Are You Smarter Than Your Less-Traveled Friends?

by Charlene Flanagan
Travel—the word invokes images of exotic locations, recreational activities, a variety of cuisines, and a sense of freedom and liberation. It’s perhaps the best way to escape routine life and recharge those batteries. But traveling does so much more for you than just rejuvenate your body and mind. Did you know that it can be one of life’s greatest teachers?

Think about it: You may have a few friends that are usually jetsetting or traveling out of the country for business or pleasure. Have you noticed anything different about them? Perhaps they’re more observant or attuned to their surroundings?

The fact remains that traveling changes you—it helps you challenge yourself and teaches you to think differently; it will make you a global citizen, and perhaps more receptive to things that aren’t the norm in one's myopic view of the world. An introduction to new cultures and cuisines and sometimes, even a longing for home are all signs that your little adventures are making a greater impact than you realize. 

Expert Speak
Sarah Lisovich, senior editor and researcher at Central Infusion Alliance Medical is someone who is well-traveled and believes that learning and understanding reactions and the effects of these experiences is crucial. According to Sarah, “Putting oneself out there and revealing your identity by labeling yourself a foreigner can be a frightening feat but the stories, and the potential for making new friends from different backgrounds is an opportunity of a lifetime.”

And it's not just about being social. There are many other life skills that a well-traveled person will pick up along the way, some of which include: 

  • Power Of The Mind: Backed by studies that claim travel improves your intellect, it can even boils down to common sense if you take a close look at it. When you’re traveling, you’re compelled to be hyper-aware of everything that’s happening around you. The fact is, everything is new—the place, the people, the language, the laws, the traffic rules, the food—you’re going to have a barrage of new experiences. With experience, comes knowledge—whether it’s about supper time, greetings, decorum, body language, accents. As Lisovich explains, “Even learning how to operate a new set of currency becomes a challenge, and gives the brain an opportunity to grow in ways that are not possible within a hometown setting.” 
  • Language Skills: “Communication with natives is possibly the most interesting and exciting experience,” says Lisovich. “If you are familiar with another language, practice language skills in a setting that is nurturing and immersive, and development will surely skyrocket,” she adds. A New York Times study showed that those who speak more than one language have stronger, faster brains. The report states: “Bilinguals perform better than monolinguals even at tasks that do not require inhibition, like threading a line through an ascending series of numbers scattered randomly on a page.”
  • Social Skills: When you’re traveling, you’re pretty much put in a situation where you’re forced to be outgoing, meet new people, and ask questions. How else are you going to know your way around? Over time, you feel less inhibited and won't have to pretend to be busy on the phone when you find yourself cluelessly wandering about. You begin to view the locals as non-threatening, and become the foreigner they’re always eager to talk to. This way, not only will you meet more people from around the world, but also perhaps end up keeping in touch with them, share stories and experiences, ring them up when you're in town, or play host when they come knocking.
  • Survival Skills: If you’ve never been on a tram, bus or gondola before, you've missed the simpler joys in life. “I will” needs to become “I did” in order for you to truly grow. So, whether you're traveling with a friend or alone, you will, in time, learn to fend for yourself, adjust to a variety of accomodations, budgets, schedules, cuisines, and the likes. Also, while it’s common sense to not walk alone on a deserted, unfamiliar street at night, you learn how to tread with caution more intentionally, armed with pepper spray, people awarenes, and everything that comes with it. What traveling does is put things in perspective for you. Feeling anxious in the face of change and uncertainty will be a thing of the past, as you grow more accomodating and appreciative; particularly if you travel to a place where living conditions aren't as great for the locals. 

The truth is, we’re all only as smart as our experiences and traveling multiplies those by a million... and then some! Whether you grow more independent, become worldly-wise, are self-sufficient, learn to adjust, or improve your money-managing skills, there's a lot to be learnt on your little getaways. The well-traveled know that there’s more to life than what’s in front of them; do you?

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