How Travel Remolds the Mind

08/08/2016 04:17 am ET

By the time this year is up I’ll have lived and worked in Australia, Samoa, Indonesia, Spain, Italy and Thailand, and I’m currently in the process of adding more destinations to my list for next year.

 

So what drives this wanderlust? For me it’s about freedom, individuality and autonomy. The need to explore what lies beyond where I am currently, in terms of both my personal and professional development.

 

I can’t pretend that travel is without its drawbacks. Not only can endless travel leave you feeling rudderless, but your issues don’t magically disappear when you relocate somewhere new. If you’re anxious, there’s a good chance your anxiety will follow you there. And people in paradise still get depressed.

 

Sure, you might gain a sense of perspective when confronted with the big wide world of experiences but at the end of the day­ there you are - baggage and all.

 

Having said that, there’s evidence that travel can change your brain for the better. Research has even shown that travel can boost neuroplasticity, which in turn, can help foster creativity.

 

Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School found connections between creativity and international travel. And various research has shown that sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain and may have the potential to revitalize the mind.

 

In my experience, leaving comfortable environments and friends who’ve known me for years allows me to experiment. You can reconstruct your image when you travel. You can order steak from the menu, and nobody is there to say, “I thought you were a vegetarian”.

 

We can modify ourselves. We can test out our limits. We can launch things and try out new things out. And the people who ‘know us best’ aren’t there to hold us back with their own perception of who we are.

 

And often as we’re confronted by new challenges and unfamiliar situations, that force us to react more authentically. We can’t just run on autopilot or rely on safety nets.

 

You begin to see just who you are, once the constructs of a location-specific identity are stripped away. Even if you keep on creating a new exterior self in each new location, a deep knowledge of yourself emerges nonetheless.

 

So, in fact, quite in contrast to creating a new you, what emerges is the real you. When you’re brought face to face with your own personality like this, it makes you all the more aware of your reactions, projections, habits and mental associations. When you’re confronted by other people with such starkly different contexts to their lives, the context of your own becomes glaringly obvious.

 

And as ‘they’ say, awareness is the first step towards change. You become aware of yourself, you isolate which behaviours you want to improve upon or habits you want to change.

 

“Do you get lonely or homesick?” I’m often asked.

 

The answer, which is horrifying for some, is “Lonely for what? Homesick for where”?

 

I have a job that allows me to travel and visit friends all over the world, colleagues who often travel with me, and beyond that, I love my own company. And home? I have many: Mullumbimby in Australia, London, Ubud in Bali, and now Barcelona.

 

Moreover, there are a growing number of factors operating against isolationism. We can travel and access communities of likeminded people with more ease than ever before. We can tap into remote working communities of global citizens.

 

We can land in a new country and find people who share similar ideals to us. We can take our work and careers with us. We can access ready made communities of coworkers, find new business partners, dates and even spouses through our phones.

 

The whole world is speeding up. And you can accelerate your growth by tapping into international communities and accessing new ideas. You could spend five years in an ashram to find yourself. Or you could look outward, and see yourself reflected in the eyes of strangers.

 

Kirsty is on the team of Coworkation, a startup specialising in curating inspirational coworking retreats around the world for entrepreneurs and executives.

Our passion is to share unique experiences with other inspiring individuals, encouraging a shift in personal development, paving the way for professional growth. Get in touch if you like what we do! info@coworkation.com.

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