Does Travel Really Broaden The Mind?

Although the age old saying goes that travel broadens the mind, is this always true? Many people would argue that it actually enforces existing prejudices that we’ve grown up with. One only needs to travel to a popular destination to see how many American-style bars and menus there are. In fact, if we wanted, we could travel the world without ever experiencing true local culture.

That being said, many travel companies are now pushing the ‘traditional experience’ in their marketing campaigns. The promise of experiencing something completely new and unique. In our modern world this is a tough promise to keep, but it’s certainly an alluring one.

Perhaps it’s down to the individual. Some people relish new countries, new sounds, new languages, whilst others can get scared by them. The term ‘culture shock’ can have a positive or negative connotation depending on how you read it.  

Regardless of where we travel, Westerners are often guilty of believing that our way is best. This view point can have disastrous effects when traveling as it closes our minds to new ways of thinking and experiencing things. Many companies are now trying to combat this by offering mutually beneficial encounters between travellers and locals. This ‘responsible tourism’ has proven so successful in some communities that tourism is now their main source of income and stability.

The Facts

So what do the facts tell us? A study by Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School, found that people who had lived aboard were more creative than those who had not. On top of this, the study demonstrated that the more countries you had lived in, the more creative you would be. However, the study also showed that regular holiday travel was not enough to increase creativity. Galinsky also noted that “Someone who lives abroad and doesn’t engage with the local culture will likely get less of a creative boost than someone who travels abroad and really engages in the local environment”.

As study in Germany by Dr Julia Zimmermann and Dr Franz Neyer demonstrated that travel increases extraversion. The team used a sample group of university students and found that the students who had taken a semester overseas were less introvert than those who had not. The travel group also showed a great willingness to experience new things afterwards.

The U.S. Travel Association also found that traveling makes our mind sharper. Similar to someone who does a lot of puzzles to keep their mind active, travelling forces us to be alert, remember new words and customs, navigate new streets, and make new acquaintances. All these things keep the cognitive mind active, honing it to be as fast as it can be.

Top Tips To Broaden The Mind

Visiting unusual places is a sure-fire way to expanding your mind. For example, a holiday to Disney World is very unlikely to do anything. Although you might have fun, nothing you and see and do will force your mind to reevaluate. Wheres, a cruise to Antarctica or a trek through Bhutan will. These rarely visited lands are packed with unusual sites and sounds that will encourage your mind to explore new meanings and create new ways of thinking.

Another tip is to say yes. If someone asks you if you want to see a cool place they know of then say yes. If someone put a weird looking dish in front of you and asks if you would like to try it – say yes. Saying yes is very liberating and can lead to some wonderful encounters and sights!

The final tip is to always understand what you’re looking at. It may sound silly, but we often witness people doing strange things on our travels. Instead of asking what they’re doing, we just smile, watch in fascination and maybe take a picture. Finding out what you’re looking at and why a person or group is doing what they’re doing is a great way of broadening your mind and learning new things.

Above all else though, have fun! We all get scared the first time we visit somewhere different, but the feeling soon passes and is replaced by a greater understanding of the world we live in. This understanding allows you to make more informed decisions in your every-day life.