Travel means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some, it’s a road trip seeing the nation’s baseball parks. For others, it’s spending a long weekend riding roller coasters and eating chimichangas at Disneyland. And for others still, it’s throwing out the map and crisscrossing the globe on a shoestring and a smile. Whatever the case, travel adds to our unique “well of experiences”, thereby giving us more information to draw from as we navigate our lives.
We used to pontificate about the glories of travel through the prose of Homer, Twain, and Kerouac. It was the dreamscapes, the temptation of sex and drugs, and the idea of finding a home amongst the thrushes of an unknown land that drove us out of our beds and into the wilds of the world. We will always have the words of the great meanderers to give us that extra little nudge out the door — but these days we have a little something extra. We have science. And science is proving what Homer, Twain, and Kerouac have always known: Travel is inherently good for you.
Below you’ll find a list of recent studies into how travel makes us healthier, sexier, and more open-minded human beings. Use this research to convince your boss of the need for a sabbatical, your parents of the need for a gap year, or yourself of the need for a good old fashioned vacay.
Travel makes you smarter.
That’s a bold claim right there. Without getting into biological imperatives, IQs, and socioeconomic variables, “smarts” are hard to measure. There are endless variables wrapped up in the word. So let’s focus more directly on creativity and cognitive practice in action.
A study in 2014 of MBA candidates found that those who engaged in multicultural environments via studying abroad were able to deal with complex issues more easily and had better luck on the job market. Basically, having to live and deal with a new culture gave the students an ability to hold multiple viewpoints in their mind at the same time, while being highly engaged.
Living abroad, in short, makes you better able to deal with people who think differently. It’s really as simple as that.
Another study, from 2009, addressed this issue tangentially. A psychology study at Indiana University set two groups of students to a task. Each had to think up as many transportation methods and vehicles as possible. The wrinkle was that one group was told their assignment came from students at Indiana University while the other group was told the task came from the study abroad program in Greece. Surprisingly, the group who thought they were conducting a study based on a foreign land and culture excelled at the task, by being a third more creative and productive. The head of the study surmised that “creative generation profits from greater spatial distance.” That is, just thinking about being somewhere else makes you think more creatively.
So, yes, travel is going to help your brain’s ability to deal with complex issues. But, this is also achievable through priming your brain with the suggestion of a foreign locale. This makes us wonder if spending a little time with a foreign culture in your own backyard will have similar benefits. Who’s ready for a trip to Chinatown?