Brain Loves to Travel: Myth or Reality?

Why did I pick up this topic? I have read so much about benefits of Travel to our physical and mental being, that I thought of doing some fact finding at my end, to find out scientific evidence to support the notion.

As a Private Travel Designer and a vivid traveller myself. I always believed in the therapeutic nature of travel, and how it positively affects our emotional health in terms of nurturing it’s growth and widening it’s perspective.

When we explore and discover the world, we engage with people and places, make connections, experience local pursuits, challenge ourselves and our status-quo, understand and learn new skills, cultures and global existence of nature, and it’s varied species. It helps us identify our roles in the society and our contributions for a sustainable and responsible future.

I, for starters have always believed in the tremendous potential of travel and the way it can help to nurture a child’s brain development, with exposure to the outside world, it’s potential, and to help learn from it’s many textures.

Sharing Personal Experience!

Starting from the year she turned one, we have been travelling and taking vacations with her, to locations within the country, but mostly international travel. This came as a natural choice for us as our favorite pastime (being a travel designer myself), but also a conscious decision to spend our earnings on experiences when we travel. We valued this the most, as against acquiring material possessions.

Spending on family vacations, and travel experiences gave us most lasting satisfaction, which helped us create strong family bonds, and ensured our mental and physical development, specially for our daughter.

You cannot analyse the benefit of travel for kids and adults objectively like in statistics or numbers, but this is something which is very intrinsic and the benefits tend to engulf your natural being and self in the long run.

As a Private Travel Designer, every trip added purpose to my personal and profession life, giving me a new insight on the potential of travel with life changing capabilities in diversity and expectations. My wife who is an Art Restorer and Textile Conservator saw her perspective changing and evolving as she got exposed to different worlds, cultures, people, heritage and hues of life and nature.

As I write this blog, do I believe that what is written above as a personal experience on positive impacts of travel on our brain, life and inner-self is because of my connection to the world of travel and tourism? or is this also a fact supported by various scientific studies and research on behavioral and psychological fields of human existence.

I now present evidence which proves that there is nothing better than travel, as a healing and nurturing agent of change. We need travel to survive just like air, water and food. Such survival is to achieve a better and more evolved version of ourselves, specially in current times of toxic cultures, capitalism, consequences of negative impact of our actions on nature, it’s wildlife and also mankind itself.

COVID-19 is an awakening call and as we try to defeat the virus trying to find a cure and eventually a vaccine. But we also need to defeat it’s spread to infect our mental and conscious being, by continue to dream and plan travel once we are able to eliminate the virus and it’s existence.

I am already doing it, and surprisingly it is giving us (my family) similar level of satisfaction, and excitement, as we would get when we travel. Planning for future travel, whenever it’s safe to travel, and with all the time we have today, we are doing in-depth research on destinations and experiences, retrieving our bucket-list, and this is giving us an opportunity to bond together (like we would on a vacation), practically take the vacation (with as much excitement) from the comfort of our isolation homes.

I am not talking about a virtual vacation, but the emotion and joy of planning one, in anticipation of future travel, which is a physical vacation like in pre-COVID era. Infact now I know that their is research to even support such an emotion.

According to a 2010 study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, just planning or anticipating your trip can make you happier than actually taking it.

Another related study that was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in 2007, it was found that people are happier during the planning stages of a vacation than they were after taking one.

Want to be happier, healthier and richer in life (alas, not in your pockets)? The answer is, you guessed it, travel.

Scientists have proven that living out your wanderlust is not only amazing in terms of life experiences, it actually improves your brain health…

DOES TRAVEL MAKE YOU HAPPY?

  • It does, “The pleasures of discovery, the joy of meeting people from other backgrounds and finally the thrill of tasting food I would not get at home usually far exceed all strains of traveling.” by Dr. Stefan Klein, author of “The Science of Happiness”

THAT’S RIGHT, TRAVEL ACTUALLY MAKES YOU SMARTER!

In fact, a recent study of chimpanzees in Uganda showed that those who traveled farther on a regular basis were more resourceful and intelligent than those that didn’t. Given that we share 99 percent of the same DNA as chimps, it’s not a stretch to believe that the same is true of humans, writes Dr. Thibaud Gruber, one of the authors of the study.

BOOSTED BRAIN POWER!

Travel helps fuel your brain to function at a higher level. One study showed that retired people who travel have 75 percent higher rates of mental stimulation, and 82 percent have an increased ability to “get things done,” versus 57 percent of those who don’t travel. The study’s authors recommend that “businesses encourage use of vacation time as a way to improve health and wellness in the workplace.

