A Change of Scenery

The world is like a book. He who stays
home reads only one page.
~ St. Augustine

The place that Amy calls World Headquarters is a townhouse filled with beautiful objects gathered on her many travels. Her business was intentionally designed to include plenty of opportunities to feed her wanderlust and her friends and business associates consider her one of the most creative people they know.

It wasn’t always this, Amy says. In the days before she became an entrepreneurial gypsy she worked for several years in a retail store. Even though that brought her into contact with many different people and the store’s inventory frequently changed, she credits her travels with opening her creative spirit. Now Amy comes back from every trip with a notebook full of ideas she’s gathered along the way. “There’s something about being in a new place, with new people that seems to make me more alert,” she says.

Go Where Your Muse Is

Amy’s not the only one to discover that a change of scenery can be a creative catalyst. Monet, Signac, Browning and Ruskin are just a few of the artistic souls who left home to find fresh inspiration in Venice. Frances Mayes was an unknown college writing professor until she shared her passion for Tuscany in her popular books.

Although it’s wonderful to have a faraway place that can be a source of creative renewal, your Muse may not require you to travel so far. My friend Peter has taken to walking around a favorite lake in Minneapolis. After checking out several lakes, he chose Lake Harriet because of its serenity. He claims that his best writing ideas are generated on those walks which get him out of his home office.

On one of his walks, Peter, who also does career counseling, realized that often the solution to an unhappy work situation is to relocate to a different environment. As he says, “It’s not just the what of our work. It’s also the where.” It’s hard to know where Where is if we haven’t done some exploring and discovered those places and people that call forth our best self.

In Praise of Small Excursions

Julia Cameron, best known for The Artist’s Way, is an enthusiastic proponent of regular adventures. Cameron also nudges her creative spirit by dividing her time between New York City and Santa Fe, New Mexico—two very different environments.

In Walking in the World, her book on practical creativity, she writes, “Once a week I take some small adventure, an Artist’s Date. And I do mean small. I go to the fabric store. I visit the button shop. I sneeze as I enter a dusty secondhand bookstore. I take myself to a pet shop and go to the bird section. I might visit a large clock store and hear the rhythmic ticking, steady as a mother’s heart…I declare an hour off limits from hurried production and I have the chance to marvel at my own being.”

This is a splendid idea that anyone can borrow, but in order to get the full benefit of small excursions they need to be given the same commitment as any other important appointment.

Build a Travel Component Into Your Business

A life coach I met in San Antonio, Texas has another business selling Venetian glass beads. Two or three times a year, she flies to Italy to restock her inventory. Another woman I know, who published a cozy mystery newsletter, led a tour group of booklovers to England every year.

Entrepreneurs who have expanded their business while earning money as they travel agree that it adds a new dimension to their work, but there’s more to this than just supporting your wanderlust. In The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton writes, “It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are.”

A change of scenery can give us a new insight into who we are and what we can accomplish. When we step outside of the familiar and into a strange environment, we are challenged to be more alert, more aware, more open and curious. Those are some big rewards for jumping on a train or airplane—or taking a walk in a new neighborhood.