If there is one thing most people have in common, it is the fact that they get excited by the mere thought of traveling. It allows us to explore new places, meet new people and experience different cultures. It also gives us the opportunity to escape our everyday lives, with all the stress and worries that go with it. But have you ever considered that traveling may also affect your personality? In this article we explore how travel affects your brain.
Travel increases your social skills
The new cultures, norms and languages that you come across when traveling will help to increase your communication skills and work on your social skills in the progress. You are much more likely to interact with strangers when traveling, whether it is talking to strangers on the bus, bargaining at a market, or making new friends at a hostel. This brings you out of your social bubble and forces you to actively participate in your surroundings. Engaging in conversations with people from different backgrounds and perspectives will make you a better listener and communicator.
It makes you more confident
Your comfort zone is a psychological state where tings feel familiar. You are at ease and in control of the environment, and you experience low levels of anxiety and stress. Building your self-esteem requires stepping outside your comfort zone. Change requires effort and a different course of action than you are used to.
Traveling is a way of stepping outside your comfort zone and the things that feel familiar. It does, however, vary to which degree. The degree of uncertainty and challenges will for example differ greatly when comparing a family trip to the beach with traveling solo to India. Traveling to unknown places and new cultures will most likely cause you to conquer many of your fears. Whether it is talking to strangers, fear of making mistakes when learning new languages, or even swimming with sharks. It will force you to step outside your comfort zone, and make you a more confident person in the process.
And keeps your mind sharp
Those who step outside their comfort zone by meeting new people and participating in unfamiliar activities will improve both their memory and other mental skills. A study by Denise Park of the University of Texas found that going out and doing something that is unfamiliar, socially and mentally challenging will improve your cognitive functions. In the long term this will lead to reduced risk of illnesses such as alzheimer and dementia. Stepping outside your comfort zone means stepping into the enhancement zone, which is exactly what occurs during that solo trip to India. Perhaps Einstein knew more than he realized when he once said “once you stop learning, you start dying.”
Travel increases your creativity
Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School stated that foreign experiences increase cognitive flexibility. This is the mind’s ability to jump between different ideas, which is a key component of creativity. However, in order to boost your creativity it is not sufficient to simply be abroad. The key process is multicultural engagement, immersion and adaptation. This means that in order to get that creative boost you will have to engage with the local culture. Simply going to Ibiza to party for a week will not make you more creative.
And your problem solving abilities
Seeing another culture for an extended period of time will allow your mind to realize that the world is not simply black and white. You will open your mind to the fact that things can have multiple meanings. This is the key to improving your problem solving abilities. This is confirmed by a study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology which reported that students who lived abroad were 20% more likely to solve a computer task than those who didn’t travel.
Travel gives you a happiness boost
A study by Booking.com surveyed 17 000 people from 17 different countries to gain insight into the role that travel plays in your emotions. They found that:
- 50 % respondents stated that traveling makes them more happy than landing a new job, going on a date with their partner (51%), and even their own wedding day (49 %)
- 77 % book a holiday to cheer themselves up when in need of a happiness boost
- 72 % get a kick of excitement just from researching when to go on holiday
And it is not only travel itself that gives you a happiness boost. A study in the Journal of Psychological Science found that money spent on doing (experiences) tends to provide more enduring happiness than money spent on having (material things). In fact, even anticipating an upcoming trip leads to more happiness than waiting for your new iPhone!
And improves your work and personal life
A report by the U.S Travel Association discovered that 55 percent of U.S. workers left vacation days unused in 2015, despite the fact that 95 percent claimed using their paid off time was important. Interestingly, the study also found that people who use their vacation days for traveling gain an increase in happiness at home and lower stress. It also has a positive impact (5 – 13 %) on:
- Your relationship with your children and significant other
- Professional success
- Physical health and well-being
- Overall mood and outlook
What that means is that traveling will improve your relationship with your family, increase your chance of getting a promotion and is good for your health. Yet so many people leave vacation days unused. Hopefully you have realized by reading this article that the psychological benefits of travel are too great to miss out on. Check out or destination guides, blog posts and other travel tips for ideas on where to go next!