. Makes sense.

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Fortunately, I am a Washington Post online subscriber and was able to read the whole article.

This is the citation in case it ever becomes widely available:

Creativity may be key to healthy aging. Here are ways to stay inspired.
By Matt Fuchs
July 12, 2021

It's a long and detailed article on many ways to spur creativity. This is the major bit about travel.

Think — and travel — outside the box

"People who travel tend to be more creative,” said Darya Zabelina, a psychology professor at the University of Arkansas. Traveling encourages people to reexamine their models of reality, Zabelina said. Some studies show that travelers have more creative success, and people who enjoy unfamiliar experiences perform better on divergent thinking tests, open-ended questions calling for numerous ideas. Performance on these tests differs from IQ and may predict aspects of real-world creativity.

Writer Naomi Shihab Nye, a 69-year-old San Antonian, calls herself a “wandering poet.” Through extensive travel, she’s become more observant, writing about the parallels she sees among different cultures in her work, which includes novels, young adult fiction, picture books and songwriting as well as poetry. “It’s utterly important to keep exposing yourself to experiences to be less rigid and judgmental,” said Nye, who received a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Critics Circle.

Singer Andy Steinfeldt, 73, records songs in the languages of the countries he’s visited — seven tongues so far. “You get ideas from other cultures you don’t get here in the Midwest,” said the Minnesotan, a retired businessman."

The studies mentioned are linked in the article, if you can ever get to it. The major one, travelers, is to a pdf (Tadmor-Getting-the-most.pdf) which I can't seem to link.

Here's the citation:

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
2012, Vol. 103, No. 3, 520–542
© 2012 American Psychological Association

Carmit T. Tadmor
Tel Aviv University

Getting the Most Out of Living Abroad: Biculturalism and Integrative
Complexity as Key Drivers of Creative and Professional Success

This is a very detailed study with lots of data. And this is the last sentence of the conclusions:

"The ability to simultaneously identify with both one’s host and one’s home cultures and the resulting capacity for complex thinking may be a key to translating foreign experiences abroad into a tangible toolbox that bolsters one’s creative ability and professional skill set to the highest level."

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Thank you Paul for sharing the article and Lo for posting the relevant information about travel. It is inspiring to see how travel can spur creativity.