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How To Travel Through An Artistic Lens

Dr. Ginger Carlson is an international keynote and TEDx speaker, leader, and award-winning author. She has presented and written widely on the topics of creativity, communication, growth, and transformation, and how to uniquely and positively nurture each of them in our personal lives and organizations.

 
Executive Contributor Ginger Carlson

Embark on a journey beyond the ordinary by exploring the world through an artistic lens. Dr. Ginger Carlson recently visited Zimbabwe for a TEDx talk on "The Power of Multarity Thinking," which uses symbols to deepen empathy and connections. This trip enriched her perspective on how art transforms our experience of places. From bustling markets to serene landscapes, every destination is a canvas awaiting exploration. In this article, she offers insights and tips to help you uncover the aesthetic and cultural richness of your travels, seeing each place through an artist's eyes.

  Cheerful man photographing Bangkok cityscape

I recently traveled to Zimbabwe, where I had the privilege of delivering a TEDx talk on "The Power of Multarity Thinking." Central to this transformative approach is our use of symbols to foster dialogue and bridge the divides that fragment our world. In line with this philosophy, I continually explore how ideas and thoughts manifest visually in our surroundings. That can so easily extend to when we travel. The next time you find yourself on the road, try doing it through an artistic lens. This perspective not only adds beauty to your experiences but also deepens your connection to each destination, uncovering the rich tapestry of culture and insight they hold. 


4 tips to travel through an artistic lens


1. Engage the senses

Travel can be the ultimate aesthetic experience. New people, new smells, new weather, new traffic, new tastes. So many new opportunities to engage the senses and elevate your experience. The good news is that it doesn’t usually cost you any more to plan for a truly aesthetic experience, but your senses and perspective will certainly thank you for it. 


During my time in Zimbabwe, we had the pleasure and honor to be guests at the Amanzi Lodge. I’ve stayed all over the world, and rarely have been provided with such a completely artistic and aesthetic experience as I had at Amanzi. From the food to the gardens to each uniquely appointed room and every single staff member who so generously engaged in conversation and my questions, this lodge is a masterpiece in its own right, overflowing with natural beauty, in every sense of the word. 


When you are both planning for your trip and when you’re there, make intentional choices about how you want to engage the experience of it all. Where do you want to go? Who do you want to talk to you? What questions will you ask? What do you want to learn? How else might you engage in this new place differently than you have in the past? When traveling, listen to the sounds of local markets, music, and conversations. Smell the spices, flowers, or ocean breeze that permeates the air. Explore the flavors unique to the culture, and savor them. Feel the textures of the materials used in crafts or architecture. By immersing yourself fully in the sensory environment, you deepen your connection with the place and can gain new creative ideas.


2. Capture unique moments

With social media being what it is today, it’s no surprise that travelers are getting better and better at capturing each moment. While the allure of posting what you capture remains strong, please also take some moments and hold them for yourself. Photography, sketching, or writing can help capture your impressions of a place. Experiment with different perspectives and angles while photographing, or quickly sketch notable details in a travel journal. 


To capture the spirit of my time in Zimbabwe, I did what I often do: I photographed the artwork, people, and landscapes that resonated with me. I also sketched some of the architectural patterns of Harare's buildings and crossroads that inspired me and jotted down my thoughts through the poetry that often comes through me. (If you don’t already travel with a pocket-sized notebook, pack one next time and try this practice on for size.) Remember, be flexible with how you engage the world so you can see alternative possibilities. Creative expressions like this provide you with a visual and emotional record of your journey.


3. Seek the symbols beyond the surface

Begin by observing your surroundings with a heightened sense of awareness. Pay attention to shapes, colors, patterns, and the interplay of light and shadow. Instead of rushing through landmarks, linger to appreciate their details. Notice how natural landscapes interact with human-made structures, and how the texture of old cobblestone streets contrasts with the sleekness of modern architecture. By focusing on these details, you’ll start to see the new place not just as a destination but as a canvas waiting to be explored.


During my trip, I felt enormously fortunate to spend time with many gallery and museum curators, as well as some of the artists filling their spaces. Through all types of visual and performance art, they tackled themes such as economic disparity, social justice, and the preservation of local culture. Their deep commitment to portraying important issues through symbolism revealed the stories and values that underpin the society. Meeting these curators and learning about the meaning behind the art brought me closer to understanding the collective imagination that shapes the country's artistic expression.


Realize that different places often have symbols that reveal the stories and values of their cultures. Look for artistic motifs, statues, or murals that convey local history or beliefs. Visit museums and galleries to understand how artists from the region interpret their world. By understanding the symbolic language of the new place through the voice of the people, you can gain insights into the collective imagination that shapes it. You might even be able to see and understand the paradoxes better and come home with some new inspiration for what challenges you.


4. Connect with humans

Finally, one of the most enriching aspects of artistic travel is of course engaging with the people who live there. It’s why I travel. Each individual I spoke with brought a unique perspective that expanded my understanding of Zimbabwe's cultural and artistic landscape. With every different perspective, every story they told, and every personal experience and belief we explored together, new insights emerged. Every question led to heartfelt conversations and genuine connections that have continued even now that I am home. 


Don’t just go for the sights; connect with the hearts, too. Attend local art events or exhibitions, and talk to artists and artisans about their work. Join walking tours led by passionate guides or participate in workshops that teach traditional crafts. This human connection adds layers to your understanding and can lead to collaborative projects or lifelong friendships.

 

Visiting a new place through an artistic lens transforms travel into a deeply personal and inspiring experience. By observing like an artist, engaging aesthetically, capturing moments and symbolism, and connecting deeply with the people you meet, you can uncover the beauty and meaning hidden in every destination.



 

Ginger Carlson,Life Alchemist

Dr. Ginger Carlson is an international keynote and TEDx speaker, leader, and award-winning author. She has presented and written widely on the topics of creativity, communication, growth, and transformation, and how to uniquely and positively nurture each of them in our personal lives and organizations. Dr. Carlson is the co-founder of Möbius Dynamics and CEO of The Multarity Project™. She can be contacted through her websites https://www.gingercarlson.com/ and https://www.multarityproject.com/ 


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