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How Travel Affects Us.

A brief look at travel's effect on happiness, creativity, and perceptions.

Barbados 2016-519
Photo Credit: Roberto

Every individual has their own personal reasons for traveling, because traveling is a personal experience. We may take the same trip, but we all experience it differently. Through the interviews I have been doing with family and friends, the reasons people travel are as different as they are. I wanted to take a quick look at the benefits of travel and present you with some scientific studies that will provide insight into how traveling affects us.

Photo Credit: Nicole

If you want look at some destinations, a good start is this article put out by Travel and Leisure. Actually, if you type “Why Travel Now” into Google you will get all kinds of destination suggestions, travel tips, and encouragement from others. It is a great way to discover the areas of the world that are must see destinations. Don’t forget, the world is changing very quickly and places that may not have been safe or accessible before, are now worth every penny to get to. So if you have made the decision to travel or are thinking about trying to get away, that is a great way to start.

People love to give excuses for not traveling. “I don’t have the time” or “it’s way too expensive” are common examples. If you encounter such naysayers in your life trying to talk you out of travel just remember, all those excuses can be easily overcome with some careful planning. Remember, to experience the benefits of travel you don’t need to journey to some obscure corner of the world. You don’t need to take 3 weeks off from work and you don’t need to travel constantly. To be a traveler, you just need to be working toward your next trip and then going!

Sometimes travelers compare themselves to each other by seeing how many countries they have visited or how many trips they can take in a year – this is an unfair comparison. Since we all travel for different reasons, we will have different standards and ultimately, different rewards. Many people will argue these points, but I still want to encourage you to keep travel personal and only judge your trips by your own standards.

There are important reasons to travel apart from the destination or the desire to get away. Travel has some great psychological benefits that affect our mind, body, and soul. The benefits of travel have been scientifically studied in the fields of psychology, tourism, sociology, journals of wellbeing and more. Understanding how travel can impact our lives is important to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to take that next trip. In this post we will focus on a couple of studies focusing on travel’s effect on happiness, creativity, and perception.

HAPPINESS

Photo Credit: Roberto

In 2010, the Applied Research Quality Life published an article that examined the levels of happiness in vacationers. Prior to taking a trip, people experience a rise in their level of happiness. Just the idea of taking a vacation appears to make people happy. The planning, preparing, packing, and the anticipation of a trip turns out to be half the fun. It is something to look forward to and to be excited about!

“For most, enjoyment starts weeks, or even months before the holiday actually begins.”Nawijin (2010)

So, if you start planning your trip today, you can also start experiencing increased levels of happiness.

When taking a look at the post-vacation happiness, the results are not as inspiring. Even though people may look forward to the trip, the higher levels of happiness do not last after returning from that vacation. “It is not surprising that a holiday trip does not have a prolonged effect on happiness, since most vacationers have to return to work or other daily tasks and consequently fall back into their normal routine fairly quickly” (Nawijn, J. 2010).  Some other interesting points that the study found was that the length of a vacation did not have any impact on the post-vacation happiness. However, if the vacation was particularly relaxing there was a couple weeks of post-vacation happiness.

Photo Credit: Roberto

When you are considering taking a vacation, no matter what the destination, you will be experiencing the effect of happiness. To capitalize on this benefit, possible ideas include having a countdown calendar, buying new clothes or gear for the trip, research activities, and reading a travel book about your destination. These are just a few of the things that can extend the happiness that comes from traveling, before you even leave your door.

Since the benefits of happiness significantly reduce after you return home, you should focus your energy on the vacation itself. You can’t take your vacations home with you, so enjoy every second of it! Some things that helped extend our own happiness after a vacation is creating a photo book a month after our vacation, or cooking a dish that we ate while away. Find what works for you.

Please read the research for yourself here.

CREATIVITY: Through Critical Thinking

Photo Credit: Nicole

The type of creativity that we are talking about involves more in depth problem solving and critical thinking. Being creative may be useful when you’re an artist, but it is also critical for dealing with issues at work, in relationships, and at home. Coming up with solutions, new ideas, or expanding on old ideas takes a lot of creativity. The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology published an article by L. Jia in 2009, titled Lessons from a Faraway Land: The effect of spacial distance on creative cognition, that can provide us with some insight on how travel can help us be more creative.

