How to enliven your creativity while you’re away and keep it going when you return.

Think of yourself not just as a shopper but as a curator

The need to relax is a good enough reason to take a vacation. But it’s far from the only one. When you’re not busy putting out fires at work, you can do something far more fulfilling: rekindle your creative brain. “When you travel, you’re in new surroundings, often exposed to different languages and cultures, and your senses are enlivened,” says Jennifer Lee, founder of Artizen Coaching and author of The Right-Brain Business Plan. All of this input can trigger new ideas, experiences, and insights that can inform your life in a new way, if you let it. “We tend to relegate creativity to the domain of fun or hobby, something extracurricular,” she says, “when in fact if we invite creativity into our lives, we’ll be more effective, find better solutions, and feel more satisfied.”

During Your Cruise

Indulging your creative interests and urges doesn’t have to have an end goal. The experience itself can enhance your enjoyment of the trip and prove the difference between feeling relaxed and renewed. Here are Lee’s tips for fanning your creative flame.

SketchSketch. When Lee went on a two-week Mediterranean cruise with her family, she took her sketchbook and travel watercolor kit with her. “I wouldn’t call myself a fine artist, but I do what I call visual journaling,” she says. “I capture what I see in sketches, notes, and doodles.” The act of sketching can change your experience. “It takes longer to sketch something than it does to snap a picture,” says Lee. “You have to look at things differently, take it all in, pause. You become more present and aware.” Keep a blank book on hand and paints or just a pencil to create your unique visual record of the journey.

Collect. Look for items along the way that embody the spirit of your trip: a postcard, a matchbook, a piece of jewelry, a small painting by a local artist. Think of yourself not just as a shopper but as a curator, making careful selections that represent the journey. These choices serve not only as lovely keepsakes but also as touchstones for the experience itself.

Journal. If you prefer the written word, carry a notebook and pen, but don’t feel pressured to write a whole memoir. Think of it instead as capturing a few scenes, images, snatches of dialogue, a reflection. You may start writing about an amazing brunch on the water and end up gaining some insights about your life goals. Now that’s powerful.

Create a habit. Many experts say that the time to put a new habit in place is when you’re out of your usual routine. Like now. Carve out a few minutes in the morning or late afternoon to write, sketch, read, listen to music. Think of it as building a creative bubble that you can revisit anytime.

After Your Cruise

Don’t stow away your juiced-up creativity along with your sunscreen. While you’re basking in the afterglow of your trip, use your freshly heightened senses to keep your creative momentum going.

Photo albumSet a timer. You may not have the whole afternoon to read and doze on a chaise now that you’re back, but you can still experience a little of that creative luxury every day. An hour would be great (wouldn’t it?) but at the very least, set a timer for five or ten minutes to journal, sketch, scrapbook, or do some other purely creative activity. “We all have five minutes,” says Lee.

Get outside. Vacations don’t usually take place indoors. “You’re likely to be more physically active when you’re away,” says Lee. Nothing feeds the senses and the creative mind like the natural world. So take every opportunity to get outside, even if it’s just a twenty-minute walk on your lunch break. Moving and breathing will help you bust through any rut and keep your creative mind fertile. “It’s often when I’m just out walking my dog that I have my biggest aha moments,” says Lee.

Edit your photos. Rather than letting all your digital shots stay trapped on your phone, select the best ones and use Instagram, Snapseed, or any number of other photo-editing apps to put your own spin on them. “When you use a filter or change the image, you’re making a creative choice,” says Lee. Create a curated album of the finished shots along with captions, and you have a memory you can keep and share.

Think like a tourist. “When you’re traveling, you soak up your surroundings like a sponge,” says Lee, which can lead to bursts of creative inspiration. Re-create that explorer mind-set by either changing what you do or changing the way you experience it. Eat something different for breakfast or lunch. Take a new route to work and turn your mindless commute into a whole new trip. Look at your home, your desk, your neighborhood as if you’ve never seen them before. Maybe even sign up for a tour of your own city and see it from a visitor’s perspective.

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