For Ideas That Travel... Travel
Laurence Green, Executive Partner at MullenLowe London, gives a rundown of why travelling may be an important stimulant to trigger untapped creative expression, as part of his column in Campaign.
It’s the holiday season, though not as we know it. A reminder, nonetheless, that wherever you go and however you get there, travel is good for you: professionally as well as personally.
“A change is as good as a rest”, it’s said. Starved of travel these last 18 months, and confined to barracks for long periods, I’d go further. Rest has been readily available for most of us during lockdown, albeit in highly familiar settings; change, less so. We humans need both, but right now it’s the latter we crave.
In Why We Sleep, the case for rest was persuasively made by the neuroscientist Matthew Walker The case for change, or at least the variety that travel throws up - a new environment, new horizons, perhaps even a new language - seems equally insistent but is necessarily more anecdotal.
The last year and a half has in some ways been a mass social experiment, and eagle-eyed researchers are now casting their minds over it in all sorts of ways.
It’s a matter of fact, for example, that the eyesight of white-collar workers has deteriorated appreciably over the period as we stared at pixelated colleagues and the walls of our homes beyond. It’s a familiar problem to some: in A Bit of a Stretch, documentary-maker turned prison inmate Chris Atkins reports much the same struggle to adjust his line of vision as he reaches the open vistas of Ford after six months staring at the walls of HMP Wandsworth.
Travel, then, will literally open your eyes, but the professional upside of the broader horizons and fresh stimulus it yields run deeper.
The toughest problems in marketing, as elsewhere, are often better understood and more helpfully framed by wider contemplation. Objectives become more audacious, strategies more surprising. The best solutions, likewise, are invariably nourished by extraneous stimulus rather than the stuff in the foreground, as Walter Campbell’s recent description of the making of Guinness "Surfer" makes abundantly clear.
Creatives work from a brief, not to it.
Journeys, then, as Alain de Botton once put it, are the midwives of thought, and they may even make us better people. De Botton’s philosophical forerunner, Mark Twain, expressed it thus:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views… cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Something to bear in mind, perhaps, as we feel our individual and collective way to quite how much time we devote in future to working from home.
That said, it seems we have an instinctive, perhaps even primal, sense of all this. Sales of travel literature (rather than guidebooks) have doubled during lockdown. If we can’t travel, we still want to let our minds wander and will find the best available proxy. But there’s no substitute for the real thing, whether you are stay-cationing or trying to beat the lights.
It’s a cliché but no less true for being so: travel broadens the mind, and so it follows: for ideas that travel… travel.