Psychologists find our lust for travel paradoxical.
Humans are social animals, programmed for many thousands of years to find security and happiness from being grounded in one place. Nomads are rare. Yet we also like to boldly strike out into the unknown, seeking adventures and finding pleasure in upsetting our routines.
From a psychological perspective, this risk-taking is an understandable desire to experience and feel novelty, complexity and intense sensations. Often it is followed by a period of relaxation in a secure and familiar environment – many travellers report that it is nice to get away, but even nicer to get home, and even the most extreme experience seekers are unable to maintain their lust for travel indefinitely.
The need for security is one of our most basic necessities, so to travel for pleasure is counter-intuitive. Many people find they are able to put aside the need for physical stability when they have financial security. The knowledge that they can always flash their flexible friend if the going gets rough is enough to embolden many to explore the backwaters of foreign countries and take risks.
The difference between a traveller and an explorer is, to a psychologist, a semantic one: both are stepping out of their comfort zones and finding exhilaration from waking somewhere new, eating different food and meeting strangers, and even going to dangerous places or engaging in risky pursuits. There are always those who deliberately step outside their comfort zone, seeking danger and insecurity. These sensation seekers are easily bored without high levels of stimulation.
But travel offer more than an opportunity to feel the boundaries of your comfort zone. It can also help you think more actively and be better at problem solving. It makes you more open to new experiences which in turn builds interpersonal skills, and it’s good to surprise yourself with new challenges. Travel can be stressful and scary, but it’s good to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. Best of all psychologists know that travel builds self-esteem. Which is why it’s good to keep doing it!
Annie Gurton is a Psychological Therapist and Counsellor based in Sydney. She has an MA in Psychotherapy, a BSc(Hons) in Psychology and a BS(Hons) in Humanities. She is a graduate member of the British Psychological Society (MBPsS) and a Clinical Member of CAPA NSW (Counselling And Psychotherapy Association). She has been helping people in emotional pain and difficulties for many years, and is available for sessions in therapy rooms in Manly, Brookvale, Freshwater and North Strathfield, and on Skype and email: www.anniegurton.com+61 423 632 657