Thursday, April 26, 2012

Travel Brain

Traveling is not only about the 
new experiences.

Traveling can make us smarter!

One of my reasons for a gap year, is to provide more mental stimulation for my brain. A greater challenge.

A week after my final undergraduate exam, I landed a full-time position as a Kinesiologist for a private health care company. I got my own office with a 50 hour work week.

After working full-time for two straight years, I felt I had reached a pinnacle point in my career. 

I was faced with a dilemma!

If I stay here, I can continue to climb the professional ladder or use my youth wisely by traveling? 
Why do we continue to take those trips, even with all of the annoyances, tediousness, and aggravations that come with just about every expedition we take?

"In fact, several new science papers suggest that getting away–and it doesn’t even matter where you’re going–is an essential habit of effective thinking. It’s not about vacation, or relaxation, or sipping daiquiris on an unspoiled tropical beach: it’s about the tedious act itself, putting some miles between home and wherever you happen to spend the night….

The reason such travels are mentally useful involves a quirk of cognition, in which problems that feel “close” – and the closeness can be physical, temporal, or even emotional – get contemplated in a more concrete manner. As a result, when we think about things that are nearby, our thoughts are constricted, bound by a more limited set of associations. While this habit can be helpful – it allows us to focus on the facts at hand – it also inhibits our imagination."
 - Jonah Lehrer, Author of Proust Was a Neuroscientist

"The larger lesson, though, is that our thoughts are shackled by the familiar. The brain is a neural tangle of near infinite possibility, which means that it spends a lot of time and energy choosing what not to notice. As a result, creativity is traded away for efficiency; we think in literal prose, not symbolist poetry. A bit of distance, however, helps loosen the chains of cognition, making it easier to see something new in the old; the mundane is grasped from a slightly more abstract perspective….

I am famous in Asia. I had to kneel to their height to blend in.

According to the researchers, the experience of another culture endows us with a valuable open-mindedness, making it easier to realize that a single thing can have multiple meanings. Consider the act of leaving food on the plate: in China, this is often seen as accomplishment, a signal that the host has provided enough to eat. But in America the same act is a subtle insult, an indication that the food wasn’t good enough to finish.

Such cultural contrasts mean that seasoned travelers are alive to ambiguity, more willing to realize that there are different (and equally valid) ways of interpreting the world. This, in turn, allows them to expand the circumference of their “cognitive inputs,” as they refuse to settle for their first answers and initial guesses….

So let’s not pretend that travel is always fun, or that we endure the jet lag for pleasure. We don’t spend ten hours lost in the Louvre because we like it, and the view from the top of Machu Picchu probably doesn’t make up for the hassle of lost luggage. (More often than not, I need a vacation after my vacation.)  

We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something in our mind has been changed, and that changes everything."

- Ben Casnocha, Author of The Start Up of You

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Australia a.k.a Oz

Departure May 31st - 7 weeks

Yulara - Outback

During my visit to Europe Bound Outfitters (383 King St W.), I learned how important my backpack and shoes will be during my travel. I will be exchanging my house for a backpack, and my car for hiking shoes.

     I bought my first “house”, a dark green 65 Liter Mountain Co-op pack. Unlike other houses, I have to learn to carry mine on my back. When I tried my pack in the store, the service rep filled up with weight and pillows. I felt like I was carrying another person on my back… time to start exercise training with weights in my backpack.

My new “car” has yet to arrive. I am currently browsing through the top hiking brand names to ensure a comfortable and smooth ride.

Books to read:
The Lost Girls by: Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, and Amanda Pressner.

·   True story. Three friends, four countries, one unconventional detour around the world.


·   Bill Bryson describes his travels by railway and car throughout Australia, his conversations with people in all walks of life about the history, geography, unusual plants and animals of the country, and his wry impressions of the life, culture and amenities (or lack thereof) in each locality.

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest organic construction on earth.
Fun Facts! 

- 1/3 is desert. 
- 90% of Australians live on the coast. 
- Australia’s coastline stretches almost 50,000 kilometers and has over 10,000 beaches. 

- Sydney is the largest city with over 4 million people, while the capital city of Canberra only has around 300,000. 
- Australia has the lowest population density in the world at two people per square kilometer. 
- Melbourne has the second largest Greek population in the world. 

- The Australian Alps, or Snowy Mountains as they are also known, receive more snow than Switzerland.
- Yulara, the Aboriginal name of the Ayers Rock Resort, means ‘weeping.’ (Which, given their history with whites, is not surprising!).
- People from New South Wales are called “cockroaches.”       

- Australia produces 95 per cent of the world’s precious opals and 99 per cent of its black opals.
- With 25.4 million heads of cattle, Australia is the world’s largest exporter of beef. 
- Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth. The only continent drier is Antarctica.