Many of us spend our days between trips planning and daydreaming about the next great adventure. We look at pictures of interesting places online and wonder what great fun awaits us in faraway lands. But did you know that like vitamins, travel can actually be good for us? Up with People participants (who at the time of this writing are in the middle of an amazing week in Canún, Mexico) know this to be true. Anybody who has traveled outside his or her comfort zone can attest to the excitement that comes from being in a new environment. As research has shown, travel is not only fun; it also offers the following benefits to our overall health and wellbeing.
Have you heard of the “wanderlust gene” called DRD4-7R? The 7R variation of this DRD4 gene is found in about 20% of humans and is associated with an abnormally increased level of restlessness and curiosity. Many psychologists and scientists have suggested that this gene could lead people to take bigger risks, which includes a nearly unquenchable thirst for travel.
An evolutionary biologist at Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute says that the “…DRD4 gene and the consequent extra dopamine may have helped provoke prehistoric man to leave home and explore other territories in hopes of finding food, mates, and shelter … that biological background might have morphed into modern day wanderlust.”
A Kaplan University biologist, Dawn Maslar, goes further: “The wanderlust gene is so powerful. It appears that the DRD4 gene is more predominant in the traveling type person.”
We can’t help it! Travel is in our DNA!
It turns out travel also fights dementia. This is because travel promotes brain health by building resilience in your brain cells. This is supposed to delay degenerative disease. People who travel also live longer. Nice!
According to numerous studies travel can lead to significant personality changes. People become more empathetic, generous, report higher levels of emotional stability, and tend to return from their journeys entirely different than when they first set out.
Travel has also been proven to enhance creativity, sparking synapses in the brain and affecting our neural pathways. Because of this, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that the more you immerse yourself in foreign cultures, the more creative and professionally successful you will be.
Giant empires have been started because some man or woman decided that they needed to get away from it all for a while. Large companies like Toms, Warby Parker, Kayak and Noosa Yogurt were all formed because their founders hit the road to discover their next big idea. Or simply hit the road for the thrill of it and a fortunate side effect was a multi-million dollar company.
Without travel we wouldn’t have Instagram. The lightbulb moment for founder Kevin Systrom came on a beach in Mexico while on vacation with his wife, Nicole. She explained that she probably wouldn’t post pics on any app because her photos don’t look as good as skilled photographers. And boom, the idea hit them. They decided to add filters to an earlier version of the app and Instagram as we know it was born. All because the couple decided to stay at a bed and breakfast in a foreign country to clear out the old cobwebs in the creative centers of the brain. The very first picture posted to Instagram is of a stray dog and a taco stand in Mexico posted by Kevin on that very trip.
The ride sharing service Lyft can thank its success to many things, not least of which is travel. Founder Logan Green decided to take a trip to Africa, visiting Namibia, Cape Town, Botswana and Zimbabwe. On the trip he started noticing shared-ride vans called kombis.
Compared to his home in L.A. where traffic is at best a nightmare, Zimbabwe had quiet streets. Most people rode bikes, walked or took a kombi. People there simply don’t own private vehicles in the incredible numbers seen in the United States. Shared rides were the norm and because of this Green saw an opportunity. He returned to California to start Zimride, which he named after his experience in Africa. Zimride eventually became what we know now as Lyft.
Travel doesn’t always have to be inspirational. It can tick you off sometimes. And this anger can also be good for your creativity. The billionaire Richard Branson was so incredibly ticked off by a canceled flight that he arranged a chartered flight for himself and the rest of his fellow stranded passengers. This irritating inconvenience sparked what would become Virgin Airlines. It’s no wonder Branson famously said, “I got my education out in the world. In my opinion, real life learning is the only way forward.”
Better plan your next trip. It’s practically doctor prescribed. Learn more about traveling in Up with People’s global education program today.
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Topics: Gap Year Abroad, Study Abroad, Volunteering Abroad
Up with People is a global education organization which aims to bring the world together through service and music. The unique combination of international travel, service learning, leadership development and performing arts offers young adults an unparalleled study abroad experience and a pathway to make a difference in the world, one community at a time. Click here to learn more about the internationally acclaimed program, Up with People.