• Rita Hitching

Give your brain a trip, and see what happens...

The scientific benefits of travel are multiple, including physical changes to brain areas, increased knowledge, personal development, mental and physical health.while in the womb, the first year of life, and the early years, right into adulthood. What scientists have more recently discovered is that the brain undergoes a 'secret mission' of change during the period between the ages of 12 to 19 years, which is trulyme and play computer games or hang out at the mall. Trust me when I tell you that travel is good for you, and for your brain.  Don’t believe me, let me explain.


Your teenage brain is glorious - if you didn’t know that already. Neuroscience has shown that the brain goes through critical periods of growth and development - while in the womb, the first year of life, and the early years, right into adulthood. What scientists have more recently discovered is that the brain undergoes a 'secret mission' of change during the period between the ages of 12 to 19 years, that is truly unique.



Brain Benefits of Travel


The scientific benefits of travel are multiple, including: physical changes to brain areas, increased knowledge, personal development, mental and physical health.


Brain Growth

Travel exposes you to different environments, which create stronger antibodies (the proteins that protect your body against pathogens) due to exposure to different bacteria. It lowers stress levels, by being away from the commitments of everyday life, your mind and body can decompress.  Visiting new locations keeps you fit, as you are likely to spend time walking and exploring new areas.  Your mental clarity improves and neuronal and axonal damage is reduced. Travel boosts your mood - research has even shown that even the anticipation of travel can make you feel happier.  Having a holiday in the calendar makes you more positive about your health, economic situation and general quality of life. Relationships and a sense of connection with others is strengthened - it’s likely to help you notice what shared interests you have with your family. You might even enjoy your sibling's company! Travel lowers depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders.    


It is impossible not to increase your knowledge of the world due to travel, the names of new cities, towns, cultures, customs,  accents, and traditions. Teenagers that travel, have a greater awareness of the world, and have been shown to be more creative and lateral thinkers.   The learning of new information, and the ability to be flexible, makes the brain more adaptable. The ability to adapt to new situations increases the brain's’ neuroplasticity - it’s ability to more make new axonal connections as a consequence of learning new information.


Still not convinced? Research using functional magnetic resonance imagery (fMRI - which measures brain activation due to changes in blood flow) looks different when you are in familiar and unfamiliar settings.  Brain areas that are active require more glucose (delivered by the blood vessels), for processing information than when the brain is ‘relaxed or in familiar settings’. When the brain is at rest it is described as being in it’s ‘default mode network’ (DMN). The DMN includes the medial temporal and prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, central precuneus and the parietal cortex.   When you travel the brain is prompted out of the DMN into the ‘attention and salience network’ (AN and SN) to process information - which includes the dorsal anterior cingulate, anterior insular cortices, and the insula.

Personal Development

The impact of travel also extends to broadening your social skills, enabling you to make new friends.  Your sense of self or who you are grows from traveling, and makes you more resilient and flexible. If you eat out when you travel, you are likely to try new foods and need to be flexible and consider eating something unfamiliar, and not get too upset if you end up not liking too much. Travel takes you out of your comfort zone.  You and your brain need to use new strategies to solve new problems, forcing your brain to have to think ‘outside of the box’.  The ability to deal with novel situations and manage them well leads to increased self-esteem. You also have greater confidence as you have experiences and stories to share with others.

Travel changes your personality, it makes you more open minded and willing to interact with situations and people that you may previously not have been interested in or willing to consider. Learning about other cultures makes you more trusting of others, and you understand that more and more people share the same values - kindness, generosity and care for others. Visiting new locations makes you realize the scale of the world and the various ways people live in it.  It makes you more humble.  Travel facilitates you ability to manage your emotions, and be less reactive to situations or people that may say or do things that previously made you react in an emotional way - you basically become more agreeable or easy going. You become more patient and tolerant as the process of travel often involves long wait times, unexpected delays or changes of plan.

Mental & Physical Health

Travel exposes you to different environments, which create stronger antibodies (the proteins that protect your body against pathogens) due to exposure to different bacteria. It lowers stress levels, by being away from the commitments of everyday life, your mind and body can decompress.  Visiting new locations keeps you fit, as you are likely to spend time walking and exploring new areas.  Your mental clarity improves and neuronal and axonal damage is reduced. Travel boosts your mood - research has even shown that even the anticipation of travel can make you feel happier.  Having a holiday in the calendar makes you more positive about your health, economic situation and general quality of life. Relationships and sense of connection with others is strengthened - it’s likely to help you notice what shared interests you have with your family. You might even enjoy your sibling's company! Travel lowers depression, anxiety and other mental disorders.  



Reasons to Travel


Remember travel does not necessarily mean going to exotic destinations like Kathmandu or Santiago, it can be a day trip to a new town, a museum, or event going for a hike.  The impact is the same, it jump-starts your brain into neuronal generation. So, when you return to school in August, you will feel re-energized and reinvigorated to set new goals and crush them.  Enjoy your vacation time, you deserve it.

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© 2020 Rita Hitching

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