Summer is the season for travel, particularly for those who work full time, brick and mortar jobs or have kids in school—those whose lives are tied down to schedules that demand regular physical proximity. For retirees, travel has long been a herald of the great freedom from the 40-hour work week and the office job. Now it’s a year-long opportunity not just for those who’ve left the workforce, but for professionals and pretirees who are members of the expanding world of flexible and remote work.
Travel is often construed as a luxury, an experience for only the select few with the funds and gumption for packing up and expanding their horizons. But travel actually has great potential for all individuals as well as professionals, to broaden our exposure to new perspectives and ideas, and deepen the creativity and flexibility of our minds. Research over the last decade supports the notion that immersing ourselves in new cultures, whether it’s a different region of a vast country like the United States, to different countries and corners of the world, “increase[s] both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms.”
Not only does experiencing new places and people appear to improve our brain’s capability for “cognitive flexibility,” or “the mind’s ability to jump between different ideas, a key component of creativity,” but it also seems to counteract closed-mindedness, by introducing us to new people and ideas that are positive and induce our trust. This trust in concepts we’ve previously most likely been closed off to or skeptical of helps us push against habitual tendencies to take essentialist and narrow views of newness, from people to ideas. As Atlantic contributor on travel and mental health Brent Crane puts it, “In other words, those who put people in boxes had trouble thinking outside the box.”
Travel might seem like a far-off dream—to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Great Wall of China, or the Pyramids—but it can be as simple as pushing ourselves past our comfort zones, out our doors and into new corners of our neighborhood, city, or country. Be flexible about your location and scour for deals. Book an inexpensive flight, and head to a new place for even just a few days to a week. Immerse yourself—meet the people, try the food, explore their history, and enjoy the rich benefit to your mind as you become a more creative, receptive person. If you’re a remote flexible worker, like us at WAHVE, you have the benefit of being able to work while bringing your fresh insight and appreciation for outside the box thinking right to your current projects.
May your summer be one of new experiences and growth, as a person and professional! And hopefully once you’ve been bit by the travel bug, it will be a habit that doesn’t just get relegated to summer but becomes a rich and vital part of your life, all year long.