If You Really Needed an Excuse to Travel…

Why Travel?

When we are infants we follow the same chains of motor command as other animals until we learn to walk. We then gain the ability to coordinate more complex movements. The coordination and maintenance of walking upright are unique to humans and require specific and complex neural pulses.

As we’ve evolved we have also adapted to new forms of movement.

Back in the day we threw spears and killed animals, now we move our fingers to type. We are also wired for sunlight and have circadian rhythms that make us have the urge to wake up with the sun and work while it is light outside. When we are outside it releases endorphins and, in turn, makes us happier. We also have a huge fear of confinement.

We become psychologically distressed if our movement is restricted.

That’s why we use confinement as a source of punishment (i.e. time outs for children & prisons).

Funny enough, most of our travels are not motivated by need but rather our desire for change.

Cognitive psychology shows us that travel decision-making is complex, based on personality, perception, and information processing. Our emotions also play a huge role in traveling and it seems to be somewhat of a catch 22. We have these competing feelings of pleasure, nostalgia, fear, and freedom that affect our travel and limits we place on our movement. Our perceptions of danger and our personal safety can alter our choices. Our anxiety of our travels going wrong is a huge determining factor on motivation to move.

Age is another factor in our attitude about traveling. The older we get the less adventurous our travel choices seem to get. As we get older we tend towards more familiar modes of transportation and travel destinations.

When we are able to get geographic distance from our own problems and feel more relaxed due to being on vacation, we’re more likely to see new ways of dealing with problems at home. Travel opens our minds to come up with different solutions.

The more you travel, the more impact it can have on your personality.

A study done showed that the more travelers engaged with new people from different countries, the more that promoted new goals related to openness. It also helped travelers to gain perspective on life, which made them less emotionally reactive to day-to-day changes and increased emotional stability. Meeting new people expanded the trait of agreeableness, but was not directly related to the size of people’s new social networks, but rather their ability to see more points of view.


Lessons from a Faraway land: The effect of spatial distance on creative cognition Lile Jia et al. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 45 (2009) 1127–1131

Do we become a different person when hitting the road? Personality development of sojourners.  Zimmermann, Julia; Neyer, Franz J. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 105(3), Sep 2013, 515-530

Tony Hiss, In Motion: The Experience of Travel (2010)

Harrison, Clearwater, and McKay (eds) From Antarctica to Outer Space: Life in Isolation and Confinement. (1991)


Co- Founder of Psych n Sex, previous writer and campus educator for the Kinsey Institute & published psychology researcher. Manhattan girl obsessed with post ww2 abstract expressionism, beet juice, vintage clothing & Scandinavia.

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