Travel broadens the mind - here's how

Mark Twain wrote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”

Travel broadens the mind, they say. Different languages, different cultures and different people force us outside our own self-created bubble of comfort. This, as neuroscience is now discovering, forces the brain to process new things, create new dendrites and change the way it perceives the world by altering the way it processes information.

As a matter of fact travel is one of the strategies used to enhance neuroplasticity and the American Society on Aging (ASA) recommends it as a means of maintaining brain health as we age.

Whether travelling for business or pleasure travel should always be about discovery. The connections we make as we experience the world beyond ourselves. The knowledge we acquire as we talk to people who are different from us in their experiences and their perceptions. The challenge itself, the way we process it, rewires our brain and leads to a different way of considering where we are and who we are.

A sense of place and identity is key to creating a sense of purpose. Purpose gives meaning to actions.

Travel then, inevitably, exerts pressures on us which we are forced to adapt to. The adaptations themselves have a transformational effect. In that context, perversely, hotels are bubbles we access to try and insulate ourselves from the adaptive pressures applied on us by a local culture.

Choose the right hotel and you may as well have never left home. Add the right level of service (and cost) and all the external pressure that leads to adaptations disappears. This begs the interesting question which is why bother to even travel then, but, instead: Why go to such lengths to avoid personal change?

This leads us into deeper waters where who we are and why we are becomes entangled with who we want to be and why. These are deep, existential questions. They challenge our sense of self and our sense of belonging. Travel, in particular and the world, generally have; of course, always done that.

Because of the time we live in everything is magnified. The increased levels of uncertainty we experience and the wealth of information we have at our fingertips are making everything less certain, not more so. Context changes data. Data gives rise to culture. Nothing is easy any more.

Where does that leave us?

In this: here. The trust we generate through our actions and the relationships we build as a result of it all are the buffer provided by our connections.

Travel is an amazing way to challenge ourselves and grow but only if we first have created a level of security in who we are. Only if we have found our community.

So, the real challenge lies elsewhere. The answers we seek are always inside us. The world is only as scary as our assumptions and prejudices make it. It is what we make it.

You’re caffeinated (because that is the only way to be). And have a little, tiny bit of sugar at hand in the form of maybe your weekly allowance of donuts or cookies, croissants and chocolate cake. Make the coffee intake more and the sugar intake as little as possible and you’ve got a winner. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.

Sunday Read RSS Feed