5 reasons why you should travel and the psychology behind it.

Posted 23rd Jan 2019
5 reasons why you should travel and the psychology behind it.

From the moment you decide to travel, you are on the road to pushing boundaries and forcing yourself out of your comfort zone. It is no easy feat to turn your back on ‘normality,’ and we have a tendency to follow the crowd,

But not YOU.

If you are reading this, I suspect you want something more. So let me help you with your decision to do something INCREDIBLE and WILD and LIFE CHANGING. In this post, I will provide you with the 5 reasons why YOU should travel and the psychology behind it. So when your parents or straight laced friends go into panic mode, you can reassure them that you are INVESTING in your health, happiness and psychological wellbeing. 

1. Travel pushes you out of your comfort zone

Travel pushes you out of your comfort zone and that is GOOD! The term ‘comfort zone’ implies familiarity, routine, safety and stability. It is a bubble of all things we know and love ~ decreasing the chance of failure. Fear of failure is one of our most deep-rooted insecurities, so it is only natural to stay well clear of it. Your comfort zone is your safety net. 

But who wants that?! Not I. And not YOU.

There have been plenty of publications indicating that stepping outside of our comfort zones helps us with our personal growth, expands our repertoire of life skills and helps us discover what we are really capable of (Psychology Today). With this in mind, imagine yourself on a plane to somewhere you have never been before; you are completely alone and the country you are visiting speaks a different language ~ you could not get any further from familiarity, routine and stability. In these moments we cannot draw from experience because these situations are completely novel to us; instead we must tap into our personal store of knowledge which in turn expands our repertoire of life skills.

When you travel, you are constantly thrown into the unknown. For me personally, I now know little tricks to get cheaper flights, how to navigate my way around a bus station speaking Spanish and how to spot the important signs of altitude sickness. All these things that I learnt on my solo trip to South America have added to my library of life skills and they have enabled me to push myself further. For example, by successfully recognising the signs of altitude sickness, I achieved a personal best of hiking 5050m above sea level when in Peru, which was an INCREDIBLE feeling. There are lots of other examples I could give you, but I don't want to bore you and I am sure you get my point;

Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone by travelling can be hugely beneficial for your personal growth and development. 

2. Travel helps with personal development

Another reason to travel is to find out what you are really made of.

In the humdrum of everyday life, climbing world wonders or volcano's, discovering lost cities and ancient ruins, swimming with dolphins or camping on a cliff edge, aren’t things that tend to feature (if they do, good for you!) 

But when you travel, anything is possible.

When I was in Peru, I signed up to do a five day trek up to Machu Picchu, a bucket list goal of mine. Excited for the five days ahead, a friend and I headed out for pizza. My theory was to carb up the night before, but really it was just an excuse to eat a lot of pizza! On a serious budget we headed to a tiny little place down a dark alleyway in Cusco. The pizza felt a little under-cooked but that didn’t stop me…. one hour later I was crippled over with severe stomach cramps and began vomiting. It carried on until 4am when the tour company arrived at my hostel to pick me up for the trek.

In that moment, I had two options.

1. Forget about the trek, lose my money and recover for the next few days. 

2. Pull myself together, go, and hope for the best.

I chose option 2. With the help of a friend, lots of water and a strong-willed mind, I made it through days 1 and 2 and from then on I actually enjoyed the experience. I learnt so much about myself in that moment and I can proudly say I made it through one of the toughest experiences of my life. Whilst I could not have done it without support, I drew on a strength, resilience and determination I never knew I had and I am sure, if I had got food poisoning at home, I wouldn’t have made it into work the next day.

Personal growth and development in terms of confidence and strength only serves you later in life. Knowing you can make it through situations like that (or a particularly awful volcano climb experience in Colombia), grants you the power to feel anything is possible when we put our minds to it, and that is an INCREDIBLE FEELING.

You are serving as your own empowerment which is exactly how it should be. 

3. Travel positively effects personality

Yes! Travel actually has a positive effect on personality!

In an interesting article in Psychology Today, a research study found that extended periods of travel had a substantial effect on personality. In their 2013 paper, Julia Zimmermann and Franz Neyer examined the relationship between extended travel and personality development in a sample of college students from Germany. Split into two groups, Zimmermann & Neyer (2013) compared the personality development of those who stayed in Germany to study and those who studied in another country for either 1 or 2 semesters. Using the Big Five personality dimensions (Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, Emotional Stability and Conscientiousness), the results were overwhelming.

Participants who studied abroad were higher in all 5 personality dimensions. By adapting to new cultures and interacting with different people, more of their goals relating to Agreeableness, Extraversion, Conscientiousness and Openness were promoted. Additionally, by gaining a different perspective on life, the colleague students who studied abroad were less emotionally reactive to daily worries and stresses, promoting Emotional Stability.

Whilst this may not be true for everyone, these findings show the potential benefits of travel.

4. Travel helps you cope with change

In addition to the above, travelling and moving in circles outside of your comfort zone helps you cope with change.

For anyone, change can be daunting, whether we are aware of it or not. We are habitual creatures so adapting doesn’t always come easy. But by practicing situations that aren’t the ‘norm’ it can help us to adapt when curve balls are thrown our way, which is an invaluable life skill to have in the bank!

I am not saying you need to travel in order to deal with change, but it is a huge benefit. Change transforms you ~ it is overwhelming and terrifying, but if you have the tools to deal with it and experience to draw on, the transition will be much smoother and less stressful. When you travel, change occurs all the time. Hostels get booked last minute, buses decide to run on different schedules, your food options seem alien and cars drive on a different side of the road, but you adapt out of necessity.

When you have been through this, transitions later in your life are much easier to cope with. 

5. Travel can be life changing

For me personally, travelling has been life changing. I now see the world a different way. I can see past my immediate bubble and appreciate just how lucky we are with the opportunities we have.

From my volunteering experiences and from exploring different countries, I now understand the value of money, of food on the table and the roof over my head. I can talk and interact with people from all walks of life, even if I don’t connect with them on a deeper level or understand their viewpoint.

I complain less and appreciate more.

Yes the London tube is hot and sweaty, but did I tell you about the time I met a man in his 60's carrying a huge pumpkin on his back and scaling a mountain for three hours just to get home from a day in the fields? He did that every day, twice a day. I have learned about the Amazons Ecosystem, the Incan history of Peru, the devastation of the Vietnam war, who the Mayans were, where the Tatra mountains are and witnessed many a natural phenomenon in Bolivia; I have met people from all over the world and been exposed to their traditions and culture ~ more than I ever learnt in my history or geography lessons at school. 
Not only does travelling push you out of your comfort zone and add to your library of life skills, it gives you the time and space to face the things we have been running away from, the big questions we push to the back of our mind.

In a society where there are not enough hours in the day, our self love and self care come last. When you are on the road, they come first. You have time to listen to your mind and your body and ask yourself questions that you have been avoiding ~ with this alone, TRAVEL CAN BE LIFE CHANGING.