Issue 54 / Travel Is A Great Way To Boost Your Brain

Travel Is A Great Way To Boost Your Brain

Jun 16, 2016


People around the world yearn for escape every day to flee from their stresses and immerse themselves in another culture. It’s refreshing, but do you know about all the mental health benefits to be gained from travel?

Boost your creativity.
“People who integrate a new culture into their identities are more creative in the long run,” said Dr. William Maddux. He was the lead author in a new study published in the Academy of Management Journal, and the findings pointed out that people who worked overseas showed greater imagination and inspiration than those who stayed put in North America. Do as the locals do for an extended period of time and you’ll open up your mind. You’ll be forced to think in different ways and increase what scientists call “cognitive flexibility.”   
But of course you can apply this logic to yourself, wherever in the world you might reside. Those in the mountains of Nepal can up their creativity by finding some culture in an American fast food joint.
Open to new experiences.
This one is obvious considering that once you’ve booked your trip, you're already open to try new experiences. But also consider that when you land back home the mentality will be residual. You’ll have tasted a broader horizon, so the confines of your home-work-home-work-home-party-home-work routine will probably seem like walls to be torn down.
You’ll look down on your gourmet burger and wish it was beetle on a stick.
Okay. Probably not, but you’ll at least crave that rush of new experiences that will help you evolve. And isn’t personal evolution what we all want?

Let your mind explore and be open! 
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You'll have a sharper mind.
Research papers after research papers have long proven that being out and about in nature improves your mental clarity. But here’s some more: a recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology showed that people who simply took 40 seconds to look at a photo of the great outdoors for a mere 40 seconds boosted their focus and performance on their next task. Think of how much of a boost you’ll get if you actually go outside! Or better yet, trek through an the Amazon Rainforest. You’ll have an edge on the competition in no time.
Trump your fears.
You know terms like “When in Rome” and “YOLO”? Well, thoughts like this go haywire on vacation. You’ve spent how much money getting here? Oh, it’s so much fun here. When are we ever going to come back?

So then you do it —
You book that 10-per-cent-chance-of-survival expedition in hyena territory.
And you survive. You made it. “What was I so scared of?” And that gets you thinking, “What else am I afraid of that I can probably survive through with my limbs intact?” So then you book that scuba-diving afternoon in shark waters and your bravery has been ungraded and you’re good to go.
If you make it out of that. Asking your boss for a raise will seem like nothing.

Test your bravery skills! 
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Gain new perspective.
Almost too obvious to even write about. But there are other perspectives out there than yours. Like, totally different. And you won’t just get those from the locals, but also from fellow travellers you meet along the way, even if they are from the same country as yours. What changes have they gone through and how will they rub off on you?
Sharpen your intuition.
When you’re in new and unpredictable territory there will be many times when you may not clearly remember the way home, or you may ask yourself if you should you go down that seedy-looking street, or should you trust what this sales guy is telling you? You just won’t always have the experience or the mentorship to know what the right choice is in this unknown world. That's when it comes time to rely on that little friend you’ve been ignoring — intuition. That little friend that for some reason knows everything, but you never return their phone calls. And the more risky your trip, the more you are likely to rely on this little voice and make sure you eventually get back on that plane in one piece. Repetition builds strength, so you’ll arrive back at the airport with the ability strengthened.
Increased agreeableness.

In the September of 2013 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a study was published that used some German college students as travel guinea pigs. 

Basically the leaders of the study took inventory of the soon-to-be travelling students’ “Big Five” personality dimensions (extraversion, agreeableness, openness to experience, contentiousness and emotional Stability) and inventory of some other students who were not going to be travelling.

Lo and behold, participants who chose to study abroad showed an increase in openness to experience, emotional stability and agreeableness relative to those who did not travel. This was all studied and compared once the travel students landed back home.

So, what say you? You’ve got an extra thousand dollars lying around? Are you going to buy that new TV or pair of shoes, or invest it into yourself?

Main Image Photo Credit:

Taras Babiak


Taras is a freelance blogger, video editor and screenwriter. He is the co-writer of "Made In Bali," which recently won Best Short Film of the year from the Director's Guild of Canada. 


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