Why adventure is so magical (and addicting)
06/09/2014 - 06/10/2014 60 °F
When I mentioned to a friend that I was about to embark on another travel adventure, I excitedly exclaimed that I was aiming for “complete sensory overload.” I’ve come to realize that this is one of my favorite parts of the travel experience. I had recently done a personal branding exercise with that same friend and came up with my belief statement … “I believe that every moment has the potential to be breathtaking.” While I’m still not satisfied with the word “breathtaking,” I think it definitely captures the essence of how I try to live my life. I truly believe that every person that passes through my life—no matter who they are, how old they are or how quickly they pass through—has something to teach me, if only I’m open to learn it. Subsequently, I believe that in every moment and every experience I have something to learn, but to do so requires cultivating the right mindset, looking for the possibilities and sometimes shifting your perspective (Watching the film “Celebrate What’s Right With the World” or reading Mindset by Carol Dweck are a great place to start). I have always had a deep love of learning, as evidenced by words like growth, challenge, adventure and wonder showing up in the passions and values I’ve articulated over the years. However, it wasn’t until the last few years of my book-a-week marathon and diving into Positive Psychology that I was able to clearly articulate why. While all that probably sounds like a great and noble way to live, I’ll be the first to admit that it is sometimes a struggle to be deeply engaged in the moment. Which brings us back to why I love to travel. With travel, it’s so easy—almost too easy—to maintain a constant state of wonder. Not only the novelty of having never experienced the sights, sounds and smells, but also the subconscious acquiescence that you are unlikely to experience them ever again.
Being a brain science nerd, I can understand why “complete sensory overload” leads to the present moment awareness that makes “travel brain” so enjoyable. When we experience novelty, our brains are jolted out of their comfort zones because novelty could often mean danger to our ancestors (To see a wonderful example of this, watch the children’s movie “The Croods”). When our brain is in this state (or if we are able to cultivate a mindset of wonder), it takes in a much larger amount of information in an attempt to keep us safe by being highly attuned to our surroundings. More information leads to more time to process and making sense of all those inputs, which can actually slow down our perception of time. On a related note, part of the reason that children can so easily maintain a state of wonder is that they lack time perception and will thus stop and stare to watch a squirrel scurry by or notice anything that is different than normal. This makes their days all-absorbing and may be related to why time seems to go by faster when we age…because we think we seen it all and have nothing new to experience (or so we tell ourselves).
So as I step off the plane to Stockholm, I can immediately sense a shift in my mindset. Every ounce of my awareness is looking for something I’ve never seen before, trying to identify what makes this place unique and looking for funny cultural quirks all as I try to piece together a construct in my brain of what this place—and its people—are and what they have to teach me. I even forgive Norwegian Airlines’ sorry excuse for a meal for a quote on the bag that helped prepare me for the shift: “’Is there any adventure more exciting than meeting new people and finding out what lives within them?’ –Sonja Henie.” No Sonja, I’m not sure there is.
Let the adventure begin…