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Why creatives should travel and forget about vacations



Years ago, I went on a vacation to recover from a stressful work period. It was a nice hotel close to a national park, and I had hoped being ‘somewhere nice’ would make me feel better. But in the hotel, I only felt the same urge I felt in the city, only stronger—which was to escape. I remember ditching barbecue plans with friends to go into the jungle, where I finally found what I needed. Walking into the jungle was like entering a sphere of tingling instinct. It was a world of supreme and honest danger. I needed the danger of the jungle because my mind was numb from the normalcy. And I needed a world that raged with life and reminded me of death being possible any minute. And in a way, I did die that evening in the jungle; because I returned as a new person. For the first time in a long time, I had actually travelled. This was probably the beginning of my now firmly-rooted aversion to vacations, and a growing reverence for real travel. 


Just like TV is boring if it just presents a cheap reproduction of life, vacations are dull if they’re just extravagant versions of the everyday. Vacations do little for the creative mind. But travel, on the other hand—that is, real travel into new experiences—challenges you and makes you new, doing wonders to your creative capacity.


When I say vacation, I mean those extravagant renditions of life, where you simply go somewhere else to do what you do every day (eat, drink, chat, scroll aimlessly, pee, poop, stare, scroll some more, sit, sleep); it’s your normal life, except with a giant price tag, obligatory pictures and different scenery. When an experience mimics everyday life, no matter how extravagantly, it’s just an embellished version of the mundane. I think we should question if the point of taking time off is to do the same things at a different location, in more beautiful or interesting surroundings. Doesn't travel have potential to do so much more than just jolt the same neuropaths? 


I find real travel is when you go somewhere that shakes you out of your everyday narrative. This kind of travel makes you a new person. It effortlessly chips away at your old selves that have grown irrelevant and in that process, you adopt new selves that are far more interesting, useful, and most definitely, good for your creativity. 


The best thing about real travel is that it’s way more accessible than a vacation; because it doesn’t necessarily involve resort bills or faraway journeys. Travel is accessible in our own backyard, in the next town, down the back alley, in the woods, on the beach, across the country or just across the neighbourhood—as long as it offers you a different story, there’s potential to travel there. 


Discovering the story of a place is not as easy as picking up a book and reading, or watching a documentary about it. You have to find it. You have to wait for it. You have to feel it in its people, nature, buildings, patterns, sounds, and most importantly, in its silences.


When you travel, you find stories in places. The language of place-stories is layered. Discovering the story of a place is not as easy as picking up a book and reading, or watching a documentary about it. You have to find it. You have to wait for it. To understand its story, you have to see a place unfold as you watch its people wake up and go about making their morning. You have to pick it up through bits and pieces in conversations overheard on the street. You have to catch it in the nostalgia of someone who was born in that place, but had to leave. You have to dig it out of someone who hated it. You have to taste it in a tea shop frequented by its street labourers. You have to feel it seeping in through your pores while sitting alone at dusk, in its oldest quarter. You have to hear it in its silence.


For minds that need to be creative on demand, as professionals, on a regular basis, this kind of travel gives access to the reservoirs of newness that we need. I find real travel experiences help me improvise, think beyond the echo chamber, and most importantly, to be open to stories that are not my own.


“Travel and tell no one, live a true love story and tell no one, live happily and tell no one, people ruin beautiful things.” 

– Kahlil Gibran


I leave you with this quote by Khalil Gibran, whose genius accurately penned the dilemma of today’s wanderlust epidemic about a century ago. I find this quote says everything about how travel should be a treasured experience that feeds our inner reservoirs.


To see how we translate travel experiences into stories, check this set of stories we made for the Colombo retailer Urban Island and these mini-stories on our former hometown Bambalapitiya.


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