When we have time and money we love to travel. This serves some deep need in human nature. Being a scientist, each time that I see a deep need I am looking for a competitive advantage. Why is traveling a good investment, and how can we improve it? For today’s reading, I have chosen some enjoyable reading here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Travel for fun
Recreative traveling is the most common travel experience. We leave our homes for a couple of weeks, enjoy a different culture or nature or lifestyle. There are many different destinations. Each one offers something special: nature and architecture, food and smells, arts and music, people. We tend to enjoy traveling immensely, even when we do not really have fun, as everything looks and feels new. After a short vacation we go back and plan the next vacation. This sort of traveling is pretty new as it requires quick transportation available since 20th century. Before that, the travels were longer and more meaningful.
Truth is a place
Finding a deeper truth is also a sort of travel. Some truth is associated with certain places of religious worship, breathtaking nature or unique art forms. Every Pesach (Passover) the ancient Hebrew people would come to Jerusalem for a week to make the sacrifices in the temple. Stonehenge probably served a similar role. Well before becoming historical monuments, many tourist destinations were the places of worship and transformation.
Youth and experiments
We probably love and want to travel more when we are young, possibly in our twenties. During ancient times, whole tribes of young people would often say good bye to their families and go out to capture new lands. This sort of behavior is often described by Roman and Greek authors. In Scandinavia this kind of traveling was called “viking”. As the land was poor, and there were very few farms at home, the best way to get some money, land and family was savaging some far lands.
Today we are less prone to scourge the far lands, and more likely to have fun, experiment and learn a couple of things. In Israel most young people in their twenties say goodbye to their families and go to live far far away for approximately six months. For example, my wife Anna spent six months in Canada, dancing with nice guys and eating very little. I did not have half a year to spare, yet I spent a couple of months in Germany and Italy, and later a few more months on honeymoon in Australia and New Zealand.
The time spent in different countries often allows us to think differently and more creatively. Different languages activate different areas in our brain. Our connections with local people open routes for future trades. New ways of doing things showcases opportunities for various devices and ways of doing things. We get more ideas of alternative behaviors and lifestyles with the costs and benefits they have for the people choosing them. The more we spend in a different country, the deeper are the levels of interactions involved: from views and tastes of a new place to creating family connections and handling strong emotions in that place.
Specific learning and memory formation
As we stay for a while in a different country, we generate new memory cues which improve our association skill, creativity and ability to memorize the relevant things. We learn the history of a country, its language and culture, its nature and architecture – but we do not understand this information through our senses until we visit the country. Small things, like moisture or sunlight, suddenly fix some gap of our intuition and allow to learn differently. If you happen to learn theology, you should probably come to Israel at some point of your life. If you study martial arts, you could benefit visiting the country where the particular martial art was developed.
Finding new pastures
Another very different kind of traveling is looking for a job. There are tens of millions of immigrants working in different countries, earning some money, and then going home to build a family. This is not an age-related phenomenon. As there are different opportunities in different lands, we take our chances. Some people become digital nomads, traveling from country to country and living from some international opportunities. There are very few traveling salesmen left, but there is a new generation of enterprises trying to develop business internationally.
This behavior is also deep rooting in our nature. During the times of hunger, animals tend to leave their homes and look for new pastures. The choice is simple: travel or die. So the fittest travel.
Stopping the time
Our feeling of time is directly link to the new experiences. As we see, feel and learn new things, we get more meaningful events to experience. The new experiences slow the way we experience life. More so if adrenaline is involved. Every encounter is new and special.
In 21st century everything appears to be transient, and the things we truly value are the experiences. When we travel, we have a unique chance to stop the time and get the experiences. We are happy to pay with our time and money and some lack of comfort for truly unique experiences.
Painting with light
A different way of stopping the time is photography. Sometimes we take pictures with our mind, trying to remember an experience forever. Alternatively we can take very real pictures with very real cameras.
Photography literally means painting with light. A good photographer has a perfect sense of light, timing and opportunity, that culminate in a unique photographic masterpiece.
A bad photographer will take pictures of everything that happens to be around. The indiscriminate photography does not create great moments, and robs us of the experience. Instead on focusing on our senses we may start focus on posing and cameras, resulting in tremendous waste of opportunity.
Joy of missing out
Another interesting way we enjoy vacations, is by allowing ourselves a digital disconnect. Informed, trendy and connected people usually have a strong fear of missing out. As we get deeper involved with our society and digital media, we constantly check our devices for any news. This compulsive behavior might be useful, but it is not always pleasant. When we travel we have less time and our connection is lousy. We allow ourselves to disconnect, and enjoy a sort of blissful piece of mind and naive happiness. This joyful experience already has a name, and it is called JOMO, the joy of missing out. The most extreme case of disconnect is experienced in Vipasana, but less sever disconnects are probably more enjoyable. We need occasional disconnect to reduce the stress levels, reduce the burnout and improve personal resilience.
Being surrounded by people and events we seldom have time to smell the flowers, or to think deeply about something. When we are isolated our brain works differently. While the world around baths in light, swirls with motion or advertises some theme, we can be fully authentic and honest to ourselves. In a new environment we feel less shame and fewer social obligations, and we can focus on what is really important to us. Being an observer instead of an actor is a very powerful position, as it allows us to notice minute details we are usually too busy to see. AT the same time, the mind is clear and free for some profound thinking. Who knows, what kind of opportunities this sort of introversion can bring…
Values, beliefs and morals
If we dare to visit an entirely new culture, for example Japan, we can see how a different set of values shapes very different society. We can see the advantages of respecting other person’s needs, how many people can live and harmony and how different belief systems can piecefully coexist. Other cultures may teach us about the craziness on consumerism and materialistic ambitions, respect to the nature instead of exploitation and the value of elderly people in the family life. We cannot put a price tag on our moral integrity and sophisticated ethics. Those few people who have been transformed by their journey, value their transformation above most things they have.
It makes sense to be open-minded and experience empathy towards locals. Certain languages have words for the feelings that are common in a particular culture, but missing in others. Noticing and understanding these feelings are important for the artists and psychologists in us.
Same place different time
We do not really have to travel to see new sights and places. Our environment changes so fast, that if we stay in the same place for several decades, the change will be larger than what we would see when crossing oceans. There is only one issue: we cannot go back in time.
When we go to the less developed countries we really learn to appreciate what we usually take for granted. Occasionally we get a chance to go to a more developed country in some sense, and then we can witness the future. Usually the future is already here, simply it is still a property of very few people.
Face your fears
When traveling it is somewhat easier to face the fears and dare really strange things. Personally, some of my travels included extreme sports and adventures which I would not try at home. The reason is usually availability. Recently I talked to a friend to learnt to pilot a plane. When I asked how this happened he explained that he happened to live in Prague for a couple of years, where the airport was available via metro and the flying lessons were incredibly cheap.
During travel we are less grounded than at home. Some things simply do not seam real. We can take chances and often not feel the risks. Especially when the risks are not real, but rooted deeply inside our psyche.
Sometimes as we travel we experience something unique that changes us. I am deeply influenced by arts, and I remember standing hours speechless and moved near some masterpieces. Occasional tourists capture unique animal or human behavior. Some of these photos are worth a small fortune. There are also food tourists who search for new flavors for their restaurants and find inspiration. This is a matter of luck that prefers the prepared minds.
When we return from a travel we are different. We faced some of our fears and have seen new culture and landscape. Our hopes are high and we feel resilient to our previous issues. We are armed with new perspectives to handle old challenges and new memories to boost our confidence. And we have some unique experience that make us feel that our life is worth living.