Nomad & Roots

How Travel Changes Your Brain

When you are constantly on your grind, hitting pause to take a vacation can sound like a crazy idea. However, travel has numerous benefits for your mind and wellbeing. That vacation could be the key to a major shift in your mindset!


Expanding Your Comfort Zone


One of the most powerful positive effects of travel is that it pushes you outside of your comfort zone. When we’re staying within our home routine, we seldom push our own boundaries or put ourselves in situations where we will be uncomfortable. When you travel, these situations are often unavoidable – and that’s a good thing! Growth is often uncomfortable, so learning to get comfortable with discomfort prepares you to embrace personal growth.


When you endure discomfort, it actually trains your brains to be less reactive. You grow more resilient and enjoy improved emotional stability. A 2013 study found that people who embarked on a long (3-12 month) international journey experienced increased scores in openness and agreeability, and decreased levels of neuroticism. A long-term international trip isn’t necessary to enjoy the benefits of travel. Any activity, local or distant, that helps you stretch your comfort zone will have similar benefits.


Breaking Your Routine


When you get in hustle mode, it gets easy to lose track of taking care of your health and mindset. Travel gives you an opportunity to press reset and change the pace from your daily life. You are able to tune into your needs – eating when you want, sleeping when you want, and engaging in physical activity as you see fit. Days at leisure allow you to check in with yourself and gain some perspective on what might be out of alignment in your life.


Further, travel encourages you to step out of your routines outside of your normal setting. You get outside of the bubble of your normal community and experience other cities, cultures, food, and ways of life. You return to your day to day life inspired and full of new ideas!


Fueling Creativity


Since travel breaks your routine and pushes your comfort zone, it can be the perfect tool for fueling creativity! Reviews of the lives of some famous creators, from Ernest Hemingway to Mark Twain have found that many have spent time immersed in cultures different than their own. Foreign experiences enhance cognitive flexibility and encourage the brain to make new connections while navigating unfamiliar territory. To make the most of this process, engage as much as possible with the local culture wherever you go – hearing other people’s stories and learning about how they live their lives will spark ideas and breathe new life into your creative projects.


Building Self-Confidence and Strengthening Bonds


Both travel alone and travel with companions can provide major mental benefits. Traveling solo increases self-reliance and builds self-confidence. Many of the other benefits of travel, such as expanding comfort zones, are amplified for solo travelers who must often problem solve on their own. Further, when you travel alone you are more likely to forge new social connections with locals and other travelers on your route, which has been shown to increase personality traits like agreeableness and cooperation.


Traveling with friends and partners has unique benefits as well. When you travel with people, you share experiences and create memories that can strengthen your relationship. Working together towards a common goal while planning and navigating a trip helps facilitates closeness and the sense of shared purpose. Strong friendships and romantic relationships have a myriad of positive mental effects, so sharing travel provides benefits well beyond the length of the trip.


It’s Just Fun!


At the end of the day, travel is all around fun! People report boosts in happiness before, during, and after trips. Studies by Cornell University and the University of Surrey both found that planning a trip brought the traveler more happiness than anticipating a purchase of a similar value and increased their overall wellbeing. We naturally get more joy from doing things than having things, and travel is the easiest way to leverage that. Even small trips can provide a big happiness boost when you plan to try new things.


While a trip probably won’t solve all your problems, it can be an epic launchpad for starting your transformational journey. As part of your mindset arsenal, a vacation can provide a much-needed boost and opportunity to hit reset and gain perspective on your life and your business.


Mindset coach and creative, currently rooted in Washington, DC.


  1. Cindy McClure


    Maggie: I couldn’t agree more with your article. Traveling does push a person out of the mundane routines we all get stuck in sometimes. Has your car ever been on auto-pilot while driving home? Mine has. Im headed to Greece in 3 weeks. Dont know the language, but am excited about the adventure. I look forward to reading more of your ideas. Cindy

  2. Cindy McClure


    Maggie: I couldn’t agree more with your article. Traveling does push a person out of the mundane routines we all get stuck in sometimes. Has your car ever been on auto-pilot while driving home? Mine has. Im headed to Greece in 3 weeks. Dont know the language, but am excited about the adventure. I look forward to reading more of your ideas. Cindy

  3. Marianne Blackham


    Love this post. I believe travel is so important.

  4. Kristie


    This is a great post! I definitely have known the feeling of getting joy from planning a trip, almost as much as going on one!

  5. Pam


    I agree with all of these!

  6. Tricia Snow


    I agree! Travel expands your horizons and your mindset. Getting to see how other people live allows you to be grateful as well as more open to other ways of thinking!

  7. Kristi @ Way Beyond The Norm


    Great post! We love to travel and knowing how much it benefits us makes us want to do it more and more.

  8. Erin


    This is awesome! It’s wonderful to exercise your mind and have fun at the same time!

  9. Janine


    All is have to say is yes, yes, yes! Travel does all this and more! I love it so…

  10. Alison


    I love being out of my comfort zone and figuring new things out. These are great reasons to travel

  11. Danielle


    What a great idea for a blog post! You don’t have to tell me twice! I’m ready to go 🙂

  12. Tiffany


    It really does build spectacular bonds. A recent trip with my kiddo really made something click for us. And we have amazing memories for life!

  13. Becca


    Maggie, I love this post! I actually remember retweeting it on Twitter as well. I say all the time that I’d rather buy experiences than material items – the memories you get from traveling last so much longer, not to mention all the benefits you wrote about. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Sandi


    I love that travel increases your awareness. I find it’s amazing at opening up your world view. Well done

  15. AManda R


    I so agree! I try to travel at least once a month even if its to a nearby city just to get away and rejuvenate. This is important for people but especially those in creative fields. My goal this year is to take more solo trips. I never thought about overcoming new journeys in this respect but I am more inclined to go now.

  16. Lisa Willis


    Great Post! I never thought about the mental health benefits of traveling and would like to incorporate more travel into my schedule. Typically, when I travel with a group, I tend to go off on my own (away from tourists) to experience the cultural aspects of the location…and then share my experiences.

  17. Lisa


    This is just the proof I need to take more vacations! Ha! But seriously, you share such great information about the reasons we need to be taking a break and disconnecting from our everyday! Thank you for sharing your insight on this.

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