The inspiration to listen, then follow one’s heart often does not come while staying in our normal circumstances. One of the easiest ways to get out of your own way and recreate yourself, is through travel, especially to foreign lands.
Breaking patterns requires a willingness to depart from a “known” way of life to venture, instead, in a new direction. Our hope is that it leads to a more fulfilled way of being. The challenge is in taking that first step forward.
Travel can provide the key to creative problem-solving:
According to research conducted by Jia and colleagues, “The effect of spatial distance on creative cognition,” found that “psychological distance” even just away from your home state, can lead to positive “creative cognition and insight problem solving.” The cognitive benefits of psychological distance such as visiting a foreign land forces our brain to think outside the box because our frame of reference is removed.
“If you train a mouse to search a maze for cheese, it will eventually find it. Now if you move the cheese to a new part of the maze, the mouse will go back to the old spot for awhile, but eventually it will give up and look elsewhere. In contrast, metaphorically, the humans sometimes keep going back to the same spot again and again, insisting that the cheese “ought to be in a certain place” and that “nobody has a right to move it.” 
The “cheese” in this example represents our perceived source of happiness. It is our soul food if you will, and the “maze,” is the path we take to get there. When we are too close to our problems, we often stubbornly go back in the same direction to try to “get it right this time.” Instead research finds creativity comes with distance. Often it causes a full pattern break because we have vastly different input coming at us. Travel even domestically can help. However, the more dramatic the contrast in culture/landscape, the more likely we are to see things differently.
Foreign travel provides inspiration to choose a new path:
During my first trip to India, I found myself in complete sensory overload. This radically different cultural experience, had my brain go into observation shutdown mode. The more I tried to use my western mind to assess things, the more disoriented I felt. The streets I went by were filled with everything different; cultural expression, clothing, smells, rules, activities, transportation, and environmental conditions. Being the only westerner in this town, the locals stared at me as if I was an alien. Chaos seemed to fill the streets with cars, auto rickshaws and motorcycles, all moving in a bizarrely wild traffic configuration. Yet, they would slow down to avoid hitting the sacred peaceful cow, that had stopped in the middle of the road to chew rubbish. It took awhile for my mind to accept that “my way of being” was not better, just different.
Then after a week or two, I found myself accepting the differences. Instead of focusing on the disturbing contrast, I put my attention to the beauty. I somehow started to appreciate the duality of fast and slow pace. Then my mind gave way to a new way of being and a sense of peace came over me. My western mind had gotten in the way of my peace. The chaos of the street became amusing and India’s devotional spirit flooded my heart. What I took away from the experience, is my mind is not my friend. My mind needs to be bent in order to appreciate what I do have – like a flushing toilet.
My travel experience in India was a complete pattern interrupt, because it was so incongruent with my cultural expectations and beliefs. When I came back I found it had reconstructed my mind, so that I had a greater sense of peace and tolerance in my everyday life. Now when there is chaos in my life, I remember India, and look for the beauty and duality in that moment.
Distance from our home environment can remove the pressure for us to be the same. It provides us with the freedom to recreate or discover another part of ourselves and open us to see a solution that was unable to be seen while in our “normal” life circumstances. In essence, travel is one of the most powerful tools to help us engage in our life, with a more passionate and daring spirit.
Enjoy the Journey
 Lile Jia, Edward R. Hirt, Samuel C. Karpen. “Lessons from a Faraway Land: effects of spaial distance on creative cognition.” Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 45, Issue 5, September 2009, Pages 1127-1131.