I like driving. Not short trips to the store, but longer trips across town. Who doesn’t like a good road trip? When my wife and I get in the car to go on a trip, we both offer to drive first, and the first driver inevitably gets the wheel for the bulk of the trip.
When I’m driving, something happens in my brain. Thoughts process on multiple levels, new ideas pop into view, connections are made between unrelated things. Lots of mental transactions are going on all at once up there. You could sum it up by saying a lot of really weird and therapeutic stuff is happening in your brain. It’s a hell of a lot of fun.
And it feels good. For years I’ve felt that driving long distances acts as a distraction for the brain, allowing the parts of the brain that take care of the mundane to keep busy. While that is happening, the other “creative” sections of the brain come to the foreground, and do magical things. Driving long distances is like a mild from of boredom, and it’s no secret that boredom has something to do with stimulating our minds (WSJ). All I can say is that I often do my best imagining and thinking while driving.
One of the few times I listen to the radio is while driving. One morning on the way to the airport (while I’m listening to the hum of the road), I hear someone talking about gardening. This man was forced to walk through a hotel garden everyday while going to and from conference meetings. At first he was annoyed, because there was too much to do each day, and the garden was in the way of getting everything done faster. But each time he walked through the garden, his opinion of the garden softened, so much so that “as I meandered along the winding paths, my mind began to wander too, making connections, drawing insights, and developing ideas.” It’s like he was driving through west Texas. Walking through a garden helped this man to slow down. And when you slow down, you have time to think.
The man walking in the garden mentions that you should find time everyday to go to the place that you do your best thinking. Whether it’s a walk in the garden, walking your dog, listening to the radio, or staring at the wall, we need this time as humans to be creative and innovative. This is when we reflect and learn. We should never have to utter the words, “I have no time to think.” Sounds like I should plan to drive somewhere in Nebraska next week.