“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.” —Hilaire Belloc
There are many reasons people travel besides work. And even though it may not be obvious, much of our travel has purpose. Not surprisingly, the impact of travel on the brain and the human psyche have been found to have a connection to creativity, problem solving, personal resilience, and happiness. Researcher Adam Galinsky made the distinction. “Someone who lives abroad and doesn’t engage with the local culture will likely get less of a creative boost than someone who travels abroad and really engages in the local environment.”
Whether we’re going to a local museum, exploring art like the recent aboriginal exhibit at the Chazen Museum of Art: Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection , or taking a summer drive to explore some new part of Wisconsin, every time we try new things, explore, or immerse ourselves in local culture or new experiences, we expand our way of thinking and improve our mental and emotional health. Look into the past, check out technology, and explore science to challenge yourself with new activities.
Small towns are a natural draw in exploring Wisconsin. Mineral Point is a top 20 small town to visit as ranked in the 2017 Smithsonian list. Having embraced its history and historic buildings, the community transformed itself into a haven for creativity. Mineral Point artists express themselves in all sorts of media, from paint, sculpture, and the stage to hops and local food ingredients. The town has numerous artist studios and a good selection of eateries. The annual Cornish Fest (September 28–30) celebrates the origins of some of its first settlers from the Cornwall area of England.
Visiting Prairie du Chien takes you to the Mississippi River and a hub of fur trading and French settlement in Wisconsin. The position of the town on the river made it a gathering point for fur traders. Visit in July for the historic buildings and fireworks over the Mississippi (July 14), a War of 1812 reenactment (July 21–22), and the Prairie Dog Blues Festival (July 27–28). The town celebrates a variety of historic times and culture emanating from its Mississippi River roots.
Eleven sovereign tribal nations exist in Wisconsin today, each with a unique culture and identity. At the invitation of a host nation like the Oneida, participants from a variety of nations gather for the purpose of dancing, singing, honoring their traditions, and cultural renewal at a powwow. Attending the 2018 Oneida Pow Wow (June 29–July 1), which is open to the nontribal community, provides a gateway to learn more about the Oneida and their culture. In preparation, review Wisconsin Public Television’s The New Dawn of Tradition , narrated by Patty Loew, to go in the spirit of the fundamental values of honor, respect, tradition, and generosity. While there, pay a visit to the museum, the veterans wall, Buffalo Overlook, and the Oneida market.
Science and environment converge at Discovery World in Milwaukee. The curious will find engaging exhibits and activities focused on the freshwater environment and technology. One of the unique experiences here is an outing on their historic sailing vessel, Dennis Sullivan . Summer family and day/evening sails embark from the Discovery World pier. Aboard this recreated Great Lakes cargo schooner, you may be called on to set the sails or steer the boat while you learn about Milwaukee’s maritime history. Discovery World includes an aquarium and multiple special exhibits, like a virtual explorer, the electric-guitar house of sound according to Les Paul, and a simple-machine shipyard that presents the most basic machines and the physics behind them.
Take a trip to the Smithsonian-linked Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. From May 12 to October 8, you will be able to immerse yourself in Leonardo da Vinci’s brilliant mind and creativity. This exhibit weaves together art, science, engineering, and da Vinci’s visionary world. Did you know da Vinci designed a submarine prototype? Each of the inventions in the exhibition has been transformed from paper drawings to full-scale models. And the exhibit dissects some of his most famous paintings and drawings, like the Mona Lisa and Vitruvian Man . This exhibit is worth the short adventure to Dubuque!
Finally, perhaps you would like a challenging experience close to home. Try an evening out at an escape room or mystery dinner. Both offer the chance to sharpen your problem-solving skills. It’s why we love reading a good mystery or watching Masterpiece Mystery! Hone your skills in real time at an escape room. This new adventure challenge started with video games which require the player to find their way out of a locked room using the clues provided. At a local escape room, you select the themed experience or mission you want (mad scientist, maze, pirate ship, etc.) and the level of difficulty. You have a specified amount of time to solve the puzzle or mission. Go as a small group and join others or rent the whole space. Group sizes are limited and depend on the experience. Madison already has at least three companies offering different challenges.
As you consider something new, remember the crew’s mission aboard the USS Enterprise in Star Trek: “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
Liz Wessel is the owner of Green Concierge Travel, which has information for honeymoons and other ecotravel at greenconciergetravel.com .