5 Ways How Living Abroad Helps Increase Creativity

5 Ways How Living Abroad Helps Increase Creativity

By Kajal Naina

If someone had told me just 10 years ago that I would be an artist living in different countries I would not have believed them. After all, I was already working as a certified dentist by then and had no intention of living abroad. Since then my life has taken several turns and as an expat wife of a banker I have had the privilege of experiencing some wonderful adventures in foreign lands. But we never lived in one country long enough to start my dental profession there. Two years ago I finally mustered up the courage, took the plunge and switched my career. So now here I am, a jewelry designer, I love what I am doing, have since started my own company and won 2 international awards for my jewelry designs. I get a lot of questions when people hear of my transition from being a person of science to an artist… something perceived as two completely different fields.

Wasn’t it a gamble to choose something so different? What are the best ways to become a better artist?

Some things are easy to see: Firstly, anything one decides to do should be based on passion and interest, of course . Then Classes. Workshops. Mentorship. And, of course, putting out a body of work.

However, I’ve realized that there’s one important thing that’s made an outstanding difference in the quality of the pieces I create . Something that doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves.

The advantage of having lived in different countries.

And here’s why:

Your Idea of Beautiful Expands

Beauty is in the eye of…

You finished that sentence didn’t you?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That phrase is so common because it’s absolutely, irrefutably true.

Example: for me it was  amazing to go to Japan to see how wonderful they find simplicity, and also to have lived in India and have an equal understanding of their love of intricacy. With the two cultures distinctly separate, these ideals of beauty have no place in each other’s lands.

However, having walked through the stories and atmosphere of both countries, I can pull pieces from them both and marry them in a way they couldn’t otherwise co-exist.

You Get better at Recognizing Where Cultural Barriers Are Drawn

Having lived in few countries, one of the surprising things I’ve noticed is just how much is actually similar between countries. In many ways, at their core, people are people.

That said, there are also many differences as well. It’s a very interesting feeling to find something familiar in a foreign land… and then to realize that it came from that foreign land. Have you ever wondered how many of the customs in your home town actually started in other countries? There are probably more than you think.

Seeing the things that are distinctly of one culture outside of their natural environment has allowed me to recognize where the lines are. What’s allowed to be borrowed as inspiration, and what’s crossing the lines into appropriation.

This keeps my work both ethical and diversely inspired.

You Find An Appreciation You Had Lost

You never know what you have until you’ve lost it. Another cliche that survives because it’s way too true.

I’d found that I’d taken things for granted. Beautiful, inspirational and moving things. The things I’d grown up with. Somehow, I never really saw my country until I’d gotten away from it. But once I had, my feelings for Nepal grew in a way I’d never expected. With a different context, I could see the many things that brought me pride and remember those qualities that instilled peace or joy within me.

Living abroad can sometimes lead to a better understanding of where one is from that can open a treasure of inspirations.

My regained infatuation with my home has led to unique pieces that tell a story of my past and my people.

It Diversifies Your Toolkit

Human beings have been around a really long timeAlmost nothing new ever comes along, really. Innovations are usually just the combination of two old things in a way that isn’t known to have been seen before.

When you visit different cultures, countries and continents, you can pick up a lot of building blocks to work with.

These include technical skills with different kinds of material usage as well as perceptive skills — just seeing things differently.

One thing that’s been truly powerful: Design that transcends borders speaks to people and connects them. In the example of bringing Japanese and Indian design together, you have to wonder how the two cultures would react to seeing it.

It Gives You More Stories to Tell

One of the most impactful things I’ve collected in my journey are stories.

There are always people with amazing stories no matter where you go, and something about travel makes me more likely to root them out. If you haven’t had the experience of leaving your home country yet, do it and you’ll see what I mean.

Somehow you’re bolder in a strange land, and people are (not always, but often) much more open to you.

Here’s why this has been important in my life: Jewelry-making is just another form of storytelling. And if your eyes are open as you collect people’s thoughts and perspectives and histories, the creative muse just doesn’t sleep (and might not let you sleep either). The emotion and soul in those narratives truly shine through the designs and the gems of the pieces that inspire them. Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind. — Seneca

When you ask people how to become a better artist, ‘living abroad’ isn’t likely to be on the list of answers people give. Yet somehow, leaving places I’ve known to find strange lands and unfamiliar faces has done just that.

Travel makes you a better person, which will always translate into whatever work you do. If you want to get better in whatever arts you practice in your life, book the next flight you can and see what’s out there.

How about you? What places have you lived in and learned from — or where would you love to travel to? 

[Images from Kajal’s personal collection taken in Japan, Nepal, Singapore and  Hong Kong.]   

Kajal Naina is an award-winning jewelry designer who believes jewelry is wearable art. She creates one-of-a-kind collections and bespoke items of fine jewelry for clients around the world. After working as a dentist for ten years, Kajal went on to obtain professional degrees in jewelry design, become a pearl specialist, and received numerous certifications in metalsmithing, metal clay, and jewelry making.

A mother of 3 girls, Kajal deeply values education for young children and donates to the “Subhadra Madan Foundation”, a children’s education and empowerment initiative in Nepal. Born and raised in Nepal, she has since spent time living in India, Singapore, Japan and currently lives in Hong Kong with her family.

For more information on Kajal and her jewelry, visit: www.kajalnaina.com/about-us/.

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