Such are the benefits of travel. A few weeks or months in a foreign country won’t necessarily transform our lives, but wandering the streets of Helsinki, New York or Venice leaves a residue on our minds. Returning home, this cultural footprint is hard to ignore and difficult to identify. Something's different, but what?

Traveling Boosts Creativity

Given the importance of traveling abroad, it’s no surprise that psychologists study how these experiences affect our cognition. Do they make us smarter or more open-minded? Does learning a foreign language boost IQ? Is it a good idea to live outside of your native country for a while? Consider a study conducted by Lile Jia and his colleagues at Indiana University.

Experiment 1

In one experiment the team of psychologists asked participants to list as many different modes of transportation as possible. They explained that the task was created by either Indiana University students studying in Greece (distant condition) or by Indiana University students studying in Indiana (near condition). This small ripple turned out to have large effects: participants in the distant condition generated more modes of transportation and were more original with their ideas.

Experiment 2

The second experiment demonstrated similar results. The team asked participants to solve three insight problems. Here’s an example of one:

A prisoner was attempting to escape from a tower. He found a rope in his cell that was half as long enough to permit him to reach the ground safely. He divided the rope in half, tied the two parts together, and escaped. How could he have done this?

Albert Einstein used to travel frequently – with his mind and body. He also had several experiences living abroad. He was born in Germany in 1879. Then, he moved to Italy in 1894; to Aarau, Switzerland in 1895, and Zurich in 1896. After getting married, Einstein, his wife, and their first child moved to Prague, in 1911. In 1912, he moves back to Zurich. In 1914, he moves from Zurich to Berlin. Then, he moves to the USA in 1933, where he takes a post at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University. He will remain in the USA until his death in 1955.

Like the first experiment, Jia and his team told participants that the questions came from either a research institute “around 2,000 miles away” or in Indiana “2 miles away.” (In a control condition they did not reference a location). Again, the researchers found that participants in the distant condition generated more solutions than participants in the other two conditions.


Travel more for a more creative brain

In recent years, psychologists and neuroscientists have begun examining more closely what many people have already learned anecdotally: that spending time abroad may have the potential to affect mental change. In general, creativity is related to neuroplasticity, or how the brain is wired. Neural pathways are influenced by environment and habit, meaning they’re also sensitive to change: New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain and may have the potential to revitalize the mind.


Studies Show How Travel Can Make You Smarter And Healthier

Why does your mind, body and soul desperately need a jet-setting experience? Because traveling can improve your overall health and boost your creativity.

That’s right–traveling can positively affect your ability to be innovative while helping you de-stress, which improves your brain health, heart health and physical health.

For most, creativity comes through new and exciting experiences. But when the most exciting thing about your day is the commute to and from work, or the office gossip at the water cooler, you’re limiting your mind’s ability to expand and be inspired.

Columbia Business School (New York) Professor and author Adam Galinksy says that “foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms.” This essentially means that new sounds, sights and smells all spark the creativity synapses in the brain.

How can you get those brain synapses to fire? By traveling.

Vacationing in another country, or even another state, helps you open your mind. You can try exotic foods, visit notable landmarks, make friends with locals, or even hike through the mountains. Simply immersing yourself in a different environment for several days can inspire your creative abilities to new heights. And not only will you be more creative, you’ll be healthier and happier.

Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms.
— Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School

Traveling may have other brain benefits, too. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, an associate professor of education and psychology at the University of Southern California, says that cross-cultural experiences have the potential to strengthen a person’s sense of self.


Traveling Improves Your Health

Traveling boost brain power

Your mental health also experiences the perks of traveling. A poll conducted by the U.S. Travel Association discovered that travel, especially for retirees, prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The study also found that 86% of those who travel are more satisfied with their outlook on life, compared to the 75% who do not travel.

 

Traveling Strengthens Your Heart

Not only does traveling enrich your brain power, but it also strengthens your heart health. The Framingham Heart Study found that those who didn’t take a vacation for several years were more likely to suffer from heart attacks than those who traveled annually.

Why is this? Because those who get away from their work and homes are typically less stressed and less anxious–decreasing the strain on their hearts. In fact,travelers also reported that their stress-free and light-hearted feelings lasted for weeks after they returned home from their vacation.

Traveling Makes You Happy

A 2014 Cornell research study found that people experience more happiness just knowing they are going on a vacation versus knowing they are going to be purchasing something. Another study done in 2002 by professors at the University of Surrey found that people are happiest when they know they have a trip coming up. So just the act of planning a vacation can significantly improve your overall well-being.

It isn’t hard to imagine either. Think about how excited you get when you are planning your vacation. How fun it is to plan your itinerary, to pack your new outfits, and to tell your friends and family about where you are going. All of these things positively impact your well-being.

What a lot of psychological research has shown now is that the ability to engage with people from different backgrounds than yourself, and the ability to get out of your own social comfort zone, is helping you to build a strong and acculturated sense of your own self. Our ability to differentiate our own beliefs and values – is tied up in the richness of the cultural experiences that we have had.
— Mary Hele Immordino-Yang, University of Southern California

So start planning your vacation to the next destination on your bucket list, what things you would do when you get there, and let your mind absorb the creativity and stress-free aura from your travels.

Comment