SHARPENING YOUR MIND IS A NO-BRAINER!

The new and unusual situations we encounter while travelling – whether trying to figure out how to navigate the local metro system, or just to order a meal in an unfamiliar language – help to keep our mind sharp, according to a study commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association.

It found that challenging new experiences can boost cognitive health, as when your brain is exposed to an environment that is novel and complex, it reacts by forming new connections as it tries to categorise the new and unusual stimuli. This grows the brain and keeps it active in a similar way as taking up a new hobby or learning a language.

So if you’re in the fortunate position of being able to chose whether or not to travel, why not take the plunge and explore the world – your brain will thank you for it.

CREATIVITY & INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL!

Writers and thinkers have long felt the creative benefits of international travel. Ernest Hemingway, for example, drew inspiration for much of his work from his time in Spain and France. Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World, moved from the U.K. to the U.S. in his 40s to branch out into screenwriting. Mark Twain, who sailed around the coast of the Mediterranean in 1869, wrote in his travelogue Innocents Abroad that travel is “fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

“Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,” says Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of numerous studies on the connection between creativity and international travel.

STRAIN YOUR BRAIN!

Think of all mental activities as a continuum. Watching a TV documentary would be on the passive, mildly challenging end of the spectrum, while learning how to converse in a new language would be on the active, very challenging end. When it comes to cognitive reserve, mentally challenging tasks have the biggest impact. “Be open to new experiences that cause you to see the world and do things differently,” Dr. Fabiny says.

Getting out of your comfort zone from time to time challenges your mental skills. An example of this would be traveling to a city that you haven’t been to before, which forces you to navigate unfamiliar surroundings.

HOW DO NEW EXPERIENCES BENEFIT YOUR BRAIN?

Dr. Marian Diamond, a professor of neuroscience who studied Einstein’s brain, helped us to understand the positive effects of traveling on the brain. She argued that new experiences boost our cognitive powers.

Not so long ago, the idea that life experiences could affect the brain was considered radical. Scientists believed that genes determined intellect, meaning the brain’s potential was inherited rather than developed. You were either born lucky or not, end of story.

But now, thanks to groundbreaking findings in neuroscience, we understand that the outside world can enhance cognitive performance. The scientific term for this is neuroplasticity.

So what does this mean for us as people? In the words of Dr. Diamond, it means we’re capable of making our brains better and healthier.

VITAMINS OR TRAVEL?

You may be tempted to believe that you can maintain your cognitive powers by taking a few vitamins. However, according to Harvard Health Publishing, there is little evidence to suggest that supplements actually work. In contrast, travel engages our minds in ways pills never could.

Each year, more and more experiments prove that new experiences support your brain’s health. People who are open to new experiences tend to perform better on memory and other cognitive tests, and also have better mental health.

MONEY OR EXPERIENCES?

In the past decade or so, researchers have learned a lot about why travel makes us happy. Psychologists who study the economics of happiness call it the Easterlin paradox: Money can lead to happiness, but only up to a point — and then we adapt.

A 20-year study by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a Cornell University psychology professor, asked participants to self-report their happiness after making any major material and experiential purchases. At first, the participants ranked their happiness with both kinds of purchases about the same. But over time, their satisfaction with material things went down, and their satisfaction increased with experiences they had spent money on.

TRAVEL CAN REWIRE YOUR BRAIN!

Scientists used to believe that the brain was only changeable during childhood, but now widely accept that neuroplasticity — the ability of the brain to change — is present throughout your life.

In Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life, Dr. Michael Merzenich — known as “the father of brain plasticity” — explains the importance of getting outside our comfort zone and embracing the unfamiliar.

People who travel to new places, keep learning languages and continue to experience new things into old age, are far less likely to develop cognitive decay, according to Merzenich’s weighty body of research.

“When you expose your brain to an environment that’s novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts,”

says Dr. Paul Nussbaum

According to neuroscientist Paul Nussbaum, traveling can stimulate your brain and encourage the growth of new connections within cerebral matter. The key concept is the link between new experiences and the generation of dendrites within the brain.

“A person high in openness to experience is intellectually curious, independent, and imaginative; they prefer variety over routine and enjoy learning and trying new things,”

writes Dr. David Hambrick from Michigan State University in Scientific American.

– Amit Kalsi, Private Travel Designer

B-10 Green Park Main
New Delhi, Delhi 110016
India

Published by experientialtraveljourneys

A Private Travel Designer specialising in private, luxury, experiential, transformational, off-beat, off-the-grid, bespoke, tailor-made, bespoke, authentic, sustainable journeys to destinations worldwide.

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