Why Travel Is Essential For Creative Freelancers
For creative freelancers, the boundaries between work and play are easily blurred. Whether you love to draw, write, design, animate, or build things, your desire to take your creative pursuit and turn it into a viable financial success, means it’s easy to just put your music on, get your head down, and let your creative juices flow for hours on end. But in the transition of turning a mere hobby into something of a creative enterprise, I believe one of the most important things is actually being conscious not to let it go into full-time administration. When making a decent living comes into play, many people think that they should be tinkering away for an insane amount of hours and give their creative recreation their undivided attention, day and night, in order to make it work. And it’s true, of course, that you need dedication and discipline in order to see any sort of return. However, as many self-help articles herald, if you remain creatively switched on 24/7, this can eventually lead to burn-out, anxiety, and perhaps even falling out of love with your craft altogether. So whilst creating a bulletproof business plan is important, think also about establishing a foolproof 'vacation plan.'
"If you don’t make a conscious effort to take regular time-outs then you’re denying your mind the opportunity to properly restore and reenergise."
Okay, so it may seem crazy to just be setting up your own business and already thinking about holiday-ing. But I believe it’s actually one of the most important things to account for when you’re a freelancer. All too often you hear horror stories of creative freelancers working themselves to the bone or burning out entirely within just the first few years of starting out. I mean, without set hours or paid vacation, it’s easy to see how months, if not years, can go by without seeing so much of a sandy beach or city plaza. If you don’t make a conscious effort to take regular time-outs then you’re denying your mind the opportunity to properly restore and reenergise. Therefore, it’s something I’ve personally wanted to remain conscious of and plan ahead for from the offset. Now, I’m not talking about a six week expedition to South Africa or a month in the Caribbean. But I think a handful of mini-breaks away each year, to break from the cyclical nature of day-to-day working life, will definitely ensure a healthy headspace. In fact, psychological studies have actually shown that an individual’s level of creativity can be directly influenced by the frequency for which they travel. Not only is it exciting and something to look forward to but travel is proven to promote heart health, relieve stress and boost mental health, shift perspective, and help keep the mind sharp.
Certainly, one of the best decisions I ever made, upon finishing my design degree last summer, was jetting off to Switzerland/France for six days. I left my laptop behind and switched the button on my creative brain firmly off. Exploring beautiful Evian and a few Swiss cities on the border of Lake Geneva was the perfect come down from the intensity of my final weeks at university. I washed the university stress away swimming in the city’s outdoor pools, drinking coffee, sight-seeing and exploring, reflecting on recent experiences, and generally pondering life. Taking myself abroad on holiday was incredibly refreshing. My mind had never felt so clear. I came back feeling renewed, inspired, and ready to take on the world once again. As I said, it was the best thing I ever did. And, with that in mind, I made a promise to myself that I would take a mini-break away by myself every year.
"From reading city maps to asking foreigners for directions, to navigating which shelf the mugs are kept in your rental apartment, travelling keeps you constantly on your toes and your brain is made to work in ways it just simply doesn’t when you’re back home."
So, looking ahead to this year, I’ve already a number of plans pencilled in my calendar. In fact, the first has already been and gone! When mentioning these intentions regarding travel to my family, I was greeted with an unexpected response from my mother and sister that they’d been thinking about taking a short trip to the beautiful Spanish of Seville, as a way of progressing their keen language skills. And when asked if I wanted to join them on this expedition in February, of course, I said sí, por favor! So, last week we headed to Seville for some much-needed February sunshine and considered ourselves darn lucky for having three full days of it! Days were spent exploring the city’s beautiful monuments, strolling through vibrant plazas, and napping on our rental apartment’s roof terrace. Whilst evenings were spent drinking cocktails and eating tapas. Our little trip went by at the click of a finger. It was fab!
One thing I find travel enables is a shift in perspective. When travelling, even if just for a few days, I’m able to look at my day-to-day life back home from a different perspective. It’s almost like you become an outsider on your life, looking in. There’s a crystal clear clarity on things that just can’t be gained through any other means. You’re able to see what in your life is working well, what you’d like to improve, and what things you’d like to completely shake up or shake off! Travelling allows for all sorts of magical realisations and re-evaluations. It allows your mind to open and reflect on ~the bigger picture~. And for me personally, and especially in recent years, whenever I go away I’m always excited to get back and crack on with regular proceedings of my day-to-day life. I fall in love with the little mundane things and my eccentric routines all over again, and find the pleasure in my home life renewed. As someone who loves to constantly be doing, I never really dread coming home like I know alot of people do. Instead, I’m excited to be productive once again and throw myself back into my swimming, my design work, and all the other things that are important to me in my life.
I also find that travel sharpens the mind. From reading city maps to asking foreigners for directions, to navigating which shelf the mugs are kept in your rental apartment, travelling keeps you constantly on your toes and your brain is made to work in ways it just simply doesn’t when you’re back home. This is because our neural pathways are sensitive to change. They are influenced by our environment, and so when we’re in an unfamiliar environment these are stimulated in new ways. As Matt Hershberger proclaims, “a more lively mind is a more creative one.”
"Psychological studies have actually shown that an individual’s level of creativity can be directly influenced by the frequency for which they travel."
But, above all, travel allows for a fresh wave of thoughts to come in. For creative freelancers, we rely heavily on our creativity and imagination. We’re expected (and we often put expectation on ourselves!) to be creative all the time and to be constantly coming up with new projects and ideas. But without travel and exploration, only the same, repetitive thoughts that occur within our day-to-day lives circulate with no room for new waves of creative thoughts to enter, and so our mind and our work become stagnant as a result. Seeing new things, immersing ourselves in different cultures, and meeting people from various walks of life, is what sparks ideas and triggers creativity. These are the things that keep our minds active and our creative juices flowing.
So, unquestionably, travel is essential for any creative freelancer. Leaving your laptop behind, going somewhere new, and exploring exciting untrodden paths, ensures a healthier and more liberating headspace. With that in mind, I urge all of you arty entrepreneurs out there to set about your own annual ‘vacation plan’. Take some time to think about what parts of the world you’d like to see, when in your schedule you can realistically venture, and then put a massive unmovable pin in it so that it doesn’t get brushed aside or forgotten! And, remember, it doesn’t have to be anywhere fancy or ridiculously expensive. It doesn’t even have to be abroad! If you’re strapped for cash, consider bunking with that friend who lives out in the countryside, a hostel in one of the cheaper European cities, or a B&B at a cute seaside resort. Plan ahead, set aside some savings, and pencil in a few dates for some mini-breaks away. And whatever you do, take as few digital devices as possible and just get out there and live! I promise you, you won’t regret it.
"I fall in love with the little mundane things and my
eccentric routines all over again, and find the pleasure in my home life renewed."
Top of my list for this year is Budapest! Renown for its arty culture, thermal baths, beautiful architecture, and accessible taste of nature, it’s not difficult to see why I’m attracted to the region. In fact, sitting on my bookshelf is a Lonely Planet guide that I’ve already scribbled over and am ready to slip into my backpack and get moving! I’ve pencilled it in for April/May time when the weather is due to get a bit warmer and I’m so excited for it. Let me know your plans, I’d love to hear them!