There are plenty of good reasons why you should travel. The most compelling one, for me, came from a really unexpected place: a book about urban planning and psychology. For my thesis project on built environments and well-being I've been reading "Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives" by Sarah Williams Goldhagen. In making the case for why urban planners and real estate developers should incorporate human-centered design principles in their work, Goldhagen presents how the built environment affects us from a cognitive psychology perspective. She claims that when we recall an autobiographical memory, we also recall the spacial context (a room, a street) around it. She further explains that long-term, autobiographical memories are stored within the part of the brain called hippocampus "and the adjacent parahippocampal region," which are parts of the brain that also facilitate our ability to navigate spaces. This all means that memories and spaces are inextricably linked.
Goldhagen also talks about another cognitive science fact that is really important in the context of spaces and how they affect humans. When we navigate spaces, we have two kinds of cognitive responses to them: direct and indirect. I'll only talk about indirect since it relates to this topic the most. Indirect responses "originate in the cognitive schemas we construct throughout our lives as we learn to inhabit the world." These schemas are metaphors of sorts, in the sense that content is transported from one place to another. An example of a metaphor that Goldhagen gives is when you're looking for a new apartment and suddenly you step into one that makes you feel a sense of "home." The home part is a metaphor: it is a combination of conscious and non-conscious cognitions you have assembled from memories and have distilled into "home", now an unspeakable, pleasant feeling. This is all to say that, the feelings we experience in unfamiliar environments are a summation of feelings we experienced in environments with similar elements.
These two conclusions, namely that:
1. Memories and spaces are inextricably linked;
2. The feelings we experience in unfamiliar environments are a summation of feelings we experienced in environments with similar elements.
accrue sensational importance in the context of a book set to expose the poorly planned and non-human-centered designed spaces we inhabit and spend all of our lives in. But most compellingly, they also tell us about the importance of traveling. Combine them with this other quote from Goldhagen's book:
"We cannot recall a memory from our past without revisiting at least some elements of the place where the original event occurred, if not consciously at least non-consciously. What follows is that place-bound experiences constitute the very framework for our sense of self and perceived identity. The built environment constitutes the foundation upon which our past, present and future selves are constructed."
If how we feel on a daily basis while navigating the world is attached to places we've been to, with their attached feelings, then the more happy experiences we have in different kinds of environments, the more we will be happy overall, because we will attach those happy memories to similar environments. In other words, if you travel the world for a year, visit all kinds of different indoor/outdoor settings and have amazing experiences, during the rest of your life you will likely be more happy, because your brain will have stored more environmental elements with positive experiences attached to them. Boom. Go out and travel the world, and tell your friends this is why they should do it too.
Also, read this book, it's eye-opening.