30 Ways to Be Creative on the Road

All my life, I have been a wanderer and a creative. But somehow I have struggled to marry the two, incorrectly believing that I must be stationary and settled—preferably with an artist’s studio—to properly develop my creative practice and voice. While I have always found a way to be creative—be it functionally or aesthetically—my curiosity of various mediums and my all-or-nothing mentality has caused my creativity on the road to be more happenstance than intentional.

It is my desire to someday be a master of something—or even a few things—and to also live nomadically and travel extensively. While it can be difficult to develop a creative practice in an unstable environment, the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual nourishment that comes with a transient lifestyle is worthy of the challenge. Thus, I have committed myself to exploring and refining my creative expressions through simple and portable avenues, and to finding inspiration and clarity in the limitations.

Here, you will find a curated list of 30 ways to be creative on the road.

  1. Do blind contour drawings.
  2. Write poetry in the sand.
  3. Craft a collage from collected maps and guides.
  4. Keep an illustrated travel journal.
  5. Embroider a set of handkerchiefs.
  6. Make and send watercolor postcards.
  7. Practice penmanship or calligraphy.
  8. Keep a zentangle journal.
  9. Create found poetry.
  10. Write a letter by hand and doodle in the margins.
  11. Make a pop-up card or book.
  12. Fold an origami something.
  13. Paint with vegetable dyes.
  14. Plant love letters for strangers to find.
  15. Make block printing stamps out of potatoes, apples, celery, and more.
  16. Mend something you will wear while away.
  17. Find a bead shop and make a bracelet.
  18. Prepare a beautifully arranged meal.
  19. Knit or crochet a pair of socks.
  20. Learn to play the harmonica.
  21. Build rock piles or inukshuks.
  22. Write haikus by hand.
  23. Photograph found art within nature.
  24. Look for familiar creatures or objects in cloud formations.
  25. Develop your storytelling skills.
  26. Build a capsule wardrobe.
  27. Weave a small wall hanging.
  28. Draw on your napkin while dining out.
  29. Go to an art walk or poetry reading for inspiration.
  30. Make tiny anything you would make big.

In every moment there is an opportunity to be creative. How do you take creativity on the road with you?

6 comments

  1. I love these ideas! I can honestly say I have done a few of them. Some journaling, a little photography and some haikus. A few I want to try are the zentangle journal (I had to google what that was!) and develop story telling skills. How would one do that? Listen to good story tellers maybe?

    1. I loved writing the haikus with you and Drew in Germany! It was the first time I’d done it while traveling and I found its simplicity both grounding and revealing.

      Like you, I would love to develop my storytelling skills. While I’m not yet an expert, I’d say listening intentionally to those you believe to be good storytellers is a perfect start. And when you are done, maybe write some notes on why you were so captivated by their storytelling. Or keep a collection of mental notes, like I do. Another helpful exercise would be to write stories as you’d like to tell them, as it organizes the way your brain thinks about stories. The other thing you could do is practice telling stories in a mirror. Silly, yes, but effective.

      After I become a more seasoned storyteller myself, maybe I’ll write a helpful post about it. 🙂

  2. I’ve often combined a couple of the ideas you listed here. I pair calligraphy practice with letter writing–for strangers or friends and loved ones. There’s nothing more special than a postcard or letter that arrives from some far away land, penned in someone’s own hand. And as a kid I distinctly remember my parents being annoyed that I would take extra long to pack up a hotel room during a family vacation because I liked to leave a thank you note and a doodle for the housekeeping staff.

    As an adult, I picked this practice back up after a trip to a Borders bookstore in Hawaii as they were shuttering their stores. I stumbled across a really touching book called “Post Secret.” If you haven’t heard of it, definitely Google it. The book is comprised of anonymous secrets mailed to a man who compiled them in the book. Done partly as a social experiment and partly to help people relieve a small measure of secret burden, the book is very revealing and a powerful read…so powerful that passersby in the bookstore had taken time to hand-write secrets on scraps of napkin, scratch paper, the backs of receipts, or old envelopes, leaving behind a shared secret of their own. The notes reminded me of my hotel paper “gifts” and to this day, whenever I’m traveling and I think about it, I try to leave handwritten notes behind for someone else to find.

    My best travel creativity usually doesn’t manifest while traveling though, it reveals itself in long-term ideas that occur while running. For me, there’s no better way to experience the place I am than to run it. In Asia I’ve run and become closer to my Buddhist ideals and the feng shui I try create in the home; in Spain, the ocean air and beach-yoga-goers guided a sense of calm and desire to photograph the morning. Running is my key to travel creativity.

    1. Your comment made me smile, Brandon! Particularly the bit about leaving handwritten notes for hotel housekeeping staff as a child. While it may have annoyed your parents at the time, I’m sure they admire the intention and thoughtfulness this gesture was rooted in.

      Yes! I have heard of “Post Secret.” I have never read the book, but I used to follow their digital posts when they first launched. Somehow, they fell off my radar, but I found them on Instagram and am now following them again. Thank you for reminding me about them! The project itself is powerful, but I love even more that people leave their own handwritten notes tucked inside the book.

      Your practice of leaving handwritten notes behind for strangers reminds me of the “Love Letters to Strangers” project by Nate Proctor (https://www.nateproctor.com/love-letters-kit). Have you heard of it? I keep meaning to start planting some of my own handwritten letters to strangers.

      I completely understand how running helps in your long-term manifestation of creativity and travel. Your examples are so vivid. It is clear you are a gifted writer! For me, the manifestation is inspired by walking. I am always walking, to the annoyance of others at times. But walking helps me see things (in my head and around me) more closely, clearly, compassionately, and creatively.

      Thank you so much for your comment. I look forward to hearing from you again.

      1. I’m glad to hear that, Jessica! That’s what it’s all about–making people smile. 🙂

        These days my parents do appreciate my quirky letters. I suppose it’s almost a learned thing–my dad has always made it a point to go out of his way to say thank you to janitors, maids, police officers, and other under-appreciated people, so I try to do the same. In this case, with letters.

        I definitely recommend the books. I actually own three of them. They’re really great coffee table books, and although they’re sometimes a bit deep and emotional for the everyday visitor, I like to offer something thought provoking when I have the opportunity.

        I had not heard of that project. Upon googling it (because I didn’t notice you put the link there!) I found a related, neat TED talk you might be interested in:

        https://www.ted.com/talks/hannah_brencher_love_letters_to_strangers

        You’re right that that’s a great project. I read through his website and I’m really impressed. I like things like that a lot. I can see myself doing that when getting back to the states. I wish my grandmother were still around–she’d probably really enjoy writing and decorating them with calligraphic flourish with me.

        Thank you for the kind words! I appreciate that; and I appreciate your writing and writing style as well. Looking forward to your next post!

        1. It looks like my local library has the first edition of the “Post Secret” book, so I’ll have to check it out (I’m a bit of a nomad these days and trying to keep my book collection to a minimum). Like you, I appreciate discovering and providing thought-provoking coffee table books.

          Thank you for sharing that TEDTalk! I hadn’t seen it before and really enjoyed Hannah’s perspective on letter writing. As someone who is typically all about efficiency, I particularly connected with her question: “But what if it’s not about efficiency this time?” And to her reflection on why letter writing is and always will be an essential art form.

          I hope you do get involved in an anonymous letter writing program when you return to the US! I can tell your words would be cherished by anyone lucky enough to find them. It sounds like you may have adopted your love of calligraphy from your grandmother? How special that you’re able to carry her with you in that way.

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