Longtime travel enthusiasts and first-timers have something in common: we go on adventures to experience something novel. And by doing so, we gain and grow.
Travel offers us many valuable lessons. If we open ourselves to those new possibilities, we can change in often profound ways.
The world is full of countless different settings, environments, and ways of living. Even if we sample just a small portion of what’s on offer, those things help us understand that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves.
Yet on a much more mundane level, travel can teach us how to improve several aspects of our daily lives. And it’s something worth remembering during the age of the pandemic, lockdowns, and social distancing. We can’t roam about as freely as before, but if we can make the most out of each day, we can continue to enrich and enjoy ordinary experiences.
Wake up, work, and do things around the house. It’s a pretty accurate summary of what goes on in the average adult’s day. There are no details, but do they matter?
Even if Covid-19 didn’t exist, we’d probably limit our options in many aspects. Dinner, for instance, comes from a stock of go-to recipes, or else a handful of familiar restaurants within a few kilometers. The same goes for entertainment: head to the mall, a local park, or load up your newest series on Netflix.
We settle into these repetitive patterns because they help us carry on without too much cognitive effort. Functioning daily gets easier and more efficient when you eliminate variation and decision points.
On the other hand, though, days are more memorable when you do something different. Research has shown that part of the mechanism underlying memory formation is strengthened by novel experiences. It’s also reinforced by reflection on even mundane events.
These are powerful effects that travel manages to harness without our realizing it. When we’re transplanted into a different environment, we make more memories. We take pictures and write posts on social media to further integrate them into our ongoing narratives.
In doing so, we prevent each day from merging into a uniform blur of sameness. And that’s something we can continue to practice even on ordinary days. Break out of your routine in a small way. Expand your range of options and go for something less familiar or convenient. And reflect on that experience to boost memory formation.
Saving time and energy
When you hit the road, enjoying those new experiences comes at a price. It’s not just the cost of admission or airline fare, of course. It’s the toll you pay in terms of energy.
Being immersed in a different setting puts you a little more on edge than usual. Even in a safe city, you have to be alert. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on several things. And you could certainly get lost.
That tension, combined with a generally higher level of physical activity, and the need to meet the daily itinerary, emphasizes the need for us to get rest. And keep our lives organized. Unfortunately, many travelers seem to reserve those lessons only for their trips.
They are just as applicable to daily living. Put away your devices before bedtime, and keep the window shutters closed so that the daylight doesn’t wake you up ahead of schedule. And speaking of schedules, make one for each day. Not just for the sake of work, but for how you’ll use your leisure time and get things off your to-do list.
When we talk about travel, we really mean ‘travel and hospitality.’ You don’t simply go to new places. Your enjoyment of the experience is made possible by polite, friendly, and accommodating service personnel. From transportation to accommodation, amusement parks, guided tours, galleries and restaurants, those interactions make our travels seamless.
Empathy is a core skill of anyone engaged in these jobs. It helps us to understand needs and facilitate interactions with others. Yet it’s easily forgotten, just as travelers tend to forget the hospitality part of the equation when they think of their adventures.
The most disappointing travel experiences you have will probably be related, in one way or another, to a letdown in service. But if you neglect to apply empathy daily, you might be just as guilty of letting down the people you meet each day.
Make a habit of seeing things from another person’s point of view and empathizing with them. It’s the same courtesy you’d extend to the people you meet when traveling, takes just as little effort, and can prove just as beneficial.