On Creativity; or Why You Need To Travel.

A little feature I wrote for Lostravellers and their new (flash as) relaunch. Check out the original here.

A Keralan back street basks in the glow of an early afternoon thunder storm. Fort Kochi, India.

As anyone who has travelled will no doubt recount, the nomadic life has an addictive quality. It is hard to pin a specific reason for this down. Is it the freedom of a transient existence, the lack of responsibility and obligation? Or is it simply the stimulation that derives from plonking yourself right outside your comfort zone and being forced to make do? After all we all like to get a bit on the lash, and everyone feels some sense of triumph at an adversary overcome.

While undeniable that these reasons contain some kernel of truth, is it possible that the spark that fuels the fire is more basal than mere escapism or endurance? While by no means a definitive answer I want to suggest here that it is creativity, or the act of being inspired, that drives the need to continue exploring.

This is a little idea that has been bouncing around my brain for a while now and there seemed no place more apposite to try and set it out than here, in Lostraveller’s inaugural web publication, a blog dedicated to travel and creative pursuits. It almost seems too easy, as if in attempting to join creatives around the globe Kyle has inadvertently (or not, as the case may be) stumbled across the true thing that keeps us all travelling.

So what am I talking about?

Creativity, at its most basic, seems to be the capacity for lateral thought – the ability to take disparate thoughts and join them into a novel whole. At its epistemological root lies the key point: creation – the production of something new. Post modernism renders the rest largely a question of personal aesthetics and fashion; that which succeeds retains a flavour of familiarity while still pushing at the boundaries of what can be comprehended by the greater majority.

But the question of evaluation is one we need not probe. What is key to our understanding of the thesis that creativity is what keeps us on the road is that creativity has to come from somewhere.

As any professional creative will likely admit, inspiration has few inherent qualities. It can be as simple as a throwaway line in a drunken conversation or as complex as a Tolstoy novel – the key point is that it sparks a chain reaction within you, sets the neurotransmitters dancing across your cortex and gives rise to a new thought.

What role then does travel play?

One of the unavoidable aspects of travel, indeed, probably the reason we choose to do it, is the change of scenery it provides. This change isn’t limited to the five senses; we may find our pre-conceived notions put to the test, and will undoubtedly question a few of them ourselves along the way.

The inspiration of an influx of novel stimuli is aided considerably by a wealth of free time and an absence of the capitalist constraints that can distract from the simple satisfaction of creating.

There is a certain joy in being lost: the absence of a familiar frame of reference enables us to engage in different patterns of thought – in a word, to be creative. Creativity in this sense is unavoidable; it is an inevitable by-product of your (changing) environ.

And this is why, in my opinion, those who wouldn’t usually “create” on a regular basis will find themselves writing a journal, sketching at the bus station and playing with the long exposure setting on their camera. Sure, it is partly archival but there is something more at play. We enjoy the stimulation, and enjoy how this drives our thoughts in different directions, enjoy the malleability of existence, and feel a need to remind ourselves of this by capturing the moment in some way.

In Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast he wrote that “memory is hunger.” Hunger, not for what can be recalled, but for what cannot be re-experienced: the feelings at a certain moment, the memories of which are but hollow shadows in comparison to their initial experience. How to feed this hunger? Well, it’s simple really. If you cannot re-experience the memory with the same passion of the instant then what better way than to try to place oneself in a similar position to where the sought-after memory originally occurred. It makes no difference that that place is a state of flux instead of a geographical location; the transience of being on the road invokes its own unique feelings, and these are ripe for creative expression.

For those not established in an industry framed as creative it can be easy to feel as if you never get to think for yourself, and indeed this is why the above matters so much. Creativity might be what keeps us travelling, but it is also a requisite for greater satisfaction, no matter what form it takes.

So here’s to creativity and the travel that can help fuel it. Props to Kyle and co for this project, in bringing some of the excitement and inspiration off the road and into your brain they may make Lostravellers of us all yet.

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