SourcePsycology Today and Bustle
Travel disrupts your routine and introduces novelty to your brain, which improves cognition and helps reactivate reward circuits. You have to think about how to get through new neighbourhoods, new transportation patterns, unique customs and rules. Initially, such changes can be stressful and frustrating, as anyone who has dealt with minor annoyances like different toilets or trouble getting change back for large bills knows. But ultimately, your brain can benefit from being put on its toes; according to Brent Crane’s article in The Atlantic, the cognitive flexibility helps stimulate neuroplasticity. This, in turn, can help generate creativity that persists even when travelers return home and helps with innovative idea generation at their jobs.
Travel helps on an interpersonal growth level as well; seeing different people and cultures and encountering them directly as individuals and human beings opens yourself to becoming more tolerant and flexible about unfamiliar ways of life. Your sense of empathy can increase, which can help you feel better able to negotiate interpersonal issues back home as well. You can also learn and appreciate things to seek out and continue enjoying at home, like a delicious dish or new genre of music.
Travel itself can be a break from stressors piled up back home; a literal escape where you can focus on your pleasure and yourself can be a welcome change of pace, and help reduce your body’s stress hormone overdrive. Even when you return to stressors back home, the memories encoded by travel help maintain a “zen space” you can revisit whenever you need. Mindfulness techniques often recommend returning to a beautiful or peaceful mind to help restore calm and balance anywhere you are.
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Overall, travel is a way to even temporarily provide the goal of living life for its own sake, apart from the drudgery of daily responsibility and routine. It helps with personal growth and appreciation, and can also benefit mood and intellect. If you have the means to build travel into your schedule, by all means, do so.
Tourism Changes Our Perspective — And How Long We Go Away Matters
While many Americans do not currently possess a passport, there’s a psychological consensus that there is a significant psychological benefit in experiencing foreign places for extended periods of time. There’s an argument that travel increases essential human happiness because we are, at heart, a nomadic species, though it’s unclear how much itchy feet are culturally created and how much they’re inherent. That tourism seems to make us happy is borne out by a fascinating study in 2013 of Chinese travellers (a very travel-happy nation), which found that people who travelled regularly saw a long-term “impact in terms of a sense of being, direction in life, and well-being. Why this comes about — the fulfilment of dreams to see other places, the expansion of understandings about what a good life might mean — is still open to argument.
Brief periods of travel, however, may not be as beneficial as more extensive uprooting. It’s a big point of discussion. One 2015 study, for instance, examined the creative directors of 270 fashion houses and the creativity of their latest lines (assessed by in-the-know fashion experts, not random people off the street who wouldn’t know John Galliano from a baguette), and determined that, as the Atlantic reported at the time, “the brands whose creative directors had lived and worked in other countries produced more consistently creative fashion lines than those whose directors had not.” And another study of undergrads who’d studied abroad for months found that they often experienced significant personality shifts, making them more open to new things and to fulfil tasks.
This creativity boost may not be about living, though, as boosts in unique thinking have also been demonstrated to happen even if people are only contemplating a foreign location in their imaginations. A study from Indiana University found that students who thought they were solving a problem-based in Greece provided much more inventive answers than those who were told the problem was local.
There are also great questions about whether travel makes people more compassionate and tolerant because of contact with other cultures and people, expanding their “boundary of empathy.” As anybody with a racist uncle who’s come back from a trip abroad just as racist as ever will attest, this isn’t a universal experience. Mahatma Gandhi called travel “the language of peace,” but others have argued that anything less than extensive immersion in a culture over a significant period will be unlikely to broaden horizons or alter tolerance levels.
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