How to be an explorer of the world

Close observation of a single subject, whether it is as tiny as Pasteur’s microbes or as great as Einstein’s universe, is the kind of work that happens less and less these days. Glued to computer and TV screens, we have forgotten how to look at the natural world, the original instructor on how to be curious about detail — Jennifer New.

Everything is interesting. How To Be An Explorer Of The World by Keri Smith is a metaphorical suitcase for the creative soul. A wonderful compilation of 59 novel assignments (called explorations) to help us record the world in more detail, engage with everything around us, and boost the creative process.

Your mission is to document and observe the world around you as if you’ve never seen it before. Take notes. Collect things you find on your travels. Document your findings. Notice patterns. Copy. Trace. Focus on one thing at a time. Record what you are drawn to.

The book is beautifully compiled in a way that allows you to engage with it — scribble and record, write and draw — a portable life museum with existing log books and spreadsheets to begin observing, collecting, analysing, comparing and noticing the small details we often miss on a daily basis.

Inspired, I made a list of my favourite explorations from the book. I will attempt to complete the following:

Exploration #2: Collect experiences on your travels in an “experience log”. In many ways, I do this already. I keep a journal and I take it on my travels. I like the idea of an “experience log” though.

Exploration #7: Collect paint chips from a hardware store. Find colours you respond to in the world and attempt to match them using the chips. Write on them and keep them. I love this idea. Each colour could tell a story. A colour story. And bring back a memory from the past.

Exploration #12: Write down fifty things about one of the following: a trip to the library, a trip to the grocery store, a walk in your neighbourhood. Easy enough, I reckon. I’ll pick a place and keep you updated, stealth readers.

Exploration #13: Document lettering you find in the world. Embarrassingly, I really like fonts. So this speaks to me.

Exploration #18: Document part of a building that most people ignore. Alternatively, document the corners of your home. I’ll start with my home. I don’t think I give it the time it deserves. It keeps me warm every day, and I just ignore it. Let’s take selfies, home.

Exploration #30: Collect objects that tell a story of your travels. Document where you found each object. I collect snow globes from each of the cities I visit, but I think I’ll collect something natural from now on. Like a stone. A travel stone.

Exploration #32: Collect objects for their potential magic quality. Attach a fictitious story to them. I’ve been watching the Harry Potter movies recently — maybe that’s why this appeals to me. Still, I like making stuff up and I’m happy to write a story about a magical pine cone. There is benefit to using your imagination.

Exploration #57: Thought experiments — questions that can only be solved using the imagination. For example, what if I had the power of invisibility? This could be fun! Maybe I’ll come up with answers to my questions in a quest for the most random things I can come up with.

There are 59 explorations. I’ve only picked a few because I don’t have time to walk the streets and document everything. Still, the idea is there, and my plan is to keep you posted on how I’m doing with these assignments. But because you don’t exist, I’m doing it more for myself in an effort to open my channel of creativity through what seems to be a very zen-like process.

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