Be More Creative, Aware and Smart: Pack Your Bags and Travel
January 26, 2017
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
St. Augustine had it right when he said this back in the days when even dust was new. The enduring wisdom of this quote has been scientifically proven in the form of psychological and medical studies that show travel is not only good for you, but it’s essential for your health, wellness, intelligence and creativity.
As an EPX member, you’ve memorized the seat layout of every plane, founded TSA and Global Entry, and they know you by name in every airport lounge. But did you know that all of your travels and adventures have made you a better person? #Science
Travel boosts your creativity
This one may seem a bit obvious, but because science won’t just accept the obvious, the idea of the foreign experience model of creative innovations was born. Psychologists looked at the travel experiences of influential executives to see if their time abroad affected their ability to innovate at home. Three dimensions were studied: breadth, depth and cultural distance.
The TL; DR version of the study’s findings is that, yes, experiences abroad DID help executives be more creative and innovative at home. Think about the things you see, the people you meet and the food you discover while traveling—it’s hard not to see how these experiences would change a person for the better by opening them up to a literal world of possibilities.
What your brain is doing: When you’re experiencing new things your brain hemispheres are working in tandem (not one side over the other, like we’re taught) and, though scientists aren’t 100% sure what’s going on–they do know that experiencing new things opens your mind and increases its activity–those little neurons are ablaze!
Travel sharpens your problem-solving skills
Even a simple trip to the grocery store can present problems—now multiply that 3-mile trip from your house by 1,000. From language barriers to lost luggage, there are a variety of things that can go totally wrong (sometimes in the best way) while you’re on the move.
The construal level theory (CLT) posits that creating a psychological distance can increase our cognitive functions. This type of psychological distance can lead to understanding the viewpoint of another individual, allowing us to see another part of a story. When you travel, you are exposed to more ways of thinking, different codes of ethics and other core values that differ from our own, which gives you the ability to create psychological distance and increases your problem-solving skills.
What your brain is doing: Your neural transmitters are firing like crazy when you’re traveling, and especially if you’re a bit tired, and these conditions are optimal for your brain to light up and come up with a creative solution to a new problem.
Experiencing other cultures makes you more open AND more humble
Being exposed to cities, villages and people who are not part of your usual tribe enables you to understand more about the world. This understanding makes you more open to new thoughts, new traditions and new experiences.
A positive side effect of this openness? Experiencing humility.
Not only does travel make you more open-minded, but it also humbles you. Hubris is a hard thing to maintain once you see the largeness of the world in comparison to the smallness of self. Sure, we contain multitudes, but stand at the top of Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador and try not feel just a tiny bit humble.
What your brain is doing: The exercise you give your brain when you travel involves your consciousness and your self-awareness. Consciousness is the awareness of your body and self-awareness is the recognition of that consciousness. Travel helps you exercise both.
Travel increases your awareness
Did you know that micro-breaks spent looking at pictures of nature have a therapeutic effect on your attention span? Attention restoration theory, aptly referred to as ART, posits (and has proven) that the time you spend in or even looking at nature helps assuage mental fatigue. If a picture of a tree can be beneficial, imagine what a hike through the Amazon can do.
Through ART, nature can help you re-sharpen your focus after mental fatigue, while other studies suggest that travel helps you hone your senses—being in an unfamiliar place makes you more aware of your surroundings, and over time, this improves your overall cognitive functions.
What your brain is doing: The idea that each part of your brain has its own particular function is antiquated. With theories like neuroplasticity, we’ve come to discover that our brain is a lot more complicated and flexible than we thought. Scientists aren’t entirely sure (surprise!) which parts of the brain concern awareness but the prevailing thought is that there are several sensory receptors in our internal organs that are linked, neurologically, to the brain. The brain uses these receptors to create awareness and other internal senses. Of course, this is if you believe that awareness is wholly internal, but that’s another blog post.
Traveling helps you conquer your fears
Google “facing fear through travel” and you’ll find several blogs and articles by travelers who did just that, along with suggestions on how to do it. To save you some reading time, the general gist is this: Some of the most memorable things that people experience stems from a frightening and unexpected moment that forced them to eschew their better judgment and just take a leap.
Whether a rickety bus driving perilously fast down a thin mountain road tests your aversion to heights or stumbling through a foreign language helps you overcome your fear of embarrassing yourself in front of strangers, the situations you navigate when you travel empower you to be less fearful and bolder when you return to everyday life.
We’re not saying to jump from the plane without the parachute, but you get the idea.
What your brain is doing: You’ve heard of the fight or flight instinct (the sense that tells us to kick ass or run away as fast as we can) but the brain is doing a bit more than telling you how to survive (though, that’s a pretty big thing), it’s also sharpening your eye site, dumping fat into your bloodstream (to give you the ability to run faster than you thought you could), increasing the blood flow to your muscles and increasing your heart rate. Repeated stress like this on your body is not healthy and can do damage–but occasional instances of fear turn you, temporarily, into a superman.
As an EPX member, it’s important to celebrate the amazing side effects of travel and to potentially impart more of these benefits to others whether they be family members, friends or employees. You already understand travel and adventure have contributed immensely to who you are, but there’s science that has proven how it has impacted your life.