Travel is good for us. It reduces stress levels, is good for our heart, and helps us to sleep better, long-haul flights notwithstanding, but science also tells us that travel really does broaden the mind. In this article, we are going to explore how and why that happens.
The realisation that travel good for health because it allows us to experience new things and is nothing new. For several hundred years, artists, poets, and writers have travelled abroad in search of inspiration. Paul Gaugin spent a lot of time in French Polynesia and Fiji, where he produced some of his most famous works. Ernest Hemingway travelled to Paris in 1921, where he mixed with other writers and artists, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Pablo Picasso and James Joyce. He later travelled to Spain, where he penned Death in the Afternoon.
Formative Experiences Abroad
It’s arguable that without these formative experiences, many famous artists may not have achieved the same degree of creativity. Scientists agree with this hypothesis. They say that while creativity is, to a certain extent, hard-wired into the brain, new neural pathways are created when we are exposed to new experiences. Spending time in a new place, soaking up the culture, tasting the local food and drink, and communicating in a different language, all play their part in helping us to realise our creative ambitions.
Take, for example, Vincent Van Goh, whose early works were dark, sombre, and very in keeping with his home country of The Netherlands. It was only when he moved to Provence in France that his work truly came to life. The warm Mediterranean sun and beautiful landscapes opened the floodgates of creativity. He produced more than 350 works of art during his time in Provence.
Whilst we can’t all be famous artists, research has shown that travel does inspire greater levels of creativity, but it depends on your travel experiences. Spending a couple of weeks in the sun won’t make much difference, but if you live somewhere new and assimilate into the local community, it will give your creativity a shot in the arm.
A study by Colombia University found that fashion designers who had spent significant periods abroad, living in several different countries, had a higher creative output. It helped them to see things differently, unlike their peers who had lived and worked in the same place their entire careers.
Open the Mind
Travel helps to stimulate the mind by opening it up to new ideas. Creative minds are more open; closed minds are rarely creative. People who live abroad for spells forge new cognitive connections, which adds new depth to their thought process.
One of the reasons why people travel is to “find themselves”. It’s a cliched expression, but living a comfortable, safe life is not the way to truly test your personal limits and discover what you’re made of. Backpacking in a third-world country and having to think on your feet, however, is guaranteed to push you out of your comfort zone. You learn to engage with people of all backgrounds and ethnicities, which is good for your creativity.
Does your creativity need a boost? If so, spend a few months living with goatherders in Nepal or cycling across Namibia. It might be the best thing you ever did.