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Living Abroad for Creativity – How Moving to China Set Off the Most Creative Period in My Life

A man in a hat walking through a rice field in China.

I always say that I moved abroad for adventure and I stayed because of the creative benefits.  These benefits have caused me to extend my stay indefinitely, start (and fail) new businesses, and even change my career path.  There’s just something about being challenged every day that appeals to me.

The thing about travel is, it has the unique ability to leave you wanting more, and I often found myself sitting at my desk and daydreaming about going back abroad.  I’d do tortuous things like read travel blogs and scout flights to distant lands, just to see if I could make it work.

In the end it became too much and I left the states for China, a place where I had traveled before and always wanted to see more of.  My plan was to get back into teaching and see where it took me – I knew I didn’t want to teach long term, but at least it served as getting me back abroad.

This was not an easy move to make – I had an arguably good job at a growing company and my decision was met with a healthy amount of skepticism from family and friends alike.

I’ve moved from teaching to freelancing (in an industry semi-related to my job back home), started a website, and found more inspiration and motivation than I could hope for.

A laptop on a table in front of a window, while moving to China.

How did it happen?

I fully credit my decision to move back abroad with getting me to where I am today.  Anyone that has ever traveled knows that experiencing a new place can be inspirational – just think about how many videos, blog posts, and journal entries have been created around travel and vacations.  However, when you actually move to a new place, these feelings never really subside.

Sure, you get more familiar with the city and country, but you never really go on autopilot as if you were back home.  In my opinion, there are 3 pieces to this that really impacted my time in China.

New Challenges

I get challenged every single day and as a result I’m constantly planning ahead or solving issues on the spot.

These types of things seem minor, but it’s these challenges that have really caused me to flex my brain on things that would come easy in the states.  As a result, I constantly find myself planning ahead, anticipating problems, and doing more research for stuff in both my personal and professional lives.

A man moving to China stands in front of a mountain overlooking a valley.

New People

The old adage goes that you are a product of the people with whom you spend the most time.  Guess what?  If your close friends back home are all doing similar things, then it’s going to be very difficult for you to go against the grain.

China has allowed me to get to know a lot of incredible people, many of whom have inspired me by how they live their lives or run their businesses.

It’s important to note that inspirational people are everywhere and China is not unique in that regard, but living abroad allows you to meet and interact with interesting people much easier than at home.  Expats and perpetual travelers are already a unique bunch and regularly seeing and interacting with people from all over the world has led to some amazing friendships and learning opportunities.

New Experiences

There really is no substitute for new experiences and I’ve never felt more encouraged to try new things than during my time abroad.  I’ve seen people that might have the same daily routine back home try things like painting in a Japanese garden, or learning to cook local dishes just for the experience.

I’ve been fortunate enough to partake in things like traditional tea ceremonies and dinner with 3 generations of a Chinese family – at the worst these types of things teach you something, at the best they influence your world view.

Jump and a Net Will Appear

My point in writing this is not to say that you cannot be creative, successful, or motivated without traveling – only that going back abroad was the epitome of ‘right place right time’ for me.  It was a risk that paid off and I feel fulfilled every day because of it.

Eat at a new restaurant, get off at a different metro stop and walk to work, attend a random Meetup – the event itself is not important, it’s the act of doing something new that can help provide some fresh ideas and reset your mindset.

Have you, like Quincy, moved abroad only to discover a new realm of creative possibility? Perhaps you work in a job that allows you to fulfil your travel dreams? We want to hear about it. Head here to become a community contributor for six-two.