Six reasons why travel is good for your brain
I was recently chatting with a friend, who works in HR, and she shared a shocking statistic. Are you sitting down? Based on the number of vacation days we American’s forfeited in 2016 equated to our giving up $66.4 BILLION in vacation time. That means, on average, each of us gave our employers free labor to the tune of $604 for the year.
With this alarming fact in hand, I decided to research why it’s mentally important to take the time you’ve earned and travel. If you’ve ever forfeited vacation days or thought you’d just do a vacation working around the house, here are some solid reasons why you should travel and explore new places.
1. New experiences increases cognition. What do you do when you travel? You learn new things, you meet new people—if you travel internationally, you’re immersed in a new culture. All of these new experiences are excellent for improving cognition. You’re challenging yourself and that creates new neural pathways in your brain.
2. You are more likely to try new things. If you follow our blog, then you know that one way to keep your mind sharp is to learn new skills. When we travel, we are much more likely to try something new. Maybe you’re going to the coast and you learn to scuba dive. Or you’re going to Italy and want to learn a few phrases of Italian. The more open you are to trying new things and learning new things, the sharper your mind will be in the long run.
3. Travel makes us happier. I recently booked a flight for an upcoming vacation and I was ELATED! I daydreamed about my trip…what do I want to do when I get there, where could I go to eat—I was happy and excited. The anticipation alone is enough to make you happy. Then you add in the trip itself—the opportunity to recharge your batteries and take a break from ‘normal’ life—it doesn’t get much better than that.
4. Traveling lowers stress. OK, let’s be clear. I am not talking about the going-through-securty-at-the-airport part! That is stressful. But beyond the airport, when you get to your destination, there is a huge sense of relief and relaxation that comes with travel and with knowing your only responsibility to choose which trail to hike.
5. Travel makes you a better problem solver. No matter how much you’ve planned and tried to account for every possible detail, there is always something that doesn’t go as planned when you’re traveling. Unexpected issues are an opportunity to improve your problem-solving skills and enhances your ability to think on your feet.
6. Travel enhances creativity. Writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Earnest Hemingway drew inspiration from travel and incorporated those experiences into their books. Travel opens your mind to new possibilities. Your neural pathways are influenced by new sounds, smells, tastes and language. Sparking those pathways with new experiences ignites new ideas you can carry back with you from your travels.