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How travel changes us

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How travel changes us

story by: Anna Sarjeant

Time and time again we are told that travel promotes personal growth. But what is it about global exploration that makes it so fruitful? And in turn, so phenomenal it changes people?

1. Increased happiness
On the most simplistic level, a cocktail from the poolside bar is going to release more feel-good endorphins than a coffee slurped at your desk. Why? Because when we escape from the place we spend most of our time, the mind relaxes. We don’t necessarily forget about bills, school runs and bad TV, but by putting some distance between ourselves and our everyday routine, we remove the immedi­acy of mundane tasks.

2. Greater learning
From world history to language, customs, culture and cuisine, many of us possess an insatiable curi­osity about our planet and its people. In a world where everything is accessible, why read the book when you have the opportunity to physically expe­rience it? Education abounds, and you don’t have to live in a Tibetan hilltop monastery to get learned; sit next to a local on your next flight to anywhere and you’ll probably arrive more knowledgeable than the guide book. Travel more, learn more. Plus you’ll absolutely nail the pub quiz.

3. Lifestyle changes
Why is it so many people return from Asia wearing elephant printed harem pants? We doubt it’s because they’re super flattering on the thighs. It’s because we all get wrapped up in the cultures we experience. Elephant pants look mighty fine amidst dusty streets, Hindu temples and a chok­ing smog, and you embrace it all, because when something is different and exotic, or even abnor­mal, it’s also appealing. You don’t simply want to witness it as a bystander, you want to live it; eat, sleep and breathe it.

4. Discomfort
Fight or flight, it’s human nature. Ever booked that bucket-list trip and once imminent, had an over­whelming desire to cancel and go to the beach instead? Anything unfamiliar is unbelievably scary. Whether you’re travelling solo for the first time, changing the annual family holiday or flying from the first world into the third, stepping out of your comfort zone is daunting. The good news is, it’s when we are uncomfortable that we grow the most. Think of it like this, the unfamiliar is only unfamil­iar until you face it, so seek the bigger risks and you’ll reap the biggest rewards.

5. The mind grows
Writer Jonah Lehrer argues that “distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativ­ity.” If you’ve ever noticed how head-restless you get on holiday, you’ll know exactly what he means. Ordinarily, the everyday banality of life suppresses our creativity, but one week into your trip (relaxed and stress-free) your noggin reboots and your creative spark explodes like a prover­bial brain bomb. Which is why we all come home with exciting to-do lists for the future; nothing seems impossible. And what’s more refreshing than that?

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