Travel therapy: The psychological benefits of jetting off
The best holiday souvenir is personal transformation. External journeys can reflect the psychological journey of self-discovery.
Research by luxury tour operator Kuoni in 2010 revealed that people are more likely to change their job, lifestyle and even relationship after a holiday because they’d had the space to step back from their life choices.
Observing the value other cultures place on family, friends and community makes you reflect on your own. When you witness people who appreciate what they have – no matter how little – you realise the stuff of experience is more important than the experience of stuff.
Who you travel with is as important as where you travel. By choosing our travel companions well, we learn more about them and ourselves – as American novelist Ernest Hemingway said – ‘never go on trips with anyone you don’t love’.
After all, no one holds their emotional breath on holiday. They become, or find themselves. Frequently, emotional wounds of loss, regret, anger, frustration, or anxiety surface – deep-rooted feelings that have been there since childhood and which only climbing a mountain or sailing an ocean will sufficiently challenge.
The right holiday
Travel doesn’t allow you to hide behind anything. It freezes out the superficial. But heading in the wrong direction adds to, rather than relieves, emotional baggage.
Lonely people should not go on city breaks. Cities are by their very nature for those who delight in getting lost in ‘busy-ness’ and want to observe but not be observed. Faces are anonymous and not all that important.
Lonely people are best served by a vast landscapes of wilderness, where in that unquestioning space, all that is unnecessary and diverting is stripped away, until you are left with what is important – ultimately with the truth that you are important.
Take the plunge
Broken hearts are best served in places which do not overwhelm your personal tragedy. Romantic places allow you to stagnate in memories, but not heal. China, for example, expansive on every level, its culture steeped in spiritual wisdom, rather than the adolescent materialism of America, will give you courage and perspective to dissolve, rather than dismiss, your feelings.
The great French writer and Nobel Prize winner André Gide said, ‘Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.’
Just like learning another language, experiencing the detail of how other people express themselves allows you to learn more about your own self-expression. It seems enlightenment will always be the ultimate destination.