“Travel broadens us because we learn by our successes. When you’re in a new place you are having all kinds of new and exciting experiences: communicating in a different language, ordering a meal, visiting museums – all stimulate intellectual interests and increases our confidence and sense of self-worth.
”Travel is believed to play an important role in creativity and problem solving, too. When researchers at the University of Indiana asked two groups of people to solve a series of practical and logistical puzzles, those who were told the task had been set by students from Greece – as opposed to students closer to home – found more creative solutions on account of the “psychological distance” introduced.
It’s one of the reasons why the co-author of the study, Lile Jia, who is now a professor at the National University of Singapore, believes Covid-19 could be responsible for a drop in our creativity levels. “Travelling can create psychological distance between the person and the problems he or she faces at work or in daily life. This allows them to view the same problems from a different perspective that is conducive to creating unusual creative associations,” he explains.
Exposure to diverse experiences and cultures can have a lasting effect, increasing creativity in the long run, he adds. “Hence, prolonged travel restriction limits people’s opportunity to sample novel life experiences and, subsequently, reduces potential to become a more creative person in general.”
Because I grew up with “Depression Era Values” (save, save, save, do not take on debt, repair, reuse, recycle), travel was never part of my life. I eventually realized this lack of travel experience hindered me on the job – literally, at one job, 7 of my 9 immediate team co-workers came from other countries (Sweden, several from Canada, Lebanon, China, UK, India). In the extended work group, if my coworkers did not grow up in another country, all had done extensive international travel or study abroad programs.
There’s a lesson in there for another post – how travel influences our ability to think globally.
2020 was to be the year I learned to travel. Of course, that has now been postponed by 18-24 months, at least.
Unfortunately, once we are older and with kids, being a neophyte traveler is harder. Many of the well traveled that I know began their travel when they were young and traveled in a supported fashion. They traveled as kids with their experienced traveler parents. Or they did a study abroad in college, or traveled on business or traveled with peer groups/friends as they learned their travel skills. In 2000, 1/3d of all students at a university I attended had studied abroad as part of their education there. Today, more than half will do a study abroad, and another 25% will do some sort of international travel (mini-study abroad program, service programs, or recreational travel).
Among professional level workers, many grew up with travel experience and knowledge. A consequence is that international travel experience and “global thinking” is an important criteria for many of today’s white collar jobs (think marketing, sales and product development in science and engineering).
And then there are people like me. As of late in life, I have no international travel experience. This puts me at a huge disadvantage in today’s world.
In the last couple of years I began studying destinations, and learning a bit about how to travel internationally. For many of you, this sounds silly – you’ve traveled and know everything, and possibly learned much of it while traveling in a supported fashion (study abroad program, business travel, or traveling with peer groups/friends). As an older adult, supported travel – other than absurd “tour groups” – is tougher to find (if you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them!)
2020 was the year I would develop travel skills. As of March 1st, I had 3 1/2 trips paid for and two more in deep planning phases (all domestic trips except one into Canada). Of course, all of those were canceled. Hope to resume these efforts in the second half of 2021 or 2022. The problem for those of us that are older is that we are running out of years while waiting for the okay to travel. Travel at age 60 is not going to be the same as travel at age 20 or 25.
A related issue is trip medical insurance: As you get older, regardless of your own health status, the price of travel medical insurance rises sharply. Should you travel without medical insurance?
I always thought that travel insurance was not needed but now I know of people who had medical problems. A fall while walking in Norway led to a broken arm. A slip and fall in Peru, on an ordinary dirt road, led to a cracked vertebra and a helicopter airlift to a hospital, and then a medical airlift back to North America. Another had a motorcycle crash in Indonesia, which lead to leg surgery and the need to buy a row of seats on an air flight back to the U.S. Yeah, while the odds of getting injured are very low, the cost (risk) can be extraordinarily high.