Creativity and Travel

hiking jeff ryan

Today’s guest post is by Jeff Ryan.

“Travel allows me to keep the hobgoblins of a frittered life at bay.”
– Jeff Ryan

jeff4In the last few years, there’s been a staggering amount of interest in achieving the elusive state of “work/life balance”. Over 1 million people enter the phrase in Google search every week.

I totally get it. As a card carrying workaholic (loving what you do makes you particularly susceptible), I can drive myself to the edges, then wonder where all my rocket fuel went.

The lesson I learned long ago: Long stretches (weeks on end) of writing take an inevitable toll on the quality of my work, zap my creative reserves and make me grumpy. Even worse, when I lose my creative mojo, I start obsessing about life’s little chores. My “creativity pyramid” gets flipped on end, so I spend inordinate amounts of time in “the world of the unimportant”. When this state kicks in, I feel like I’m chasing my writing time as if it were a styrofoam cup blowing to and fro across a giant parking lot. I make a half assed attempt to grab it, but it always slips from my grasp.

hiking jeff ryanFortunately, I also found my cure for work/life imbalance a long time ago.

It’s travel.

Something amazing happens when I walk out the door with a backpack on. I step away from the vague land of “what ifs” and “somedays” into joyous realm of the here and now.

jeff2When I immerse myself in the present, I can feel my vitality and creativity gaining strength. As it turns out, I’m not alone.

The authors of a significant recent study conclude that “four nature-filled days – intentionally away from electronic devices – were linked with 50 percent higher scores on a test for creativity.”

[Source: Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings. Ruth Ann Atchley, David L. Strayer, Paul Atchley.]

Appalachian_Odyssey_Cover_Hi-resMy guess is that disconnecting from the internet allows us to reconnect with ourselves—often in profound ways. What we have in the absence of chatter is the spectacle of the world around us on our terms and in real time. There’s no better place to think great thoughts or enjoy the freedom of not having to think at all.

Taking a trip into the backcountry has always been the magic potion that fills me with strength, insights and perspective, that keeps the hobgoblins of a frittered life at bay. And most important, places the joy of living in the moment back at the top of the pyramid.

Jeff Ryan is the author of Appalachian Odyssey: A 28-year Hike of America’s Trail, which the former Executive Editor of National Geographic has described as, “destined to be a classic of nature and travel writing”. Read more on his site,

Let us know what you think