Expand Your Borders: Tips for Sparking Creativity Through Travel with Cathy Anderson
I am an artist—a creative soul that cannot be tamed, a dreamer with a big heart who refuses to allow societal rules to define me. But I didn’t pop out of my mother’s womb with big ideas and a nomadic spirit; it was something I fought for over the span of several decades. I was born into a world of manners and politeness; you are conditioned to believe the ideals of your community and are told what to say and when to speak. It was a toxic environment that killed individuality and creative expression, but I never realized that there was a different way while inside the comfortable confines of my hometown.
I had not grasped how strong and negative of an influence small-town America and its “hometowners” had upon me. Hometowners live comfortable lives within the same geographic region; they are conditioned to inherit ancestral ideals and to fear the unknown. Without exposure beyond the city limits, they live mechanically and rarely venture past what is familiar, sinking into a jaded life of repetition.
I am eternally grateful that my parents valued creativity so much; they unknowingly laid the foundation for my artistic career. I was raised in a darkroom, attended weekly art classes, and played the saxophone. Because they exposed me to many different outlets of expression, I began to create my own language of expression that was broader and deeper than a small-town mentality. They introduced a fledgling creative to innovation—making changes in something established, especially by introducing new ideas or methods (Oxford dictionary). That foundation helped me eventually understand that the hometowner way was not the only way. I often found myself alienated within my community as my dreams grew bigger; my rebellious ideas were unwelcome and wrong and I became silenced by antiquated ways of thinking.
A creative person always [tries] the wrong ways. If you always follow the right way to do [something], you will never be creative, because the “right way” means the way discovered by others. An artist has to live in rebellion because creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence. –Osho
It didn’t take me long to realize that my dreams outgrew the city limits’ borders. My life took a rogue course and I planned several international adventures to places across the globe—Jamaica, France, Iceland, and the United Kingdom. Traveling abroad allowed me to compare the “normal” American way to the exciting reality of how international cultures truly exist. Somewhere in history, our great nation branded itself as the governing body that defined “normal.” Our way was the “only” and “right” way, and our ideals became the standard for happiness. A personal friend describes it best, saying:
Our minds are limited by our experiences. It is impossible to conceptualize new ideas until we’ve had exposure to things we’ve never known. –Amanda Nowatka
How is it possible to dream bigger than what we’ve always known if we are not exposed to new concepts and ways of living that we’ve never seen? A foreigner from a tropical island may define contentment as earning a modest fisherman’s wage and living a quiet life in a small, beachfront shack. Americans often see his “tropical paradise” as “less fortunate,” only because the “American way” dictated that a fat wallet is the bellwether for contentment.
My adventures exposed me to the dissonance between the teachings of my youth and the reality of life in a foreign country. My heart longed to begin a rebellious journey that introduced me to “outsiders,” to challenge the familiar and comfortable “American way,” and to search for other ways foreign to my experiences. Oddly enough, I began to identify connections between international travel and my creative process. Creation is the fabrication of new and original ideas that challenge what is familiar, adapted and molded by the influence of outside forces. An outsider’s point of view that doesn’t align with the American way isn’t wrong; it is a different and new concept. It opens our world to a beautiful diversity that fuels innovation, art, and creativity. Creativity begins when an artist lets go of communal standards and allows their established way of thinking to be affected by outside forces. It opens closed minds and can grant the courage to explore and freedom to define new standards. I grew and changed as I photographed unfamiliar landscapes, tasted exotic foods for the first time, and met amazing people from distinctive cultures. My adventures silently influenced my belief system and helped me understand that the familiarity and comfort of the “American way” is simply one point of view, but not the wrong or only way of living.
Traveling is a critical part of my creative process—I cannot thrive creatively in the presence of apathy, boredom, repetition, or stress. When I get bored, I fall into a routine and my work becomes mechanical, producing the same result over and over. My life must be filled with inspiration and excitement to foster my imagination. The excitement of travel serves as an outlet and therapy that renews my mind and stokes my creative flame. Seeing the world excites me, showing me something new and unexpected around every turn, and helps me to forget my stressful life. It challenges my current point of view and influences higher levels of thinking so that I remain creative and innovative. The pursuit of creativity reveals new and exciting concepts with every step of the journey in the same way that eating new food, discovering grand vistas, or experiencing different cultures invigorates the vagabond inside of me.
“The day a creative soul loses their thirst to learn and their desire to be challenged is the day they die as an artist.” –Cathy Anderson
In the words of Kenny Chesney, I’ve become a “wild child…with a rebel soul [and] a whole lot of gypsy.” I can only be tied down for a fleeting moment before I run off “chasing the sun” on my next untamed pursuit. I refuse to let others silence my spirit and am passionately committed to an unapologetic life full of excitement and innovation.
I came from a small town and I know how it feels to be afraid of venturing outside the city limits. But I also took a leap of faith and began to see the world, a beautiful and exciting world, outside of comfortable borders. Let me help you plan your own journey. Check out my favorite travel tips in the list below:
WHERE TO GO: Choose a location and plan months in advance, collecting information from Youtube, Instagram, and travel blogs. On Instagram, follow hashtags and tourism accounts related to your destination and create a collection of saved photos of locations you want to visit. Then, compile everything within a custom Google Map to guide your travels.
WHEN TO VISIT: Research the best times to visit your destination. Consider what you want to see and when to travel to achieve your goals. For example, in Iceland, you only see ice caves and northern lights in the winter and the highlands, puffins, and green hills in the summer. Consider traveling in the shoulder seasons to save money when crowds are sparse and prices are low. Research the season, weather, and temperatures of your destination and pack accordingly.
AIRFARE AND TRANSPORTATION: Use search engines or sign up for newsletters that find discounted flights (Google Flights, Scott’s Cheap Flights, travelzoo.com, skyscanner.com). If your plans are flexible, utilize skyscanner.com to explore an entire month or several areas simultaneously. Also check out budget airlines (domestic: Southwest, Allegiant, Spirit, Southwest, Frontier, WestJet; international: Norwegian, RyanAir, EasyJet), but make sure you read the fine print to determine what is included. Traveling around Europe is easy because of a highly-developed travel infrastructure. To get there, book a cheap fare from your home airport to a major domestic hub where international budget airlines connect, allowing you to purchase more affordable fares to overseas locations. When you arrive in Europe, you can easily navigate through several countries by booking cheap flights through RyanAir.com or riding a high-speed train or mass transit (buses or subway). Don’t forget about credit cards with travel miles and loyalty programs!
RENTAL CARS VERSUS TOURS: Rent a car and skip the tours. If you are willing to venture off the beaten path, most locations boast awe-inspiring natural wonders that are free to visit. You won’t be bound by itineraries and timelines. Your personal car insurance normally only covers rentals in the US and Canada, so make sure you purchase proper coverage. Don’t forget to check on necessary travel documentation: passports, international driver’s licenses (consult AAA.com), or visas. Enroll in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry to expedite your time at the airport.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Use booking.com for accommodations. It lists many places that don’t require pre-payment and offer free cancellation.
FOOD: Buy groceries and don’t eat out a lot. Research budget grocery chains (like Tesco in the UK or Bonus/Kronan in Iceland) at your destination to save money.