Psychology. Noun. The scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior in a given context.

– Oxford Languages

Travel. Verb. 1. Make a journey, typically of some length or abroad. 2. (of an object or radiation) move, typically in a constant or predictable way.

– Oxford Languages

Being able to travel was often viewed as a luxury and a privilege. However, the industry had grown rapidly and many people suddenly had the opportunity to travel the world, be it for leisure, studies, business, or career.

Despite being stalled by 2020’s coronavirus pandemic, people are feeling the wanderlust deep in their veins.

On social media, you can see people reminiscing about all the travel they have done in the recent past. The captions have a sense of nostalgia, as if people are just waiting for the next time they can hop on a plane and leave. Others can’t wait to travel again to move on to their studies, or open new paths in their careers.

But why do we travel? The short answer is the fact that there are countless benefits to getting out there and giving in to our wanderlust. A lot of these benefits are fulfilling to us as human beings and uplift our mental health.

When we talk about the psychology of travel, we are studying the behavior of people and why travel has become such an important part of the human condition. Travel and mobility has now evolved into a requirement and suggestion for a lot of people, and there are various reasons.

travel map, passport, smartphone, camera, and coffee

Mental Health and Other Reasons to Travel

By now, everyone knows that there are way too many benefits to traveling that are too good to pass up. While it may be a pain in the wallet, it’s a trade-off that people have come to understand is well worth it.

Traveling is a big stress relief for many people. It’s not just about not being at work, but it’s a reminder that there is more to life than paying bills. Allowing yourself to experience life and its beauty outside of your day-to-day life can help clear your mind.

When we examine the reasons why we travel, we also understand the benefits it brings and what they expose and improve in our everyday lives. Together with bettering our mental health, here are more aspects of our life that traveling improves and honors:

Escapism

It’s important to set aside time outside of a 9-to-5 desk job to rest. And sometimes, a weekend is not enough to calm all the stresses of life. That calls for a longer vacation where you could truly let your hair down and destress. Traveling is a romantic way to escape life.

Knowledge

Some may say that the world’s smartest people are also some of the most well-traveled. After all, the best way to learn about the world is to learn about other cultures and histories. If you take the time to visit these amazing places and see how each played a part in the history of the world, the knowledge bank will be expanded.

Best of all, not all the knowledge that travel offers can be found in a book. You learn some things on the road that you will never learn sitting down in class. Becoming a street-smart traveler makes for a safe and secure individual.

Social Life

The old-fashioned way to make friends with people overseas was to become pen pals. Now, there is no need to throw a paper message in a bottle into the ocean. All it takes is an internet connection and an e-mail address. Some people also turn to dating apps to find like-minded people.

Plus, learning how to communicate with people from a different country with a different culture and language is an important skill. It will help you in your regular relationships at home and at work.

Independence

Our homes are our comfort zone. Our domain is our bedroom, and it’s where we feel most relaxed, as we are, more often than not, in complete control over the arrangement and schedule of our house. Traveling, then, is getting out of that physical comfort zone.

When we steer ourselves and make our own decisions, which is usually what happens when we travel, we get a chance to see what we are capable of. We get to see what experiences we can attain for ourselves. This is empowering.

Adventure

Connected to escapism, sometimes we want to feel like we are in charge of our lives. Sometimes, we just want to feel like the protagonist of a movie. And what better way to do that than to explore the unknown in another country?

Moving from one place to another, seeing sights and learning lessons that you choose — even if you don’t know what you might encounter, this openness to the unexpected is something that you should allow yourself when you travel.

Physical Health

This might not seem like too obvious of a reason or a benefit, but traveling has physical health benefits.

Traveling encourages you to move — walk, hike and swim.

Even if you are on a road trip, you are also moving yourself from one place to another. This is especially true if you are using public transportation to experience local life. Thankfully, there are more cities and sites that are made more accessible, and people of all ages and abilities can experience this for themselves. A breath of fresh air is good for everyone.

Purpose

Some people have been able to find themselves when they travel. What this usually means is, they have come across a realization about themselves. More often than not, it’s connected with what purpose their life serves or wants.

Perhaps it’s a business reason, much like how the story of Starbucks began from a trip to Milan, Italy. Perhaps it’s a non-profit, volunteer role for a cause that is near to your heart. Whatever it may be, traveling helps you discern that reason for yourself.

woman watching ocean and sunset from cliff

How to Travel to Understand Oneself and Improve Mental Health

While the travel and tourism industry gets ready to pick up once again, it’s back to the drawing board of inspired travelers.

To intentionally understand oneself, you have to go out of your way when you plan your next trip. What are the steps to experience this perspective-changing travel?

Decide Where to Go

Look into your dreams and aspirations, and you should find that there is a destination that is calling out to your heart. Maybe it’s a place that attracts tourists from all over the world. Maybe it’s a place that you have been curious about since your childhood. Maybe you’re picking at random. The important thing is to follow your gut.

Lay Out Your Itinerary

A good itinerary is the backbone of an amazing adventure. Making the most of your vacation time and hitting up as many of your desired activities is possible.

Spending your hard-earned money being lost for a couple of days in a different country is never fun. But the psychological benefits of travel and experience outweigh the cost.

Allow Yourself to Wander

This is the opposite of the last item — but hear this out. One way to kill the sense of adventure is also to over-analyze your itinerary. When you arrive at your destination and find that something is calling out to you, don’t hesitate to make a few last-minute changes. Maybe your itinerary will even flip around, but what’s important is to not restrict yourself.

We understand that every country or city has their own must-see places, but you shouldn’t pressure yourself to go visit them all. If you have no interest in certain tourist spots, by all means, you don’t actually have to go there.

Understand Your Limits

As travel allows us to explore and go on a grand adventure, we also come to understand how we are when we are out of our comfort zone.

No one ever talks about the stressful, unglamorous parts of travel. Missing your plane, losing your luggage, and getting scammed at the money exchange. These moments are part and parcel of the travel experience and may have a negative psychological impact. These are the lessons you never forget and allow you to realize your own strengths and weaknesses.

Regroup and Reflect

Now that you have received this experience, you need to take the time to think about the journey that you went through. Perhaps you might just want to be left alone with your thoughts. There are also ways to express this more concretely, such as writing an essay or creating a photo collage.

Even better, now you can also share your experience with others. Sharing experiences helps you to synthesize your journey and the lessons that you have learned on the way. You may even gain new perspectives on things that you have ruminating. Be it a call with a dear friend or an expressive blog post, it’s good to have feedback on your reflection.

view from inside airplane window

The Psychology of Traveling Solo

Many individuals want to travel, but they don’t want to travel solo. There is the fear of feeling alone. Some will receive encouragement from friends and family. Others may pray to the travel gods — yup.

And there are more pros and cons of traveling solo.

On the other hand, a different perspective of traveling solo is embarrassment. There is a stigma that eating alone in a restaurant,  going to the movies alone, or enjoying the beach alone is frowned upon. A person may believe they are viewed as not having friends or other people may be looking at why they are alone in the first place.

This stigma holds no ground. And it shouldn’t hold back a person from traveling solo. Don’t let it psychologically get in your head. Besides, it’s extremely easy making friends in hostels.

Conclusion

Being able to travel is now something that is an important aspect of human health. Travel helps reveal ourselves and, our relationship with the world and the environment.

Why do you travel? What revelations have you had about yourself because of travel?