Your current wellness plan may include goals for eating well, moving more, as well as self-care measures aimed at your mental health. But what about travel? Is travel something that usually induces stress for you?
In this post, I'll outline 5 benefits of travel, but also highlight how you can reap these benefits from activities closer to home.
new scenery, new perspective
Ever noticed how just rearranging your furniture can give you a fresh perspective on life? Imagine what switching your whole environment can do. There’s a reason why so many people give up their jobs to become digital nomads or train so they can take travel nurse jobs: Breaking out of your daily grind and setting sights on new horizons is like hitting the refresh button on your brain. New and diverse experiences boost dopamine, and novel places (whether across town or across the globe) can help.
If cooking and food are genuine joys in your life, then exploring the cuisine of different cultures and countries is a clear advantage of traveling.
Even if you're not that adventurous when it comes to your food, trying something outside of your comfort zone is a new experience, and being open to those new experiences is correlated with curiosity, personal growth, appreciating the little things, and many more.
disconnect to reconnect
Between Zoom calls, incessant notifications, and binge-watching your favorite shows (no judgment), it’s hard to unplug.
Gabriella Paiella talks about her own experience during and after pandemic quarantine, where "mundane" new experiences led to feelings of elation - walking in a different neighborhood, exploring a new farmers market, noticing the trees change into their fall color or bloom in spring...the lack of variety in her daily routine contrasted sharply with the variety of her outside environment - and stimulated her brain, too.
Whether you seek a new experience in the town over, or in a far-away destination, make the most of your experience (and the benefit to your brain and body) by disconnecting from non-emergency communications so that you can immerse yourself in the moment.
boost your brain
All those unfamiliar sounds, smells, and sights? They aren't just exciting; they're giving your brain a hearty workout. Navigating new environments, learning snippets of a foreign language, or simply understanding a new public transport system (looking at you, Tokyo!) keeps your brain sharp and agile. Known as neuroplasticity by researchers and clinicians, you can stimulate your brain to make new connections by experiencing new things. New environments, like from traveling, leads to brain growth and reorganization.
social butterfly effect
Whether you're a solo traveler meeting a kindred spirit in a hostel or a family explorer bonding over shared experiences, travel fosters connections. Engaging with diverse folks broadens your perspective, and often, these fleeting relationships leave a lasting impact on your heart.
All references were directly linked in the text. They are cited here with full author information and dates.
Chi, A. Neuroplasticity Explained: How New Experiences Change Your Brain. 24 Aug 2022. Boon Mind. Various references linked throughout.
Heller, A.S., Shi, T.C., Ezie, C.E.C. et al. Association between real-world experiential diversity and positive affect relates to hippocampal–striatal functional connectivity. Nat Neurosci 23, 800–804 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-020-0636-4
Tan, L., Wang, X., Guo, C. et al. Does Exposure to Foreign Culture Influence Creativity? Maybe It's Not Only Due to Concept Expansion. Front Psychol 10, (2019). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00537
van Allen, ZM and Zelenski, JM. Testing Trait-State Isomorphism in a New Domain: An Exploratory Manipulation of Openness to Experience. Front Psychol 9, (2018). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01964
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