There’s something incredibly relaxing about going back to a beloved spot again and again, but that consistency is unlikely to aid self-improvement. In contrast, an unfamiliar place challenges your brain in new and interesting ways.
Firstly, it increases your psychological flexibility. Every culture has its own traditions, customs and protocols, and some of them will naturally be at odds with what you’re used to. As you process and make sense of all these new details, your ability to go with the flow and navigate unfamiliar situations is strengthened. One 2013 study examined the affects of foreign travel on 485 American adults, and found that visiting a greater number of countries, and becoming more culturally immersed during those visits, had lasting effects on the participant’s ability to navigate new scenarios with the appropriate verbal and non-verbal emotional responses. They became more culturally adaptable.
The same study also suggested, perhaps unsurprisingly, that travel makes people more empathic. Participants were less likely to judge somebody based on superficial aspects like their gender, race, age etc.—perhaps because unfamiliar surroundings increase our brain’s ability to absorb new impressions instead of defaulting to stereotypes. They were also better able to deduce whether a person’s behavior stemmed from their temperament or the situational context they found themselves in.
A change of scenery can also inspire fresh ideas. In one study, researchers from the University of Utah and the University of Kansas took 56 participants on a backpacking trip into the wilderness, away from technology and all the distractions of home. They had 24 people take a creative problem-solving test the day before the trip commenced, and 32 complete it on the fourth day of the hike. The latter group scored 50 per cent better on the test, which the psychologists attributed to the benefits of taking a break in nature (exercise also has noteworthy benefits for creative brainpower).
So there you have it. Forgoing your go-to vacation spot and actively seeking culture shock will be mentally rewarding and more conducive to personal growth.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.