The past couple of weeks several articles about the benefits of traveling have been popping up in my Facebook feed, on Twitter and other social media sites I use. While the gist of the articles are that everyone can benefit from travel (and travel planning), some of the benefits are especially pertinent for retirees and can help boost brain power, memory, and creativity.
And anything that makes you smarter is a good thing.
Here, from Condé Nast Traveler, are five ways travel makes you smarter, no matter your age:
- Travel expands your sense of reality: While it seems obvious that travel to foreign countries can expand your understanding of the world and different cultures and realities, so can travel within your own country. Not only can you gain a deeper understanding of how alike you are with others, but how different things can be as well. Just as with foreign travel, in your own country you can also experience different foods (and/or food preparation), idioms, expressions, and cultural norms than you can find in your own home area. It’s fascinating, really.
- Travel makes your brain function at a higher power: Studies have shown that travel provides up to 75% higher rates of mental stimulation, especially important for older travelers. Increased amounts of brain stimulation helps to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Things such as language study before travel, or figuring out train schedules, or driving routes help increase brain function as well.
- Travel helps improve your memory: Traveling in a new location requires an increased attention span, especially where a different language is spoken. This can also be true for places where different idioms and accents exist as well, where you have to listen more carefully to understand what people are saying, which would be the case for me in Scotland and other parts of Great Britain, for example. If the written language is different as well (like in China or Japan, for example) your attention span needs to increase even more to remember locations or names if no translations are provided.
- Travel increases your creativity: Visiting and seeing famous sites not only enriches your imagination, but so does experiencing and adapting to new smells, tastes and sights no matter where you visit. These experiences help to create new neuro-pathways in the brain as well as new ways of thinking and adapting to the world.
- Travel provides strength in vulnerability: Who hasn’t experienced a feeling of total vulnerability when arriving in a new location, especially one where you don’t know the language, or how to get around, or where or what to eat? However, instead of viewing this as a negative, the vulnerability that comes with travel increases one’s ability to think on their feet, and handle new situations which in turn boosts one’s self-confidence. Being more self-confident, being willing to try new things, and being willing to learn are hallmarks of increased intelligence.
The article includes a wonderful quote about the impact of travel: To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest – Pema Chödrön, Buddhist scholar.
To this I say: Throw me out of the nest! I’m all in for being more awake, more human, and more alive. Here’s to more travel, and to becoming smarter, even as I age!