Coming home to spring

by Steve Brock on March 22, 2012

This last week, I had two back-to-back trips. Different clients, different parts of the country, each flight leaving so early in the morning that a chart of my circadian rhythms would have resembled a seismometer readout during The Big One.

But now I am home. Thus, I should be happy. And somewhere, deep inside of me, I’m sure that I am. But I’m troubled by one small detail.

In the few days since I left home, the world has changed.

In the short while since I left, spring has arrived or is at least inching its way into our garden. I pull into my driveway and see the first hint of plum blossoms. The forsythia ekes out its speckling of yellow. A few camellia blooms (see photo) make a brave show of it. Even the moss in our grass that I’ve pondered now for several weeks seems bittersweet, glowing brightly even as it seems to realize its days are numbered.

The problem is, I am not ready for spring.

I come home tired and, due to too many time zones, too little sleep and too much “on” I can’t appreciate what would normally delight me.

I tell myself it’s because we had, as did most of you, one of the mildest winters in memory. Thus, spring seems like winning your March Madness bracket by selecting your teams by accident: It feels just a tad undeserved.

But that’s not the real reason I’m not ready for spring.

I’m not ready because everything right now overwhelms me. You could tell me that your Oreo cookie didn’t twist open evenly and I might start crying. You could ask me for $1 and I might give you $10 simply because the extra zero wouldn’t register (but don’t bother testing that one…). If you told me I had to get back on another plane right now, I wouldn’t scream or threaten you with bodily harm. I’d likely just lower my head and sigh.

Travel wears us out. When you travel for work, you force yourself to be up. But when that blessed moment of return occurs, maintaining that same level of focus and energy feels like trying to hold water in your arms.

I love to travel but when spring no longer seems like a long awaited gift, I know that travel has taken a toll and I have forgotten the bigger picture of my life. So I can choose to complain about the drain and toil of travel – and it is real – or I can remember a quote from an aged saint of a woman who had walked closely with God all her life. When asked one day how she was, she replied:

“I am better than I feel.”

And so am I.

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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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One more thought on returning

by Steve Brock on August 20, 2010

Image of pillows and sheets

A well-deserved rest awaits the weary traveler

Two of my favorite scenes in the movie, The Return of the King (the third in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) occur near the end of the film.

The first is where Gandalf has flown in with the eagles and rescued Frodo and Sam from becoming crock pot ingredients in the meltdown of Mount Doom. That rescue scene itself has a quiet poignancy to it, a wordless picture of unexpected – almost unbelievable – salvation at a point in time when Frodo and Sam have resigned themselves to death. They have completed their mission and have done so together. They dream of what might have been, but they realize their predicament leaves little hope of retirement planning. And then, out of chaos and destruction come Gandalf and three birds big enough to do some major damage to your windshield if you ever parked beneath their roost.

Fade to black. [click to continue…]

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