TOURISM IS AN EXPLODING INDUSTRY.
With each passing year, the affordability and ease of travel along with an ever-growing appetite for tourism increases. In 2016, the estimated global economic impact of tourism exceeded 7.5 trillion US dollars. In 2005, 528 million tourists landed on foreign soil to enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of a distant, yet reasonably accessible culture. In 2015, this number doubled to 1.19 billion international tourists worldwide. And the appeal is well justified. The benefits to personal health and wellbeing are well documented and widely attested. But rather than presenting a vague impetus for sightseeing, let’s have a look at some specific benefits of exploring the world.
1 – Provides Perspective
No matter where you live, your heritage, your age or your interests, gaining perspective is of universal benefit. Perspective is the exercise of embodying the experience of another. It’s purposefully attempting to view the world from a viewpoint other than your own. As you encounter people, places and practices different to your own, you will share in their way of life. Suspending your own understanding of the world and contemplating that of another - this is an act of humility and respect. Gaining perspective is vital to understanding the lived experience of others, living in community and contributing to society.
2 – Reduces Stress
Routine is a necessary and useful structure which governs our daily lives. Without it, our minds would struggle to perform and focus. However, the constant everyday stressors and anxieties have an inhibiting effect on the mind as your subconscious attempts to build coping and protective mechanisms to mitigate potential burnout. While you take a shower, your mind is busy working on your next project. While you fuel up your car, you’re also creating a mental shopping list. Routine helps maximise your daily output, but this comes at a cost. A reprieve from this constant treadmill can reinvigorate the senses. When you travel, your mind is free from the daily and can engage entirely with the present. When you travel, everything you encounter is new to the senses and they are forced to pay attention and observe. The more vibrant and distant your wanderings are from your daily routine, the stronger these effects on the mind. New, vivid experiences force the mind to focus on and absorb the present and forget about the stressors.
3 – Inspires Creativity
As we live life and gradually mature, we tend to select for patterns of thought and behaviour that we find useful and eliminate those that are less so. Over time, we establish preferred patterns of thinking, and this is a very beneficial and efficient cognitive function. When you are asked to produce something, it’s useful to draw from your experience a pattern or set of rules that may help you produce a predictable outcome. However, when the thing you want to gain lies outside of your accumulated wisdom, and all the mental scripts you run produce only predictable outcomes, then you need a leap of creativity. Placing yourself in completely new surroundings facilitates such leaps of creativity. Even the mundane objects and sights become inspirations which ignite and form new patterns of thinking. Remove yourself physically from your familiar environment and observe your thinking change in unexpected and refreshing ways.
4 – Facilitates Personal Growth
On a personal level, we are constantly attempting to make sense of the world around us. We construct arguments which respond to and reconcile the challenging moments in our lives. However, often times our arguments and presuppositions are culturally informed. When we travel, we witness how various cultures encounter the challenges of life in ways different to our own. Our preconceived notions are often violently disturbed and as we compare and contrast cultural practices, we arrive at a deeper understanding of our own behaviours and cultural practices, which once gained can never be lost.
5 – Creates Experiences of a Lifetime
There is little in life more precious than enjoying a meal with new friends from a different culture and participating momentarily in their way of life. This sharing of experience is truly meaningful as it elevates the daily customs and rituals, and reveals their value and beauty. These experiences and connections last a lifetime. They represent the spirit of humanity as expressed in community and relationships with one another.
Traveling is a good thing. But when you do travel, don’t just visit the natural sights, beaches and waterfalls. Nature is amazing and in our fast-paced, technology-driven world, an escape into nature is duly prescribed. However, when you travel to other nations and cultures, spend time with people, study their history, listen to their stories and learn their songs. By immersing yourself in their way of life, you will return refreshed, invigorated, creatively inspired and with a heightened sensitivity and respect for all humanity. Bon voyage!