Travel is inherently good for you. We’ve been told this again and again from Mark Twain to Patricia Highsmith to Leslie Marmon Silko. Hell, we’ve been told that travel is transformative since the time of Homer (and probably long before that too). The stories are universal: The journey, the road, set sail, grift hard, meet people and make them laugh, find love, get your heart broken, experience the wonder, live with the mad ones.
These ideas are so universal that, for some, it’s pretty much divine scripture. Today, though, it’s more than just well-cobbled words in a book or a story told over the crackling of a fire in the dark night. There’s real, hard science to back up all the wonderful changes travel can bring to us both mentally and physically. We have real numbers from long studies that look at real benefits to our minds and bodies that travel brings. So, if the promise of amazing experiences isn’t enough to get you on the road in 2019, maybe a little hard science espousing the benefits of travel will.
We’ve pulled the receipts from a long list of recent studies into how travel makes us healthier, sexier, and more open-minded human beings. Use the below research to convince your boss that you need that sabbatical, your parents that you need a gap year, or yourself that you need a good old-fashioned vacay.
Travel makes you more creative.
This one feels the most esoteric but, in reality, is the most science-based. There has been a lot of serious research about how travel makes us more creative. It’s all about getting out of our comfort zones and how our brain adapts and, literally, changes.
Adam Galinsky over at Columbia Business School has done the lion’s share of the recent research on how travel changes the synapses in our brains. “Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought,” Galinsky explained to The Atlantic. “The key, critical process is multicultural engagement, immersion, and adaptation.”
In short, our neural pathways are built around where we are and what we do. When we challenge the norm via travel, we physically change those neural pathways, making them stronger. This, in turn, allows us to be more creative.
This isn’t simply “Hey, if I hit the road I’ll automatically be Scorsese or Kendrick” though. Engagement is crucial, according to Galinsky. The experience of getting out of your comfort zone, experiencing a new culture, and living a new way of life is the magic spot where the synapses flourish and multiply. That ability to engage in foreign situations, problem solve, adapt, and operate outside of your norms leads to a more creative life, according to science. Does it mean you’ll turn into Klimt or Twain after your year backpacking Asia? Well, no. You still have to put in the hard work and paint or write every day. But it does mean you’re giving yourself (your brain) a nice boost by building some helpful neural pathways that help you thrive in that artistic life.