Looking forward

by Steve Brock on October 3, 2014

Wake of shipAnticipation isn’t just something we practice before we leave on a trip.

It’s an experience that goes with us even as we travel and, for the creative person, something that fuels our returns with as much excitement as when we set forth on the trip.

On virtually every long trip I’ve taken with my immediate family, the last day or two gets filled with several concurrent conversations:

  • “Now what?” Sometimes this involves trying to pack in as much as we can in the remaining hours we have. More often, it means adjusting to a quieter pace and relaxing on the last day or two, savoring all that has come before.
  • “Remember when?” The end of the trip is a time of initial reflection, an attempt to keep the enthusiasm high as we relate to each other high points from the past several days or weeks.
  • “I can’t wait to…” This is where what I call “reverse anticipation” kicks in. Here, everyone begins to give words to dreams that are formed around returning home. Sometimes, we discuss friends or family we’ve missed and long to see. Other times, we think of tasks we need to perform. But usually, something on the trip has sparked a dream.

This last direction causes us to rhapsodize about creative projects we want to continue, the distance from them and home adding greater impetus to our desire to see them accomplished.  Or just as likely, we become enthusiastic about new projects we want to start as a result of something we encountered on the trip.

In any case, we enter into a new form of anticipation as we look forward to our coming home. We see return not as the end of our trip and all its fun and excitement, but as the beginning of a new opportunity to extend what we have learned and become on the trip. Thus, the trip continues in ways we never would have suspected before we left.

Here at The Meaningful Traveler, I’m about to venture forth into something new as well. Not the end of this trip of writing on meaningful travel, but more like coming home to start something very new and yet really, just an extension of what I’ve been doing here at The Meaningful Traveler for the last four plus years.

I’ll share more about this next time, but I leave you with this reminder: Great trips never really end. We just extend them into the future, drawing from them and using what we learned from them to anticipate our next adventure.

And as with life itself, in so doing, even as we learn to value the present moment more, we simultaneously live in a manner that is always looking forward.

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On the other side of a hard trip

by Steve Brock on February 8, 2013

The poet comes home from a long day working with kids who value the power of words as much as they do leafy greens or dental floss. She peruses the fridge and settles for some unmemorable leftovers. When did she make these? She lets that thought drop.

She extracts a glass from the drying rack by the sink, uncorks the bottle and pours herself a healthy serving of what she calls her “word juice.” She hurries through her meal, replenishes her red wine and cradles the glass in both hands as she saunters all of eight feet to her computer.

The words begin to flow.


The businessman has wrestled for a full week on how to close the deal. He can find no way for their firm to deliver the project on time with the additional requirements from the customer. The workout at the gym helps unknot the growing tension, but still he feels stuck, stymied. The customer needs an answer by 10:00 a.m. the next morning. He’s got nothing.

In the locker room, he undresses and steps into an available shower. The hot water streams over him. He just stands there. Eventually, he reaches for the shampoo, more from habit than conscious volition. His hand never makes it to the dispenser.

In a flash of inspiration, he’s solved his problem.


ShowerDoes alcohol make us more creative? And what is it about a hot shower that seems to foster these moments of insight and revelation? Do we just think better under these influences?

The reality is not that we think better. We think less.

The sedative nature of both the wine and the warm shower still the competing thoughts and voices that rage through our minds most of the time. We live in a world of distraction and so-called multitasking. Too many issues vie for our limited attention. As a result, no one thought gets the focus it needs until we quiet our minds.

Alcohol and hot water flowing over us will do the trick sometimes (but not too much or together, otherwise you end up passed out and looking like a prune on the floor of your shower). But so will travel.

Hard travel.

I love the line in the movie “180 Degrees South” which chronicles the journey of a young man who sails down to Chile in order to eventually climb a mountain in Patagonia. The narrator is told that the word “adventure” is misused by most today for, “It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong.”

On hard trips, something – possibly everything – goes wrong. They aren’t much fun at the time, but they make for great stories later. Yet another benefit of a hard trip is that in the immediate aftermath of the difficulty, you’re left almost numb.

All the worries and concerns, even dreams and ambitions, get silenced because you don’t have the mental energy to contemplate anything more than what lies before you. Presence is delivered with garnish on a plate and served to you whether you ordered it or not.

I’ll give you an example next time from my own recent trip, but how about you? Ever had a trip or hard situation that left you so stunned or grateful to be alive or exhausted that immediately afterwards everything around you seemed more real?

I have some friends who have faced life-threatening illnesses and each of them says the same thing: After something like that, you see life differently. You value each moment more.  You become more focused.

Hard trips can do the same. They just require a bit more planning and endurance than a hot shower…

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Meaningful travel and the value of lowly places

by Steve Brock on June 13, 2011

So you knew your singing sounded better in the shower, but did you ever wonder why you are more creative there as well?

Not every aspect of meaningful travel requires a trip across the country or around the world. Sometimes a simple trip down the hall will suffice…

This week and last I’ve been giving presentations at Kiros gatherings (meetings of Christian business people in the Puget Sound region here in Washington) on the subject of The Power of Place.

One point I wasn’t able to fit in on the discussion was how some of the lowliest places have the greatest impact on us. In particular, I want to touch on a place that is somewhat an untouchable subject: the bathroom (or restroom).

We don’t talk about restrooms much for obvious reasons. But as I think about the value of face-to-face meetings for building relationships, I have to admit that restrooms play a surprising role.

I cannot count the number of business trips where some of the most significant conversations with clients occurred not in the meeting itself, but to, from or in the restroom during breaks between the meetings.

Men give women a hard time for going in packs to the restroom, but guys do the same thing, just a bit less overtly. We start our conversations in the meeting room, but somewhere along the way to the restroom, the discussion tends to get more personal. It’s a weird dynamic, I admit. But I’m not sure it is due to the restroom itself.

I think instead it illustrates how simply moving out of the “formal” meeting place into a place deemed less formal like the restroom or hallway can change the nature of our dialogues because we let our guard down and open up more. We cease seeing each other in the proper business roles defined by our meetings and more as fellow humans heading to the same place for the same human needs.

If this all sounds quirky, just notice the next out-of-town meeting you have and how hallway or restroom discussions have a different vibe. Sometimes the biggest breakthroughs in relationships and business meetings don’t occur in the meetings.

The second value of a bathroom is more private. I’m referring, less you get nervous, to the shower. In the presentation, I noted ways in which place affects one’s creativity. No where is this more common than in the shower. Many people report having some of their best ideas while standing beneath a flow of hot water. But why?

Research has shown that a number of factors – physical and psychological – come into play: the temperature, moisture, “white noise,” and isolation. But the main reason is this: All of those elements calm us and focus us.

Some people say that having an alcoholic beverage makes them more creative. That’s not exactly true. Instead, alcohol does what the shower does. It dulls our senses. That doesn’t increase our creativity but it does shut down or at least quiet down all those competing ideas and voices in our heads. In the shower, the reason we seem to have more creative thoughts is because we have less other thoughts. We’re able to pursue one line of thinking, something we miss in our stressed, “multi-tasking” routines outside the shower walls.

Restrooms for relationships. Showers for creativity. Odd places for these things, but just another example of the Power of Place to add value to our lives in surprising ways.

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Querencias, Creativity and Meaningful Travel

by Steve Brock January 18, 2011

Travel both feeds and undermines the creative process. Understanding how travel affects our creativity and the role that querencia (a place of safety) plays can help you travel in a more open and creative manner.

Read the full article →