As if you needed another reason to travel, but it turns out that those men and women in white lab coats with BIG brains have discovered that travelling actually makes you way more creative and open-minded.
It’s a total mystery – at least, to me – why anyone would not want to pack their bags, grab their passport, and book a ticket to some place where they don’t speak your language, where the food is different, and where you don’t look like everyone else.
Not only is it incredibly exciting, but studies have already shown that it can make you happier (happier than getting married, for example). But if that wasn’t enough of a reason to launch those non-passport holding citizens of the world into the skies and cities of this amazing planet, then perhaps the mounting evidence to come out of the scientific community will.
Because guess what guys? Turns out that travelling can actually re-wire your brain and create neural pathways that weren’t there before, making you way more creative than before.
This is due to our brain’s neuroplasticity. Contrary to what you may think, our brains are actually extremely mouldable, with new experiences and environments re-shaping the way our brains work. And it turns out that travelling in foreign lands increases our cognitive flexibility, which is the mind’s ability to make connections between different, disparate ideas – a key part of being creative.
In one study, a clear positive correlation was found to exist between the amount of time fashion designers spent abroad and their creative output. Meaning: the more time you spend in Vietnam or Vanuatu or Venice, the more likely you’re going to create something truly awesome when you come back home, whether that be a new painting, a new song, a new photo story, a complete revamp of your living room, a truly mind-blowing new itinerary for your adventurous clients, etc., etc.
Travelling is also an antidote to close-mindedness, the science backs up. Mark Twain said it best when he made that quote about travelling being fatal to prejudice. Seeing how other people live and realising that at the end of the day we’re all the same, helps stamp the bigotry out of all of us. Now, if only the Trumps of this world spent less time bragging about the size of their **** and more time getting to know new cultures, new languages, new ways of looking at things.
According to Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and an expert in the connection between creativity and travel, travelling also increases your trust and general faith in humanity: you don’t see other people as scary or dangerous, but see them as just like you – as your brothers and sisters.
“When we engage in other cultures, we start to have experience with different people and recognize that most people treat you in similar ways. That produces an increase in trust.”
Adam Galinsky, Columbia Business School.
Despite the fears that some may have of travelling to Islamic countries, anyone who has spent any time in Indonesia, Iran or Morocco knows that our Muslim brothers and sisters are just like us – perhaps, even more hospitable and kind.
Interestingly, these studies found that individuals who immerse themselves into destinations (instead of just passing through them) were the group most likely to find their creativity levels skyrocket. Rubbing shoulders with the locals, doing a language course, learning how to cook a local dish – these experiences will pay massive creative dividends when back home.
So the next time you’re overseas or planning on heading abroad, just know that although you may not become the new Picasso or Van Gogh when you return home, you’ll certainly be more creative and open-minded.
Oh, and more happy.
Oh, and more tanned.
Oh, and more plain-old awesome.
Do you find yourself to be more creative when you return home after a holiday? Tell us in the comments below.
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