Travel, Well-Being, and the Importance of Novelty.

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Amalfi

A few months back I asked an acquaintance about their yearly, and often extended, travel habits. The very honest response I received was that studying, volunteering, or working in various countries helped them to manage depression.

I could relate.

This form of “resetting the brain” is a favored method in my family for improving fragile mental health. It may not work for, or be an option for, everyone. And some might say it amounts to running away from your problems (not an unfair assessment). But honestly, when it comes to mental health, if you’re someone who struggles, I am a big proponent of “whatever works without hurt”.

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Mandatory Amsterdam Canal Picture

This past week I returned from a two week trip traveling around the Netherlands and Italy with my father and found myself re-energized in spite of a particularly aggressive case of jet lag.

Why?

I thought back to an article I wrote about how we perceive time. How a sense of awe plays an important role in unfolding time. Newness, discovery, and wonder are the reasons time seems so generous as a child. Constant learning breaks monotony.

So consider novelty: being new, different, and interesting, or something that is new or unusual.

Brain research has shown that a wave of dopamine accompanies any kind of novelty. This explains why travel is so useful for some of us fighting depression. To travel is to seek constant novelty. To learn a language phrase by phrase while wandering unfamiliar streets. New addresses, new people, new food, new scenery.

The trip was not without challenges (few are) but I came home as I always do from any voyage, grateful, calm, and confident.

Whatever the reason for your journey, I wish this for you on your return. And I hope to meet you out in the world.

Poet, Writer at Optimistic Learner and Digital Economy Forum. Board member at Vancouver Poetry House. www.optimisticlearner.com

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