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April 01, 2015

Study: Traveling abroad fosters a creative brain

For those feeling flattened against a brick wall, the results of a new study show that taking time to travel and get away from your daily environment may strengthen your creative potential and sense of self.

Going on vacation might not do the trick, however. Professor Adam Galinsky of Columbia Business School has led numerous studies on the connection between creativity and international travel, finding that multicultural engagement, immersion and adaptation all increase cognitive flexibility -- and, in turn, creativity, The Atlantic reports. 

Historical examples include Ernest Hemingway in Spain and France, Aldous Huxley in the United States and, in more recent times, Alejandro González Iñárritu's directorial efforts around the world. 

As psychologists and neuroscientists have found, spending time abroad can effect mental change through exposure to new sensations that enhance neuroplasticity.

Galinsky's most recent study, published in the Academy of Management Journal, looked at the experience of creative directors for 270 high-end fashion lines. A pool of trade journalists and independent buyers evaluated the creative output and innovation of their companies and found that those directors who spent time abroad consistently produced work that was deemed creative and fashionable by external audiences.

Another benefit of travel, Galinsky found, is an increase in "generalized trust" or "faith in humanity" that help stimulate creativity. 

Getting away can be increasingly difficult for many who have binding responsibilities, but it's worth considering whether doing so at some point would improve the capacity to handle them. 

Read the full Atlantic story.