What Being a Travel Addict Says About You
It’s hard to turn on the TV or flip through a newspaper today without feeling rather overwhelmed. The frenzy of global politics, conflict and fear has us in a vice grip, and the constant tirade of social media insists on pummeling us with more sensational headlines in a day than we could want in a lifetime.
As the world seems to get crazier by the day, I frequently turn to travel for the answers. As it turns out, this longing to hit the road has some significant psychological benefits worth examining.
1. Feelings of awe
There’s nothing like hiking a mountain to stand in complete awe of the view at the top. Our world has some incredible places to feel small, and ironically, that feeling can be incredibly rewarding. Studies have shown that awe leads to prosocial behaviour like altruism and magnanimity. It leads us to feel as if we have more time which means we give more time to charity, feel greater life satisfaction and tend to choose experiences over possessions. Knowing that simply admiring a stunning natural scene leads us to become better people within our communities makes me even more keen to get out there.
2. Breaking down prejudice
Prejudice is a challenging tendency to combat. Prejudice is often known in psychology as “othering“, and it’s so pervasive because it is the process by which we try to establish our own identities. We define ourselves in opposition to others, and create categories to try to simplify and navigate our worlds. This is a normal psychological process. Where it goes wrong is when we ascribe categories or characteristics that cast a negative light on those we consider “others”. Travel that exposes us to diverse people,
Travel that exposes us to diverse people, cultures and lifestyles helps us see that our way is not the only way. It also helps us realize that people we thought were so different from us are not so different after all. They are mothers and sons, they are curious and cautious, they smile, laugh and cry just like we do; they are just trying to make their way in the world in the best way they know how. And so are we.
3. Learning independence and real-world skills
Travel teaches us how to be independent in some very important ways. Because we have nothing else to fall back on but our ability to navigate a new environment, problem solve, and meet and communicate with new people who may not even speak our language, we learn very quickly the value and the reward of independence. Travel often gives us a chance to develop skills that we may not cultivate at home. For instance, if you choose to save money on roaming charges and instead just stick to wifi hot spots, you may have to learn how to read a real paper map (gasp!), or ask a local where to find some good coffee rather than just opening Yelp. It’s incredible how much we’ve forgotten how to just be real people in a real world. We could all do with a bit of a reality check once in a while!
4. Stepping outside your comfort zone
This is probably one of the most powerful effects of travel. When you leave the comfort of your daily routine and your home, you force yourself to face things that you may not necessarily be comfortable with. So why would you do this? Because it’s only when we step outside our comfort zones that we learn. The act of learning is the very act of encountering new and unfamiliar things. We cannot grow without it. I often admire the wisdom of older people, but they didn’t become wise by staying home on the couch watching their favourite shows. They’ve travelled, they’ve met people from all walks of life, they’ve been exposed to ideas, foods, landscapes that are rich and diverse.
If you’re feeling sad, lost, confused, bored, uninspired… get out and travel. You will realize that there is so much more to life just waiting for you to go and discover. Getting out of your comfort zone can actually make you more optimistic about the future, build confidence, and change your perspective on the world. It’s one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had.
So for all the travel addicts out there, keep it up! Make travel part of your New Year’s resolutions. Don’t let people tell you your passion or your nomadic lifestyle is simply wanting to be on vacation all the time (I’ve heard that before). There are a wealth of psychological benefits to travelling the world, not just for you but for all the people around you. Travel ought to be emphasized as an important step to becoming a well balanced, caring, open-minded and productive member of society. Bon voyage!
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