When I set off travelling, I imagined myself creating art while on the move.
With so much inspiration around me, I assumed that tapping into a creative headspace would be a piece-o-cake. On trains and planes, in the back of a campervan, in airport lounges, dingy diners, and pho restaurants, there I would be with my fingers curled over my laptop and a look of intense concentration on my face. My mind would be as crisp and fluid as a glacial river. Ideas would flow forth like… um… like… ummmmm…
Turns out, creating and travelling clash. While both activities enrich each other, they cannot be performed simultaneously. At least, not by me.
I don’t know what it’s like for other people, but in order to create I need to go deeply inwards. This often means losing touch with my surroundings. The deeper I go into my imagination, the more my reality fades into non-existence. Time slips away and everything real becomes peripheral. After an intensive day of writing or painting, I sometimes ‘wake’ to wonder where I am and where I’ve been all day.
In contrast with this, travel forces you to be on high alert to your surroundings. When you’re out of your comfort zone, this kind of heightened awareness is essential for survival. There are other pressing needs to take care of, like shelter, food, health and personal safety. Dreaming is an indulgence only for those who have their survival needs taken care of.
So while living as a nomad, I find it hard to draw my attention inwards; to let go, to lose touch with my physical self, to tap into a creative space. Drifting into the imagination is like falling into a dream—in order to do that, I need a safe and cosy bed to surrender to. Being creative while travelling is like trying to fall asleep on the shoulder of a busy highway.
I find myself continually pulled between wanting to stay put to create and wanting to travel.
What about you? Do you need a certain kind of space in order to be creative, or can you create from anywhere?
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.