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We’ll come to you.

Before I’m accused of promoting masochism, or suggesting that we all give up our worldly possessions in pursuit of design truth, let me clarify.

I just got back from a road trip around eastern Canada (Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) and it reminded me of something that I’ve found when I’ve moved from place to place; whether I take a trip abroad or to a different region. On this trip, the differences between Montreal, Quebec City and the little towns along the Bay of Fundy were striking; metropolitan francophone cities on the one hand – anglophone fishing villages on the other.

When I’m away from home, I notice differences in the way people do things, some obvious and some more subtle:

  • differences in the perception of personal space;
  • the pace at which people walk or interact;
  • the way that people acknowledge one another (or don’t).

These things along with differences in language, architecture, natural surroundings all combine to push me out of my comfort zone in a manner of speaking. Everyone is behaving a little differently than I’m used to and as a result so do I.

I pay closer attention. I listen more intently. I work harder to be understood and not to offend. I fill the pages of sketchbooks more quickly. I take more pictures (and better ones). When I people watch the familiar is the exception. Little details stand out.

Human nature doesn’t change, but seeing the way that it is expressed from place to place and culture to culture, may just help you differentiate between human nature and the way things are done in your neighborhood.

My point is that the comfort of home, the familiar, has a tendency to deaden the senses.

Or perhaps more accurately, changing your surroundings tends to awaken them. So if you can’t go far, go somewhere close by but worlds different.

I’m back in Boston after only a few weeks away, and it’s not quite the same as when I left it.

David Oliver | Cusp |