Querencias, Creativity and Meaningful Travel

by Steve Brock on January 18, 2011

Sometimes small details on a trip - like the lines in this geyser pool in Yellowstone - will inspire you. But what you do with that inspiration usually occurs after you return.

Last time, we looked at the concept of querencia, a psychological and yet also physical place of safety that a bull finds in the ring during a bullfight. It may seem like a rather obscure notion that works for bulls facing down a colorfully dressed guy who dances around with a cape and a sword, but it has direct implications for people pursuing meaningful travel.

When we travel, a curious phenomenon occurs. All of our senses are elevated like one’s fashion consciousness at a Hollywood club. Because our sensory receptors are on high alert (and because we’re paying better attention due to the novelty of everything around us), we’re able to take in and absorb more.

The downside of all this is that it diminishes our ability to create. Yes, you read that right. When you’re taking in all sorts of new sights, sounds, textures, feelings and ideas, you’re not as able to actually produce a creative product. You’re hampered in your ability to put out while you’re taking in. Hmmm. That sounds awkward, but I trust you understand my meaning.

That may come as a surprise to some of you who feel most creative and stimulated when traveling. Travel itself is a creative endeavor. But it is mostly one of intake where you gather the raw materials for later use. Trips are like the Costco of inspiration. As we travel, we stock up on ideas and revelations that we can use months, even years after we return.

But like Thomas Edison’s comment that genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, for most creative people, the actual processing and work occur not on the trip itself, but later on in a place – our querencia – where we have the time and safety to concentrate and do the hard work without the all the wonderful distractions travel sends our way.

Most of us will encounter our querencia at home. Still, finding querencias along the way has value to our creative process. Taking time and creating space for reflection on your trip can help you refine your thoughts about what you’ve experienced, course correct and recharge your batteries. You’ll be able to see with fresher eyes and thus take in more that can eventually be of use in some later creative project.

Most importantly, finding a querencia while you travel allows you to record the ideas that your trip has inspired.

Confucius was right when he noted that the weakest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory. Whether you keep a journal, sketch, make video or audio recordings or take photos, documenting the details that inspire you before you get home will help ensure that you’re able to retain and review them once you do return.

To your home. Your place of safety. Your querencia.

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