Photo Credit: Roberto

When we travel, even a short distance, we literally move ourselves away from our problems. This geographical change allows our brain to also move away from the problem and allows us to think without as many constraints. When we over think a problem it becomes harder to solve. Some people suggest sleeping on a decision, or taking a quick walk, both taking advantage of the freedom to think that distance allows. Traveling has a similar effect. When we move away from a problem we allow ourselves to see it from different angles and find alternative solutions.

It is important to note that being close to the problem does not hinder our creativity, but moving away from a problem can help us see different solutions.

Another huge impact on critical thinking is the addition of culture. Culture can impact our creativity – people were more creative when faced with foreign cultures. This means that traveling to a place with a culture different from our own will open our brain to a greater number of creative possibilities. In an article written by Jonah Lehrer for The Guardian in 2010 titled Why We Travel, the writer does an exemplary job exploring this research in depth and helps explain it further. I highly recommend reading this research for yourself here.

PERCEPTIONS: 

Photo Credit: Nicole

Perception of ourselves, work, family, friends, neighborhood, and more can be affected by travel. Since we all experience travel differently, how our perceptions are changed will also be varied in both magnitude and range. Not all travel will affect our perceptions the same or even at all, however this topic of perception is incredibly important.

Personally, the greatest change in perception for me was experienced as culture shock. Culture shock is often talked about when heading to a new area and being disoriented by the language, customs, and behaviors of the people. I experienced severe culture shock after coming home from my semester abroad in London. Returning home, I was a different person, but everyone here was the same and I saw everything in a new light making it all horribly confusing and disorienting.

Photo Credit: Nicole

Movies and books about a character leaving home to go find themselves, having all kinds of experiences and then returning home with a new view of the world, is what the change of perception is all about. Every trip may not have this effect, but the potential is there. The more people we come in contact with, the more we encounter different food, the more landscapes our eyes see, or even the different weather we experience can have an effect of our perceptions.

I will never forget, after my family traveled to Scotland, my father looked outside at a gray and rainy day back in NY with excitement. He called me and told me that it was not a big deal and was just like the weather in Scotland. After spending a couple weeks in the UK and especially Scotland, rain and clouds start to look different. One or two rainy days back in New York all of a sudden became nothing to worry about, since we experienced 13 days of clouds, rain, and wind in Scotland.

The Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism and Research has published research exploring how travel might have this life altering effect on perception. The research was conducted by Tony S. M. Tse in 2013 and focused on the Chinese population, which makes up many of the world’s travelers.

The research revealed that travelers have a better outlook on life as well as a better ability to cope with the world today.

As the world gets smaller and we come into contact with distant countries and people, travelers are better prepared and have a more positive outlook on the pressures that come with our global community. This study by Tse has been discussed by several other sources and you can read more about the research in articles posted by Technology.org, Taylor and Frances, and Leisure Tourism. The research is not available for free, but you may be able to access it through a database provided by your local library system or college library. I have provided the citation below, just copy and paste into your Database search.

Tony S. M. Tse. Does Tourism Change Our Lives? Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 2013; 1 DOI: 10.1080/10941665.2013.833125

WHY TRAVEL NOW?

Photo Credit: Nicole

Travel not only allows us to experience new, beautiful places – it is also excellent for our mind. Planning trips and looking forward to them makes us happier. Looking forward to something in our future gives us hope and excitement. You will work harder to save money and get things ready months before your actual trip, giving you incentive and purpose. It increases creativity and critical thinking, allowing us to explore the questions in our life that we have been struggling with and it lets us think freely. Finally, travel improves our perception of life and the world around us. If you need some perspective, or a change, taking a trip can help you on your way.

There is no secret formula to make all of this work. There is no single destination that will cure all your problems or force the world to make sense. There is no magic number for the amount of time you need to be away, or number of trips you have to take. It is all about doing what you can and making the most of it. So get out there and see the world, meet new people and have a wonderful time. We are only given one chance at life, we may as well enjoy it.

Happy travels.

Photo Credit: Nicole

3 comments on “How Travel Affects Us.

  1. Superb article! Loved every bit. And I totally agree to this. People make excuses about not having enough time or money but what they fail to realize is what travel provides them in its turn! 🙂

    Like

    • Nicole Hull

      Thank you Saloni. I am glad that you liked the article and hope that you can use the information to help others get out and travel.

      Like

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