Alex Leviton has made a career out of writing guidebooks, covering corners of the world from California to the Caribbean. For work, she spent four hours with a Zambian Franciscan friar on a private tour of the basilica in Assisi and hitched a ride with Rasta fishermen from the island of Statia to St. Kitts.
It’s a job in which excitement is inherent—but what she realized from all those years on the road is that traveling far, bag in tow, isn’t a requirement to discover a world of new experiences. “You don’t need to fly to the Maldives and stay in an above-water bungalow or trek through the Himalayas for months on end to awaken [a] sense of adventure or connection,” Leviton writes in her book Explore Every Day: 365 Daily Prompts to Refresh Your Life.
So how can you be adventurous and unlock the rewards of travel—the attunement that comes with living in the moment or the sense of accomplishment that results from trying something challenging—when jetting off to another country isn’t possible or practical?
It all starts with getting outside your comfort zone. In all likelihood, your day-to-day life has a fairly structured routine that’s quite comfortable. “As humans, we’re wired to avoid newness in order to avoid danger or stay safe,” Leviton says. “But with travel, creativity, and adventure, the driving force behind all three is novelty. When we travel, we give our safety-seeking brains no choice but to see life from a different perspective.”
We can shift our perspective, although this takes a bit of effort—fighting against biology isn’t easy. Leviton says we have a fascinating juxtaposition hardwired into our brains. When encountering a new experience, we get two messages:
1. Newness risks my safety—avoid!
2. That new thing I just accomplished? I feel amazing!
“This is counterintuitive, but to foster creativity, we need to trick our brains to get from layer one to layer two,” Leviton says. She compares creativity to a muscle, suggesting that we have to exercise it in order to help it grow. That means you can’t just expect to go through your regular routine as usual and stumble upon something new that sparks your creativity—you’ll have to push yourself to tap into it.
Think about what it is you do when you’re traveling that brings you joy—for example, you might like to learn, try new things, and notice the little details—and try some prompts related to those actions. Here are a few ideas:
● Do some genealogical research on your family until you find one new piece of information.
● Research a style of music you’re interested in for 10 minutes.
● Read the news today, but from another country’s perspective.
Try New Things
● Do your morning routine in an entirely different order.
● Get takeout from a cuisine you’ve never tried.
● Don’t use your dominant hand for one hour.
Notice the Little Details
● Take photos of everything yellow you see today. Make a collage.
● Give a tree or plant near your house a nickname based on its personality.
● Watch the sunrise or sunset, then sketch or describe it.
Until the next time you slip essentials into a neck pouch en route to a new place, you can complete small activities like these to shift your mindset and incorporate the sense of adventure you pack on a trip into your everyday existence, making travel a way of life.
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