I’ve been home from my travels for more than week, and I’m still not all here. Metabolically, I’m waking up too early and yet I’m also a little tired. In terms of mood, I’m grumpy because a few domestic matters fell seriously apart in my absence, and I’m somewhat daunted. “Picking up where I left off,” creatively, is easier said than done.
So this is me, rolling up my sleeves and gettin’ on wi’ it, as the Scots would say. Post-travel adjustment is a very privileged, first-world complaint, and despite these re-entry megrims, I hope I will travel again. At a basic level, shaking up my routine gets my brain out of predictive text mode, and that’s good. On a more global scale, when I travel, my curiosity gets a boost.
And curiosity is worth more than rubies. Older folks who retain a strong sense of curiosity about life live longer than those who don’t. People who get a little adventurous with their daily schedule–trying a different piece of equipment in the gym, googling rabbit-hole questions for the sheer pleasure of learning, picking up books that simply look interesting–are likely to show more goal-orientation and persistence on those same days. It’s as if letting our brains off the leash a little makes our thoughts happier to stay on the porch when we need them to.
One of the three characteristics of highly successful innovators is that they are curious. Where most of us have a healthy sense of caution about novel elements of our environment–Could be snake! Might taste yucky! Everybody might laugh at me!–the innovators who do well balance that caution with curiosity. They go through life more wide-eyed and inquisitive than most other adults. (The other two characteristics: A large and varied circle of human connections (they are charming or at least interesting people), and a capacity for generating a volume of ideas rather than only a few good ones.)
We know when we’ve met one of these curious cats because they ask questions that make us think instead of sticking to the weather, sports, and superficial smiles. What’s on your bucket list? What’s your perfect day? If you had three wishes, what would they be? We remember the people who pose those queries, and remember even more when they listen to our answers.
Curiosity solves problems. Why does Valerian Dorning feel unworthy of Emily Pepper? Is it possible to make spray-on or feed-through birth control for feral cats? (Somebody please say yes.) What do people who’ve moved to Oregon say about making that work out well?
If you were going to award a research grant, or take an all expenses paid sabbatical (say, to Scotland…), what would you investigate? What would you like to know more about? What recently made you stop and think, “Now, why izat…?”
To one commenter, I’ll send a $50 Barnes and Noble gift card. Which reminds me: The B&N discount this month is BNPTARTAN50, which gets you half-off Tartan Two-Step, a story about a Scotsman who had some first-rate questions about a particular Montana whiskey distiller…