Your Brain and Travel: The Science of Long Life

Your Brain and Travel: The Science of Long Life

I heard something the other day that took my mind out of its normal day-to-day stupor of routine and set it humming with ideas. What I had read was originally posted on the website of National Geographic, and is written by Robert Reid.  Reid spoke with David Eagleman, a neuroscientist and bestselling author who has done research into the science of perception.

Eagleman’s research suggests that perception of time passing slows down when someone is experiencing new things.  Novel activities take your brain out of autopilot, so to speak, and makes you wake up and pay attention to what is going on.

An example of this is how children perceive time to be so much longer than adults.  The neural pathways of a child is not already rutted through by the result of doing everyday things over and over like adults.  Therefore, even mundane activities like shopping can seem to take forever to the mind of a kid.

Oh! To be child-like in wonder!

Oh! To be child-like in wonder!

I was a very impatient kid, mainly because I am stubborn, but I wonder how much of the above factored into it.  When I used to get dragged along on shopping trips it literally felt like the seconds turned into minutes, and the minutes into hours.

What I find the most interesting and compelling about this research is that the same science holds true for adults – novel experiences slow down the perception of time passing!

For me, new experiences are everywhere when I travel, and the more exotic the travel, the better.  As Robert Reid puts it, one might even call travel “A Fountain of Youth”.   Wow! What a revelation!


In 2004 I had my first international travel experience while "studying" in Spain

In 2004 I had my first international travel experience while “studying” in Spain

On my first international experience – studying abroad in Spain – I experienced a whole new world of food, culture, language, and social interactions.  While my studies were only 5 months, I came back home feeling like I had been gone a year due to the many unique experiences I had.   Even now, after a decade of travel, I can go somewhere that I’ve never been to before, and after a week I will come back feeling like I just had a summer vacation as when I was in school.

Of course, I would think this theory doesn’t just relate to travel to far-flung countries; even just taking a mini-adventure in your hometown to go to a new restaurant, hiking a different trail in your favorite park, or hanging out with a new group of friends would add to the fullness of life.

At the end of the day, I am wondering what it would be like to spend a lifetime experiencing new things on a regular basis?  How much more fulfilled would I be?  How can I take that and bring purpose to my life and work?  Maybe this discussion sets your mind going as much as it did mine..

I will end now with two quotes from Marcus Aurelius that I have always enjoyed:

The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it”

Remember that man lives only in the present, in this fleeting instant; all the rest of his life is either past and gone, or not yet revealed”