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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Mitchell

Travel Should Change You

An article by Andrew Mitchell

Edra Palazzo Durini Showroom in Milan – a highlight of our 2023 Milan Trip

Yes, I've a bad case of FOMO as the design industry departs our shores for this year's Salone Del Mobile commencing this week in Milan!

Having experienced an exciting, educational and highly enjoyable work trip to Salone Del Mobile in Italy last year, I’m inspired to share my thoughts on how travel is not only personally rewarding, but should form a necessary part of the professional development of any designer or architect.

This notion isn’t limited to purposeful work-related trips, such as visits to trade fairs or business conferences; I believe it should also include personal holidays. No matter what the reason for travel, if approached with the intention of learning and growing, it can become an important part of the evolution of our design practice.

It was following the Milan Fair, during a beautiful long degustation lunch in a superb restaurant in the backstreets of Bologna, that I read the following quote from the late internationally acclaimed chef, author and travel-aficionado, Anthony Bourdain:

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s OK. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves a mark on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

If approached in the right way, travel should change you. It should add to the fabric of your being, challenging you to see things differently, and beckoning you to embrace new ideas. If you open your eyes to the miracles of the world around you, it will enrich you personally and professionally, giving you greater depth, both as a person and a designer.

Molteni and Co Tuscany Daybed by Naoto Fukasawa

In this article I’d like to share with you five ways I believe travel is a wonderful way to develop both professionally and personally.

1. Travel provides a source of inspiration.

Whilst this is an obvious observation, it’s interesting to consider why moving away from what we know can enhance the levels of inspiration we experience. Whether I'm on holiday, or travelling for work purposes, immersing myself in new environments and exposing myself to new people provides inspiration in ways that can’t be measured.

As most designers and architects would know, even on holidays, we can’t inhabit a space (whether it be a hotel, restaurant, bar, or historic landmark) without analysing and reviewing the design and somehow being influenced by these new spatial experiences. New environments grab our attention and encourage us to slow down and drink in the details.

Although Australian design can compete with the best in the world, there’s no denying that we’re geographically isolated, historically limited and lacking in diverse cultural influences that can provide new levels of inspiration.

By making the choice to attend an international trade fair, such as Milan’s Salone Del Mobile, Paris’ Maison Objet, the Venice Biennale or the ICFF in New York, designers are propelling themselves into new worlds inside and outside the walls of the trade fair. Worlds full of exciting differences in their culture, architecture, design, fashion, food, art and geography.

Mutina Jati Range by Patricia Urquiola

2. Travel educates you in new ways.

Travelling both domestically and internationally provides opportunities to learn in ways that can’t be achieved through traditional methods.

When placed in new environments, we’re hard-wired to take in every detail, so that we can make sense of the unfamiliar. By being immersed in new environments, we’re triggering all of our senses, not just the typical sights and sounds we’re influenced by when reading books or the browsing internet. These multi-sensory experiences imprint on our memory and can be later brought forward through our sub-conscious during moments of creativity.

Attending Retreats or Conferences with the specific intention of learning or experiencing something new also forces us to focus in ways that are almost impossible to achieve in our normal work environments, amid the barrage of distractions that surround us.

Standing in the middle one of the many extensive halls at Salone Del Mobile, it was impossible to be thinking of anything other than design! Even more so, being in Milan for Design Week forced me to eat, sleep, breathe and think design non-stop, almost to the point of exhaustion. Just being in Milan during this incredible week teaches you new things about design, simply through osmosis.

3. Travel provides fresh perspectives.

Travel can fill you with admiration and longing for the lifestyle offered by faraway places (who can’t picture themselves living in a villa in Tuscany?) and simultaneously fill you with a deep appreciation for everything you have at home.

Getting out of our safe and predictable social environments enables us to interact with people with different viewpoints, different traditions, and often vastly different living conditions. If you’re truly committed to experiencing the culture of the place you’re visiting, you’re forced to learn and understand the perspectives of the people who are welcoming you into their communities.

Paolo Castelli SPA stand at Salone Del Mobile

4. Travel creates new relationships.

Whether it’s your travelling companions, or the people you meet along the way, travel provides the opportunity to get to know people on a deeper level.

One of the great joys of my Milan Trip was the opportunity to meet the founding directors of some incredible world-renowned brands (including Paolo from Paolo Castelli SPA and William from Brand Van Egmond) and local Australian brands (including Ross from Ross Gardham) to hear their stories. Knowing about the people behind the products provides such an intimate connection to the amazing pieces they sell.

The Milan Trip contingency was made up of a diverse mix of designers from all over Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. Across the course of the week, we got to know one another well, appreciating each other’s personal stories, and learning more about each other’s professional aspirations. How humbling it is to learn everyone’s stories.

Leaving the mask of our professional personas behind (especially after a couple of Spritzes!), travelling with a group of likeminded professionals is much more than work. Being thrown into a foreign environment brings people together and creates a common ground on which great relationships can be forged.

Andrew and fellow designers at an event in Milan in 2023

5. Travel breathes new life into your business.

While a work trip to Salone Del Mobile may not be restful (think 20,000 steps per day in Milan), it replenished me and revitalised my approach to design. Getting out of my office (and my home) into new environments forced me to disconnect from devices, removed me from daily stressors and reconnected me with the things that I love about design.

Holidays are also an important ingredient for optimal personal health, and as such, healthy businesses. It’s well recognised that rest is an important factor in creative regeneration. Much of the cognitive “play” that shapes new concepts and forms fresh ideas happens in our sub-conscious during periods of rest. One of the best things we can do for our creativity is to do nothing!

I'll also add that it’s important to recognise the privilege that comes with the opportunity to travel. Especially following the years of lockdown that prohibited even domestic travel, it’s joyous to be able to once again invest in exploring the world, whether near or far.

I no longer make any apologies for my many travel adventures, as I truly believe they contribute to my creative growth both personally and professionally.

Ciao for now.

By Andrew Mitchell, director of MR. MITCHELL Interiors.

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