Thinking Outside the Box Spurred by Nature and a Llama Hike

Photo of large group of hikers with their llamas

Students in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue University took a walk with the llamas of Dawn of Promise Farm to refresh their minds before finals week and to get to know each other better.

Editor’s Note:  This is a story about changing your routine to clear your mind, to better connect with those whom you see every day, and to spur your ability for thinking outside the box.

Living on a llama farm is a lot of fun for me, but it brings extra joy to see how the time with the llamas can result in new connections or new ideas! I first invited graduate students out to our farm this past fall after I had started a new role at the university in biomedical engineering.

Biomedical engineering is not my field of study, so I knew that it might take some creativity to figure out how best to connect with the faculty and students I serve. Those who attended the picnic and llama hike in the fall had a wonderful time, and new friendships were formed.

When you survey your work experiences and your background, what stands out? In my background there are primarily roles in communications, marketing, public relations and design of curriculum and instruction for online learners. In several of my jobs – both in industry and academia – I have worked alongside people who were more left-brain inclined in their thinking and actions than I tend to be. That can present challenges for making connections or for seeing eye-to-eye on topics.

Stepping outdoors and leading llamas together along a woodland trail turned out to be a great way to connect and to spur our outside the box thinking!

Taking a Walk Outside is Healthy for the Brain

On Sunday, my husband, Scott Greeson, and I hosted 10 students from Dr. Craig Goergen’s lab in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue University for a winter hike with the llamas. We had a great time hanging out together and spending time with the llamas. The venue and the activity again served as unique way to get to know one another better – outside of office cubicles and work in the lab.

The group also found enjoyment in the health benefits of being outdoors and away from the routine for a couple of hours. Our guests commented about how doing an outdoor hike in the midst of the pressure of end-of-semester deadlines felt very healthy for the brain.

Photo of grad students hiking on a trail with llamas

Spend 30 Minutes a Day on Yourself

This article is my encouragement to you to make sure that you take at least 30 minutes a day, even while you’re swamped, to do something that is specifically for the care of YOU. Exercise at the gym. Take a walk. Read a book that isn’t related to school or your work. Walk with llamas. You get the idea.

While we were walking along the woodland trail, I was leading my llama, Angus. He, and the bur in the beautiful fiber on his back, reminded me of the story in the book, Sticky Wisdom, about the electrical engineer who invented Velcro.

Velcro was a result of a hike with a dog

George de Mestral is the inventor. He went hiking with his dog. Along the way, his dog picked up burs in its coat. As de Mestral was taking the burs out, he decided to put them under a microscope and noticed the tiny hooks that had been engaging the loops in the material and the fur. And now – we have Velcro! It was patented in 1955.

How to Spur Thinking Outside the Box

Changing your routine helps you think outside of the box. It helps you make new connections! It is also one of the tools in Blue Ocean Strategy thinking.

Give yourself permission to rest your brain this week. Do something different. If you’re a student, approach finals week refreshed and ready. If you’re in your career, approach the holidays with a renewed outlook and less stressed mindset.

Please Comment and Share

I’d love to hear your ideas for connecting with people, and for creating an atmosphere for outside the box thinking. Please share your comment below. Thank you, too, for clicking on the share icons to let others know about this story. Let’s spur some outside the box thinking!

PS – Thank you to Adam Lorch for the above photos of the hike!

Photo of Vickie Maris with llamas, Annabell and Betty

Vickie Maris with her llamas, Annabell and Betty


Vickie Maris is podcast host of Heartsong Fit. She is a lifelong learner, a musician (she plays guitar and accordion in a band with her husband, Scott Greeson and Trouble With Monday), a social media coach to businesses and entrepreneurs, and an instructional designer of online courses. She encourages people in their business and life improvement projects from uses of social media in the marketing mix to improving fitness and health for a strong, productive life as an entrepreneur. Vickie and Scott live on a hobby-size farm with a Connemara horse, several llamas and angora rabbits.