What is it in the brain that activates this sense of excitement and pleasure? There has been ample research suggesting the benefits of travelling and mental health. Psychologists and neurospsychologists have researched extensively, and have found that spending time abroad may have the potential to affect mental change.
In general, creativity is related to neuroplasticity, or how the brain is wired. Neural pathways are influenced by environment and habit, meaning they are also sensitive to change.
New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations and sights spark different synapses in the brain, and may have the potential to revitalise the mind.
These foreign experiences also increase our cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility is the mind’s ability to jump between different ideas, a key component of creativity.
Research has also shown that travelling may have other brain benefits, too. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Associate Professor of Education and Psychology at the University of Southern California, says that cross-cultural experiences have the potential to strengthen a person’s sense of self.
“What a lot of psychological research has shown now is that the ability to engage with people from different backgrounds than yourself, and the ability to get out of your own social comfort zone, is helping you to build a strong and acculturated sense of your own self.
Our ability to differentiate our own beliefs and values… is tied up in the richness of the cultural experiences that we have had.”
Cross-cultural experiences have the potential to pull people out of their cultural bubbles, and in doing so, can increase their sense of connection with people from backgrounds different than their own.
When people have experiences travelling to other countries it increases what is called generalised trust, or their general faith in humanity, and when we engage in other cultures, we start to have experiences with different people and recognise that most people treat you in similar ways. That produces an increase in trust.
"In a nutshell, what research is telling us is that what is needed for a quick creative boost is to change our cultural scene. This is going to activate various parts in the brain that will help creativity and problem solving, and when we get back from our trip we can look forward to looking at things in a different way".
We all think and say “oh that was relaxing, I feel refreshed”, but what we really mean is our brain has just been injected with a creativity boost, and this has challenged our habitual closed-mindedness that tends to happen over time.