Travel: Opening your mind
Updated: Mar 8
When we think of travel, we imagine the picturesque instagram photos, the funny stories, and the new people we’l meet. As the sun beats down on you and your ice cold Pina colada, you don’t have a worry in the world. This unrealistic image neglects the early hungover mornings to catch your train, the uncomfortable and half broken hostel bunkbeds, and the weird guy who won’t leave you alone on the bus. Appearance versus reality. In a way, travel is quintessential to life itself. While there are some wonderful highs, if you are willing to travel properly, you are essentially plopped in an area you don’t know with little resources and you have to adapt. It can be exhausting, it can be expensive but it is worth it, which is why I die a little bit inside when I hear people say 'I'll travel the world one day'. In the wise words of Tim Ferris, why wait until you're older? This blog aims to convince you why travel is important for your mental health and when done properly, why spending money on that flight in your twenties will be more important than saving for a mortgage.
When a baby develops a secure attachment with their caregiver, they then begin exploring the world. They crawl, they walk, they stumble. They get back up and they make their environment more and more familiar. While this seems minuscule on the outside, the brain cells inside of their skull are growing rapidly and making new connections with each new exploration. This helps them develop independence and a better sense of self. Fast forward 15 years and this exploration then comes in the form of learning knowledge in school, but environmental expeditions plummet. Once they then build a large enough knowledge base, tested through their secondary school exams, they then generally go to college or get a job to begin defining their niche. The sad thing is that people then begin to stick with what they have and stop learning and the result of this is a narrow mind. ‘The way I live is the only way to live’. But lo and behold, there’s people in the Brazillian favelas, the Australian Outback, and the Congolese jungles with similar mindsets, but completely different ways of living.
The reason why travel is so important is because it is a massive aspect of learning. Not everyone lives the same way we do and it is important to know why. Why do Asian cultures value interdependence? Why are the Scandinavian countries so much happier than the rest of the world? And why is Trump the current president of the US? These are questions we could read in a book and forget about in a few years, or they could be answered by experiences that will remain with us forever. We learn about cultures through people and experiences, not words and books.
Clinical Psychologist Tamara Greenberg states that work makes us forget that we have values outside of our employment. Therefore, moving away from work life is extremely important to de-stress and get out of the same repetitive work cycle. A study in 2013 by The Global Commission on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that 89% had reduced levels of stress as a result of a holiday. Not very surprising. But maybe more shocking is that Kumar and colleagues at Cornell University discovered that the anticipation of a holiday can have greater effects on happiness than getting a new car. People in the rat race are trying to get higher up in their careers in order to be happier and less stressed when an easier solution is right in front of them: Travel.
On top of this, travel also helps enhance creativity, builds resilience and restructures your values. One of the big five personality traits is openness to new experiences. Studies have shown that high openness leads to greater job success, better intelligence and improved creativity.
Travel puts you in an environment where you can meet new people and new ideologies that might change your perspective on how you are living your life and is therefore the epitome of the personality trait. A study by Galinsky found that travelling increases your cognitive flexibility so if you’re suffering from a lack of ideas, a trip abroad might be the best medicine. But let's not overexagerate.
Alot of travelling is nursing a bad dose of Delhi belly as you profusely sweat in your cheap, overheated hostel while worrying about your lack of money and how much your travel friends are annoying you. Travel puts you outside of your comfort zone, and this helps you develop your problem solving skills and mental toughness. You might get mugged, you will get lost and you might run out of money, but that can happen at home too. It's just more interesting when you're abroad. With adversity comes resilience. So in conclusion, never stop being that baby pushing themselves to explore their environment. A well travelled person is a more creative, resilient and happier person. Full independence is realising that you always can and should explore more. So walk, crawl, stumble; but most importantly, travel!
Yours Sincerely, The Motus Movement.