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