Travel and Success (Go Hand in Hand)

According to scientific research, traveling can help you become more successful.

Let's start with the numbers and work or way into personal experience on how travel makes people happy; how it encourages a broader platform of intelligence, makes close relationships closer, and teaches people how to manage risk.

You'll want to stick around for the bonus travel benefits as well, toward the end — if you enjoy outside-the-box sort of thinking.

The Numbers 

Most travel research has to do with happiness, and success usually follows this elusive emotion, at least according to mental health consultant Christy Matta:

"...a review of 225 studies in the Psychological Bulletin found that happiness doesn’t necessarily follow success. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Happiness leads to success."

Even something as simple as planning a vacation can boost your happiness, according to the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life. More importantly, this survey gives insight from over 2,000 people: 83% of respondents reported that travel is very important to their happiness.

Science vs. Experience

I don't always believe science — it's not that science itself is flawed, but the people reporting statistics usually fluff the report by focusing on the numbers that support their agenda, product or business.

I have trust issues you might say. That's why I prefer life experiences over man-made and thus man-flawed science. You can only read so many historical flaws in science — flat-world theory, the geo-centric model, mercury baths to cure STD's, cocaine as a healthy remedy (that was Freud by the way) — before you come to the conclusion that we just might have a few things wrong, even today.

So we'll pepper in a couple good old-fashioned statistics, but the data below is compiled primarily from experiences.

Speaking of experiences:

Money doesn't buy happiness... but actually it can:

Numerous studies have shown that money and materialism gets in the way of happiness. Apparently money only complicates things after your basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) are met (Psychology Today). I'm not saying I disagree with that completely, but let's face reality — money can buy experiences. And experiences never fail to please, at least not long-term.

Traveling is the ultimate form of experience collecting and memory making. Telling stories about how my wife accidentally ate cow stomach (guatita) in South America, or how my humvee driver ran into a cow in Iraq; the time I stared eye to eye with a barracuda (and nearly pooed myself) off the coast of Cuba, or in Manglaralto when we accidentally broadcasted to the world how sexually turned on we were for each other in Spanish (caliente doesn't always mean hot in the temperature sense...) — these memories bring me joy, and are decent pieces of conversational material as well.

Just be aware of who you're talking to. Not everyone shares your love for travel, and for the people who prefer home-sweet-home, your stories will bore instead of inspire. To them, your beloved memories may seem like stretched and exaggerated tales from a wannabe braggart — and of course that makes it worth keeping to yourself. Until you find like-minded nomads and adventurers that is.

Travel opens new trains of thought and helps you see things from different angles:

So money can buy happiness in a way, but there's a darker side too. I love America, but we have a bad habit of elevating money to an unhealthy level of importance. It's almost cult-like. Think about it — when you hit crunch time at the end of the month and your budget shows you're short $300, what do you say? "Oh man, we need money. Seriously, we need money — I'd do anything for $300, right now."

Now replace the word "money" with "you God", or "you Buddha", or whatever higher power you believe in. Creepy isn't it? Money should never be a god.

For me at least, travel helped me understand that money isn't everything. In fact it's only a tiny part of fulfillment. It also helped me learn from other cultures the importance of family, something I didn't fully understand here in the states. Not that everyone's like that in America — that's just my personal experience.

Travel promotes quality time — with family, friends and lovers:

Harvard Professor of Psychology expert Daniel Gilbert puts it nicely:

We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.

This can certainly be true of travel, as well it should be. Traveling alone can be great, but not many things are more fulfilling than quality travel with those closest to us.

When you travel, you learn how to manage (and actually take) risks:

Fear is the biggest enemy of success. One of the many ugly faces of fear is the fear of taking risks. Without taking risk, you'll never see success, and that's where travel comes in.

Traveling alone to a country you've never been to before feels like a huge risk. It's not usually, but that's what makes it such great practice! Having the guts to step out and experience life from a totally different perspective is a life-changer. The most successful people in the world are the people who took the time to learn how to take risks.

Bonus travel benefits:

  • The bigger picture perspective makes a valid difference. Different people have different jobs, but most trades and crafts benefit from a holistic understanding of numerous areas of life. Specialization is for insects — live life to it's fullest!
  • Bilingual, Trilingual... Polyglotism? Knowing multiple languages is extremely helpful, and let's be honest, no one feels bad about saying they're multi-lingual. My wife and I learned a functional (not conversational) level of Spanish in 3 months thanks to complete immersion (and lots of Duolingo).
  • Rebooting your brain through relaxation: Sometimes your brain needs to be rebooted. Just like a computer starts slowing down if it hasn't been restarted, our brains need a break from work. Travel gives you the opportunity to flush your mind of responsibility, letting the subconscious relax and start to work on new approaches to life that may result in a breakthrough. 

Happiness, fulfillment, relaxation, new skill sets — travel has plenty to offer. It can take a lot of planning and dedicated saving, but in the end it's more than worth it.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you need to travel to be successful.

But consider it.

Traveling can help you find success, and besides, what's the worst that can happen?



Photo by Mark Fischer (photo has been modified from original by cropping): Image Source

Travel and happiness statistic from Springer: Source

Travel is important for happiness research from G Adventures: Source

Professor Daniel Gilbert quote: Source

Christy Matta quote: Source

Psychology Today study: Source