SELF-CONTAINED WORLD

Days lived away from your daily life are not the same as you daily life. Take those changes from routine as an opportunity to simplify certain aspects of your day, even as you open your senses to opportunities for expansion.

Days lived away from your daily life are not the same as you daily life. Take those changes from routine as an opportunity to simplify certain aspects of your day, even as you open your senses to opportunities for expansion.

When you're traveling, whatever you have with you....is all you have with you. You have yourself, of course, and what you're wearing, but in terms of material things that can distract you from being wherever you may happen to be, whatever you brought with you from the start is all there is. You're home is elsewhere, as are all the things in it: your bills, the basement you keep meaning to organize, your gym membership, your car. They're all somewhere else. It's as if you've agreed to seal yourself in a hermetic bubble of experience, a sealed universe of time and material mass. The stuff you can carry has some real measure of influence on what you will experience, but you can only carry so much. What you're left with is yourself and the experiences of your days.

Certainly if you travel with an electronic tether of some sort-- a computer or a phone or a tablet--you're tethered to your daily life in a pretty substantial way. If you spend any time routinely looking through a camera viewfinder or screen, there's a different sort of translocation, too, but the measure of these things matter largely according to the mettle of each individual. Both of these kinds of out-of-the-moment dislocations are a little different than extraneous socks and shoes making your suitcase heavy as you board the train.

Some people take the position that if they're missing something while traveling they'll simply buy it along the way. No doubt this is a legitimate option and warranted from time to time. But one of the best, most freeing, creativity-inducing things about travel is that it can unencumber you from the crush of stuff. To acquire is to be owned. That's right: to acquire new stuff is to be owned by new stuff. What you buy now has a claim on you as much as you have a claim on it. Whatever you buy requires some portion of care, lest the money you just put down for depreciates with the diminished state of whatever it is you just acquired.

When you travel, you turn your immediate life into a self-contained subset of your larger life. That's when the creative opportunities begin to flood in. With fewer things to weight you down, ideas begin to lift you up. You can observe. You can feel. You can drift. You can dream.

I find that travel is a form of self-containment that's not unlike being in the midst of an actual creative enterprise. When painting, when photographing, when cooking, when making a movie, the act of creating something new, or at least trying, necessitates the ability to compartmentalize in some real, practical way. Without the ability to compartmentalize, extraneous details creep in, confusing or diluting the clarity of your message and effort. Without compartmentalization, there is no singular focus on action, and creativity is nothing if it is not intentional -- intentional -- action.

Self-containment is not an attempt to be sealed off from the world. It's an effort to be free so you can experience the world, react to it, without unnecessary stuff getting in the way. I've found that for creative people the practice of disentanglement from distractions begins to suffuse their lives even away from travel and discrete projects. It becomes a way of life. Then, with fewer encumbrances, we travel more easily, lighter, carrying fewer bags with us, able to step more gracefully onto trains to distant places, even if the places to which we're traveling are right in front of us on paint-splattered canvasses.

--Michael Starobin

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