To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.
When I went to Seoul for business it felt like I was learning to read all over again, trying to glean meaning from the logographic cues around me. It was fascinating, but also quite unnerving, that I was unable to decipher much of anything written there. In high school, I took 5 and 7 years of French and German respectively and my understanding of those languages swung back and forth between complete incomprehension and such fluidity I sometimes stopped thinking in English. During that week in Seoul I felt as helpless as a four year old, dependent on signs of westernization and the kindness of strangers who wanted to practice their English on me. It was a lot of work to scan symbols and try to find meaning before I could process things and move on. Being on the incomprehension side of not knowing a new language (not to mention jet lagged) was tough. But it was good for me. Tired as I was, I was also exhilarated and, stimulated.
For their research on the link between time abroad and creativity, William Maddux and Adam Galinsky, PhD, from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, conducted studies to test the idea that living abroad and creativity are linked. According to the authors, "gaining experience in foreign cultures has long been a classic prescription for artists interested in stimulating their imaginations or honing their crafts."
Indeed. For the artist in me, that trip was just what the doctor ordered.
Natalie Zensius is a marketing communications strategist with experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Learn more about Natalie at http:www.linkedin.com/in/nzensius.