5 Scientifically Proven Ways Travel Makes You a Better Person

There are a preponderance of esoteric reasons to travel the world for a while. For many of us, including Hans Christian Andersen, “To Travel is to Live.”

We travelers know the value of voyaging in so many unspoken ways, but sometimes it’s nice when scientific research affirms the known – or sometimes you just need to send an article to reinforce your demand for adventure. Well, we’ve got your back.

Here are 5 Scientifically Proven Ways Travel Makes You a Better Person:

1. Travel gives you more perspective

Photo by Ryan Tang on Unsplash

Photo by Ryan Tang on Unsplash

The Stoic poet Seneca said “travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”
I particularly like the word “vigor” in that quote. It’s hard to overemphasize how differently my mind works since I began traveling and living in new cultures. I don’t think I’m smarter, I just think I am more open to change and resilient to conflicting points of view.

As it turns out, this new vigor has been proven by a 2014 study of MBA students led by William W. Maddux, associate professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD.

“The link was discovered between students’ “multicultural engagement”—the extent to which they adapted to and learned about new cultures—and their “integrative complexity,” their willingness and capacity to acknowledge competing perspectives on the same issue. Put more simply, those students who became highly engaged in other cultures during the program had an easier time holding multiple, conflicting viewpoints in mind at the same time. Their interactions with other cultures gifted them a breadth of perspective they didn’t have before.” (Forbes)

2. Travel makes you more employable.

Do you put your journeys on your LinkedIn profile? Maybe you should.

Photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash
Photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash

According to the INSEAD study, “there was a further link between this multicultural engagement and the number of job offers these students received at the end of their MBA program, with the more engaged students receiving more job offers. More multicultural experiences spark more job offers.” (Forbes)

Come to think of it, I’ve never been in an interview where the employer didn’t ask me about my travels with a kind of unfiltered joy. Those have been the only parts of that ancient matchmaking ritual when I felt vulnerable and simultaneously unassailable.

3. Travel makes you live longer

I think there’s a calling to our deep down DNA. The heart longs to stray. As it turns out, risk of heart attack is decreased by frequent travel.

“According to a joint study from the Global Commission on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association, women who vacation at least twice a year show a significantly lower risk of suffering a heart attack than those who only travel every six years or so.” (LA Times)

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash
Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

This is also true of men.

“Men who do not take an annual vacation show a 20 percent higher risk of death and 30 percent greater risk of heart disease.” (NBC News)

Travel also immediately makes our time a little less stressful.

“Benefits of travel are almost immediate. After only a day or two, 89% of respondents saw significant drops in stress.” (LA Times)

This is a pretty good case for taking your paid sick days to travel and stay healthy.
Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash

4. Travel makes you more creative

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” ― Henry Miller

This is so obvious to anyone who has really traveled. Learning new languages, art, music, food, structures, perspectives, colors and scents – these are the seeds of a well-cultivated creative garden.

These “foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,” says Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of numerous studies on the connection between creativity and international travel.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash
Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

“But it’s not just about being abroad,” Galinsky says: “The key, critical process is multicultural engagement, immersion, and adaptation. Someone who lives abroad and doesn’t engage with the local culture will likely get less of a creative boost than someone who travels abroad and really engages in the local environment.” (The Atlantic)

5. Travel makes you more empathic and emotionally stable

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” ~ Mark Twain

The vital infrastructures of our lives are often built while we’re inside them. Therefore I think it’s challenging to see our strengths or cracks without stepping outside of the box. And it’s even more challenging to rightly see others in relation to ourselves. Travel is one of the most powerful ways to get new perspective and keep the structures from crumbling.

Tom Champion, 26, a PhD student from the University of Sheffield who is studying in Singapore for 18 months, says he has become more accepting and compassionate since living abroad. “Seeing the world through a foreigner’s eyes has led me to realise my previously invisible cultural habits and hone my sense of empathy and my ability to understand others,” he says. (The Guardian)

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash
Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

According to a paper by Julia Zimmermann and Franz Neyer in the September, 2013 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, those who traveled tended to show an increase in Emotional Stability relative to those who did not travel.

According to this same study, “travelers gain perspective on life.” (Psychology Today)

So why do you travel? Is it for one of these reasons?

Or maybe you don’t need a reason to travel.

Like the great Robert Louis Stevenson said, “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”

As Managing Editor at the BootsnAll Travel Network, my goal is to make travel possible for everyone who feels the wind calling. My heroes are people like Captain Cook, Nellie Bly, Buckminster Fuller and Leonardo Da Vinci. I've spent my life fighting to end the ill effects of xenophobia - I believe travel is the greatest tool in the toolbox (along with gender justice).

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