Traveling Improves Your Brain Health

Traveling Improves Your Brain Health
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Traveling improves your brain health because getting away from your day to day maps and discovering new sights, smells, and places have some amazing benefits. Your cognitive structures “light up” when you activate your reward systems, break your routine, and undo the knots of stress and anxiety. Thus, you free your mind and awaken your emotions.

Everyone needs to go on vacation. But oddly enough, there are a lot of workers who can’t or don’t want to take these much needed days off. Then there are people who don’t know how to truly “disconnect”. They don’t know how to slow themselves down and shed their responsibilities for a few days.

This could be one reason why the heart attack rate, for example, just keeps going up every year. We’ve turned into a worn-out society that simply doesn’t know how to take a break. 

A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.”

-Moslih Eddin Saadi-

The solution to this problem is simple: take a trip. We’re not saying you have to go to another corner of the earth to do this. You don’t have to go thousands of miles away and find an unfamiliar language and time zone.

There are cities and places close by that you’ve probably never been to that can have the same effect. They help you get away from your daily life. They also give your brain new stimuli and break the thought patterns you’ve been trapped in at home.

Woman who knows that traveling improves your brain health in a boat.

Traveling improves your brain health: 5 ways this is true

There are times in life when it’s the best thing you can do for yourself. Leave, so you can come back home. Walk away from your day to day life so that you can come back to it with new energy. It’s also impossible not to be changed in some way by a trip. It always has rewards. It always gives you something back, something positive that can help you be better in every way. Plus, getting out of your comfort zone and breathing in the air of some other time zone, hemisphere, or even just a nearby town, is an adventure that knows no age.

The truth is that traveling isn’t just for people with young hearts and minds. There are several studies that say that frequently getting away during middle-age and older age can notably improve your health. As you get older, there’s nothing better than breaking your routines and letting your mind open up to new experiences and stimuli. Now we’re going to show you exactly why traveling improves your brain health. 

1. It activates and optimizes your cognitive processes

  • Arriving in a new place forces you to use more of your brain’s resources. You have to look at maps and use your spatial intelligence to orient yourself, to remember directions, streets, meeting points, routes, etc…
  • Traveling also improves your attention. You’re more motivated and that helps you store memories and information more easily.

2. More neural connections

In some way or another, every trip forces you to do something new and leave behind certain fears. Getting on a plane, a boat, a cable car, a horse, a camel, pushing yourself to speak other languages, or even just giving yourself the chance to travel alone.

All these experiences create new connections in your brain. Your levels of dopamine and serotonin go up, your blood circulation improves, you oxygenate your brain… All these new, positive stimuli “fire up” your neurons and brain tissue. To put it another way, it’s the best kind of energy you can give your brain. It’s like giving it the best possible exercise, making it quicker and allowing it to store more information. 

Woman sitting on a suitcase.

3. It makes you more empathetic

Traveling is also good for your brain health because the main thing you’re doing is connecting. You connect with your surroundings, with new sensations, flavors, and experiences. You also connect with the people around you, the people you meet on all these getaways. This is as essential as shedding your habits so that you can learn new ones. It helps you look out at the world in a much more humble, intimate way.

Traveling makes you more tolerantIt shows you different perspectives on life and forces you to be much more flexible about things. What all this leads to is empathy. It stimulates your ability to imagine yourself in other people’s shoes and see other realities that are just as unique as yours.

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”

-Robert Louis Stevenson-

4. Traveling stimulates creativity

Traveling has no age. The potential for it is always inside you, just like the ability to learn. But jobs and routines get you stuck in repetitive cycles where nothing new ever happens, or only very little. Your daily life ends up making you rusty. The lack of incentive and new things reduces your ability to come up with innovative ideas and inspiring thoughts.

The reason that traveling improves your brain health is that it wakes your mind up. It challenges your senses. It puts you in places you’ve never seen, along with new faces, stories you never knew, foods you’ve never tried, side streets full of secrets, and hidden stores with strange smells and an infinity of amazing books and objects.

Traveling is culture, though you probably already knew that. It also leads to an inner awakening where you can awaken your imagination and reflect on concepts, ideas, and old frameworks. It means finding inspiration and letting yourself learn new things that you’ll never forget.

Notebook, camera, and pen on top of a map.

5. It improves your mood and reduces stress

Traveling and enjoying your experiences and your time to rest will bring the cortisol levels in your body way down. This stress hormone will go back to its normal state and you’ll be much better off for it. You don’t have external pressures here, just the chance to enjoy your surroundings and all the stimuli in it. Nature, sparkling cities, culture on every street, and every balcony, good food, beaches, museums, musical events, etc…

Every getaway is a way to get the best out of yourself, find yourself again, and even transform. And you’ll be doing it with a much more open, receptive, and optimistic state of mind.

Traveling improves your brain health because it pushes you to see the world from a broader, brighter perspective. So don’t hesitate. It’s always worth it to have a passport full of stamps along with fascinating stories only you can tell. Because at the end of the day, you’re the only one who’s experienced them.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.