5 ways travel makes you smarter

July 16, 2015
Jessica Padykula

Travel is a fun escape but it’s not all about getting out of work mode and taking time away from routine. Travel has many benefits that go far beyond helping you relax, and one of those benefits is that it can make you smarter. Here are a few ways booking your next trip can help boost your brain power.

5 ways travel makes you smarter

1. Travel can enhance your language skills

Assuming you’re not travelling to an English-speaking country (or that you’ll be exposed to a language different than the one you’re used to speaking), travel can’t help but enhance your language skills. Will you come home from two weeks in Costa Rica speaking fluent Spanish? No, but you will have been using a different part of your brain to make sense of the words floating into your ears. You will also likely have learned a few basic words and phrases to help you get by. Exposing yourself to different languages and making an effort to make sense of what you’re hearing is a great way to exercise your brain.

2. Travel can broaden your perspective

Flitting from one part of our day to the next with little deviation from what we did yesterday and the day before shrinks our worldview. Despite a 24-hour news cycle and exposure to what’s going on in most corners of the globe, we tend to maintain a fairly fixed idea of what life is about. But travel shakes up all of that. Going somewhere new is a way to instantly expand our notions or beliefs about how things should be or what constitutes the right or wrong way to do something. The world is a lot more grey area than black or white, and travel helps us to gain more perspective on everything from politics to family life to entertainment.

3. Travel can help you think on your feet

Unless your boss calls you out in a meeting asking for your ideas on something you have yet to formulate any actual ideas on, there’s little need for quick thinking most days. Thinking on your feet is a skill a select few are born with — the rest of us need to work at it but aren’t usually in a position that requires us to. Travel though, depending on where you are and the type of trip you’re on, can often require quick thinking. The hostel you planned on staying at is booked so you need to think fast to figure out what to do. The train you thought you were going to take isn’t actually running to where you thought it was going so you need to find a new route. Travel boosts your problem-solving skills because it forces you to think quickly and efficiently.

4. Travel introduces you to new skills

Often there are opportunities when travelling to learn something new. Whether you sign up for a cooking class, take an architectural tour, or go on a day trip where you’ll get to learn about local plants and wildlife, there’s always something new to feed your brain. While opportunities to learn abound in everyday life, we’re more likely to take advantage of them when we travel.

5. Travel enhances your decision-making skills

With a set schedule, there isn’t much need to make decisions other than what to watch on Netflix or where to order takeout from. Sure, life throws us curve balls and we need to make bigger decisions from time to time, but normally, we can stick with what we know. This isn’t the case when travelling and you will likely be required to make more choices than you’re used to. Do you want to stay or go? Spend your money on excursion A or B? Spend your time doing X or Y? Go with these new travel friends or those? Each day you’re likely to be faced with options you need to weigh and that can’t help by improve your overall decision-making skills.