5 Ways to Get Creative When You Live Abroad

5 Ways to Get Creative When You Live Abroad

Since I left the UK in 2007, I have become more creative and I have travelling to thank for that. I once read that people become more creative if they travel and see the world, but just how true is it?

I can’t speak for others, but I believe it is. The first time I went travelling, I became more interested in the world around me. I saw some beautiful, and not so beautiful, things. I experienced amazing things, I visited intriguing places, and I learned to open my eyes and appreciate the small things – to see wonder in them. Trees, birds, heck, even buildings. I was never interested in these things at home, but travel awakened a sense in me that I was barely aware of before. It gave me a new lease in life and I was more inclined to try different things and be more creative.

Now I live in Thailand and my creativity hasn’t gone – it’s only been enhanced. I love to write and take photographs, and I manage my two websites where I document life through my words and photography. I draw and paint (although not as much as I’d like), I’ve made my own Christmas decoration (still dangling), I’ve made presents for my family, and a vision board.

Ways to be creative when you live abroad
Handmade Christmas decoration

Living abroad has its challenges, one of which is you might not have the network of people that you have at home and you might need something to occupy your time – to stop yourself going a bit crazy. That’s certainly true for me and that’s where creativity comes in. It’s not just that, I find pleasure in creating things – whether that’s writing an article, or adding my photography to my website, or making something. It’s relaxing and you can’t beat the feeling of accomplishment when you sit back and look at your completed creation.

For naturally artistic types, living abroad doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. There are plenty of art shops to buy supplies (probably at a much cheaper price) and no end of inspiration, so here are a few ideas to get those creative juices flowing.

Photography

These days, everyone takes photographs of just about anything, but try and think of ways to make your photography more exciting.

Walk around, open your eyes and really take in your surroundings – by doing this I have learnt to look past the obvious things and hone in on the not-so obvious elements.

Instead of photographing everything, which I tend to do, think of ways to limit the amount of photographs you take by setting yourself daily challenges – pick a colour for the day or small details of buildings.

Ways to be creative when you live abroad
Focus on colours

Find an art gallery or bar that holds photo exhibitions and talk to them about displaying your work – a great way to work on your creativity skills as well as other skills, like organisation and communication and, more importantly, you’ll have fun at the same time.

Ways to be creative when you live abroad
On the Trail of Bangkok’s European Heritage photography exhibition

Make presents for family or friends by getting your photographs printed onto canvas – it’s not that expensive and it makes for a more thoughtful gift for your loved ones.

Ways to be creative when you live abroad
New Zealand Canvas Print

Draw or Paint

This is a fun and alternative idea to taking photographs and it will really stretch your creative skills.

I can draw better than I can paint, but only if I create something from a picture. There are no end of images you can use from the internet or you could use your own photographs to recreate into a drawing or painting – just choose your favourite images and paint them onto canvas or on paper which you can frame.

Ways to be creative when you live abroad
Painting from photographs – Sri Lanka

They look really fabulous displayed on your wall.

Ways to be creative when you live abroad
Art wall

Take a sketch pad out with you and draw or paint your subject instead. I did this on a beach on Koh Tao in Thailand. I sat down with my sketch pad and pencils in hand and started to create what I saw. I had a couple of people approach me to see what I was doing and since I’m not the greatest artist in the world, I felt like I wanted to stop and run away! But, don’t mind about others or if you think that you can’t do it, everything you produce is your own creation and you should be proud of the finished article.

Ways to be creative when you live abroad
Life drawings – boat off of Koh Tao
Ways to be creative when you live abroad
Life drawings – Hillside accommodation

Start a Blog

Start a blog about your travels. I started my blog in 2013 after I had been travelling and was back in the UK for a couple of years. I kept a journal while I was away, so I had loads of material from my travels that I created into blog posts. Since then I haven’t stopped – I write about places I have been to and things I have done as well as thoughts that creep into my head now and again – like poems and a memorial for a friend who sadly passed away.

There is loads of inspiration all around you. Write about the things you see and do. Write about the people you meet. Write about the restaurants you visit and what you ate. Write about the places you visited and the feeling you had when you were there. Write about anything, the subjects are endless and it will serve as a digital record of your life and experiences. You could even use your photographs for story ideas or look in your books and find inspiration from their table of contents.

Start a Scrapbook

I did this when I went travelling. The day I left work, my team gave me a journal so I could record my travels. I wrote in it most days along with plane, train and bus tickets, photos, temple tickets, receipts, and museum pamphlets. It’s up to you what goes in your scrapbook, it’s your memento of where you went, what you saw, and what you did. Things are easily forgotten, so this is an ideal way to bring those memories flooding back.

Ways to be creative when you live abroad
Travel journal

Another idea is to buy a scrapbook, it doesn’t have to be big, and fill it with whatever inspires you – for me that was photography. I went through some old magazines and found pictures of art designs, fireworks, lanterns, beach and city scenes – things that I find interesting and ideas for my photography.

Ways to be creative when you live abroad
Photography inspiration book

Make a Travel Vision Board

Vision boards are a great way to keep you focused on achieving your goals. All you need to do is to think about what inspires or motivates you and pin or glue pictures or words onto a board. Once your board is complete, place it somewhere where you’ll see it every day and your wishes will be implanted into your mind and hopefully come true.

I made a travel vision board. I used coloured card to cut out the letters of the countries I want to go to, then glued them onto a separate sheet and put it in a frame. I did another one of countries I have been to and used my photographs to cut out the letters. They now sit side-by-side next to my bed, so I can see them every day.

Ways to be creative when you live abroad
Travel vision board

Who knows if the power of visualisation actually works – all I know is that Italy was one of the countries I wanted to go to and I went to Rome earlier this year! Regardless of whether it works, and I really hope it does, it’s a lot of fun putting a vision board together!

What creative things do you do?

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere. ~Albert Einstein

10 Replies to “5 Ways to Get Creative When You Live Abroad”

  1. These are all great ideas, Gill. I already do scrapbooking, boards, photography, DIY and decorations for the house. I recently told Darren that we should work together on a travel diary based on his recent trip to Montreal. Your blogpost encourages me to keep doing what I love and inspires me new ways to get the creativity flowing. Thanks!

    1. Thank you so much! Wow, a travel diary sounds like a fab idea, I will look forward to seeing that and all your other posts. As I said to Darren, I absolutely love your fashion and nature posts – that really is an interesting combination, wouldn’t have thought of that myself. 🙂 x

  2. Wonderful ideas to get creativity flowing, Gill! Love the idea of printing photography on canvas for gifts to family and friends – will maybe do this for Christmas!! 😀 xx

    1. Thank you for your kind comment Sarah! Yes, they make great pressies. Another thing I have tried is to print a photo and place it photo side down and use gel medium to transfer it onto the canvas. Once you have pasted it, wrap it in a towel and leave it for 4 hours and then peel or scrape the paper away. I tried it a few times, but the colour doesnt come out as bright and you have to be so careful when you’re scraping the paper away as it’s very fragile. I found some instruction videos on YouTube. xx

  3. All great suggestions, Gill! I think traveling opens a persons eyes in many ways. Having not lived abroad but have traveled abroad, I can only address the traveling portion. It opens your eyes to subtle differences as different societies and cultures do things and see things a little differently. This opens your eyes to new ways to look at things visually and philosophically…great post!!

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