The science of travelling and how it makes us smarter
We’ve all heard that travel broadens the mind, but there is now evidence piling up to suggest that travelling actually makes us smarter. Whilst this isn’t a complete shock, it’s nice to have actual concrete proof to further incentivise travelling (if there was even a need for another).
So if the crystal clear waters of the turquoise ocean along with meeting new people wasn’t already enough for you to go travelling, then maybe expanding your knowledge base and wising up is.
The key finding behind the 2009 study by William W. Maddux is that multicultural engagement will make you smarter. To be more specific, there was a link between multicultural engagement and integrative complexity. The person who travels is more likely to come into contact with more viewpoints, different cultural values, and new ideas on the same topics. Where those who never make it out their small town will only ever hear an echo chamber of the viewpoints that have manifested from a smaller, more closed community.
It’s not just cultural sensitivity that they’re talking about here. It’s the ability to see things from different points of view. You not only have a greater understanding of the world and the different takes on it, but you can apply that critical thinking to new topics in any life situation.
On top of this, the actual growth of one’s personality can be fostered through travel too. Being smart is also about being creative. Travelling certainly achieves this by making people more open-minded, with a broader spectrum of reference. One of the key ways we get such “practice” of creativity when travelling is when we are forced to problem-solve. Things constantly go wrong and dangerous environments can arise, and we have to improvise to solve them because each time our environment, and the problem, may be different.
Travelling and happiness
On top of making us better people, travelling can ultimately lead to happier lives. This one needs no empirical study because there are enough anecdotes and empirical findings ourselves to know. Travelling will usually subject you to a greater variety of emotions through breaking up the routine in your life. This often well-needed respite can give us a second wind back in the lives of our native country.
The most immediate effect that travelling has on youngsters, in particular, is a growth in their own self-confidence. It doesn’t get much bigger than taking on the world. Travelling and overcoming difficult situations can lead to greater confidence in your own self-belief — that no problem is too big for you. We often feel energised and have a greater self-esteem after a long, successful trip away. Returning home makes you feel all the more versatile and wise.
Lastly, travelling can help us understand the value of what we already have. The biggest issue with those who are obsessed with travelling is that they’re always wanting to go away — always waiting for the next trip and not being present in the current moment. If you conquer this, however, and if you spend enough time in more deprived areas, you suddenly start to see how most of the world is worse off than you are. In fact, you’re astoundingly lucky to be born in the west in a developed economy. Realising this is important and humbling. And if you’re not born in a developed, safe country, then travelling can be a way for you to scope out a potential way out and move to a better setting.