Home may be where the heart is, along with the rest of you if you’re in lockdown due to COVID-19, but it wasn’t meant to stay there 100% of the time. After all, how are you supposed to know how much you love ‘home’, if you’ve never been away from it?
A little bit of absence from home, AKA travel, is food for the body, mind and spirit that might be feeling a little starved or stir crazy after a period of lockdown or quarantine, the likes of which we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year. The more you learn about other places and people, which is arguably done most effectively by getting out there and seeing the world, the more you learn about yourself as you relate to different people and places.
In this way, you grow as a person and a resident of Planet Earth, as you look at all the differences and ways of life, and still find the commonalities and the compassion within yourself as you learn to communicate, interact and relate to who, what and where you have seen in your travels.
Taking the time and effort to explore new places and people is proven to be hands-down the best way of creating empathy within ourselves – an essential skill for living and working with others. Whether those others are family, friends, coworkers or perhaps strangers who might feel a little less ‘strange’ every time you put yourself in their shoes and see the world in a new way.
The psychological benefits of planning a trip can be a critical factor in maintaining our mental health and well-being. The advice? Give yourself a little S.P.A.C.E!
Depending on the WHEN of your trip, certain areas or locations may still have restricted access or not be open at all. If you are hoping to plan a trip within the next year, make sure your plans include research not only where and when, but WHAT you want to do when you get there and whether it is a possibility or whether you need to recalculate and re-route.
The stress of work and daily demands can distract us from what we find to be actually meaningful and interesting,” says Dr. Tamara McClintock Greenberg, a San Francisco-based clinical psychologist and author of Psychodynamic Perspectives on Aging and Illness in a recent article in Forbes discussing pre-vacation planning and its benefits.
A physical path or journey might not be imminently taken, but a neural one is created as you broaden your mind and the boundaries of your GPS (neural pathways are how our brains ‘write’ on themselves as they learn and grow). In a study that is hyper-relevant in today’s strange new World Order, it was proved by researchers Amit Kuma, Matthew Killingsworth and Thomas Gilovich that the benefits and pleasure of immediate consumption (I.e. taking the trip) were LESS than the benefits from experiencing delayed gratitude (planning and anticipating the trip or the time between planning and leaving).
Smooth over all those typical travel worries and headaches that come from not knowing the area or culture. Research the place you want to go in more detail than you might have otherwise. Figure out exactly where you want to go and what you want to see, then make sure you optimize your travel plans to be able to accommodate things like physical distance, or wait times so you can make the most of your times there and plan out a way to see the most things without wasting your time waiting during peak hours you could have otherwise avoided with some research into the activity.
Travelling allows you to see beyond what is right in front of you, even when you return home. No matter where you live today, there are people all around you (including perhaps yourself) that didn’t come from the same area, and as a result, will have differing thoughts and ideas on HOW to do things. Empathy is not just about kindness, it’s about being smart in your dealings with other people. If your way doesn’t work, try theirs! There is no shame in that, really! Take advantage of the fact that others may have knowledge and experiences beyond yours. Accept that you are a ‘traveler’ no matter where you live and that your ideas have as much (but not more) worth than others whether you are on vacation or not. Then every day can be a day when you learn from other people, places and cultures. See below for a (perhaps personal) experience of discovering why empathy trumps ego any day!
Real life example of cultural knowledge: Riding let’s say, a camel, is highly different from riding a horse (trust me). If you find yourself faced with a cranky camel in your future travels – Beware of these devious dromedaries and do yourself a favour by doing the following:
- DUCK! They have a nasty habit of spitting, or at least, accept that camel culture involves a lot of spit!
- Ask for help. People will laugh a lot less at someone asking a question than someone being booted backwards off a bad-mannered Bactrian!
Increased mental resilience as well as enhanced cognitive function are only some of the ways that travel planning can overhaul a tired, stifled spirit. New life and a new outlook are just a few other soul-soothing boosts that looking towards the future with creativity and focused consideration on every aspect of an upcoming pleasurable experience can give.
So give yourself S.P.A.C. E.! Enjoy the ride and not just the trip! (Unless you’re on a camel…Then, you’ve been warned!)