When you think of going on vacation, you probably imagine yourself lying in the sand on your favorite beach, sipping piña coladas and listening to Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville.” Perhaps you enjoy driving out to the mountains and taking in the lush scenery, while trying to capture the perfect Instagram pic. While these experiences can be fun and exciting, there’s more to traveling than meets the eye.
Everyone knows traveling is great for your mind, taking you away from the stress of everyday life and into a state of bliss. But this only scratches the surface. Traveling can stimulate mental health and boost intellectual wellness. Intellectual wellness is the ability to expand creativity and knowledge by engaging in educational and cultural events, and combining this with one’s own experiences and life lessons. The following are five ways traveling can boost intellectual wellness.
1. It promotes happiness and a sense of well-being. There’s something special about stepping away from the monotony of the daily routine and not letting that dictate when you’re going to wake up or what you’re going to do for the day. Falling victim to the grind starves your brain of its ability to expand and can make you feel trapped or confined. When you allow yourself to explore and move into new territory, you are rewiring your brain.
Neuropsychologist Paul Nussbaum of the University of Pittsburgh wrote in a May 2013 Aging Today article that exposing yourself to novel and complex environments forces the brain to establish new neural connections. These connections help recall positive memories that can produce a feeling of happiness and fulfillment. You become aware of your place in this sometimes chaotic world and realize that we are all human beings facing our own set of problems. Being connected to others in this way can make you feel whole and better able to lead a satisfying life.
2. Traveling allows you to become culturally competent. Stepping out of your comfort zone and immersing yourself in a different culture helps you become comfortable with people of different opinions, beliefs and world views. Whether you’re trying food you’ve never tasted before, learning a new language, listening to music with instruments you’ve never heard or having a conversation with a stranger, you begin to feel connected to people of a different background. This sense of connection makes it easier for you to step into someone else’s shoes and see the world from a new perspective.
Read more about how traveling impacts intellectual wellness in the May issue of Contour magazine.
~Lance Myers, Tennessee ’22, Chapter Editor-Elect