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Want to boost your brain power? Take a trip

As we get older, our brains lose neuroplasticity, making it more and more difficult to learn and make new connections. We lose memory, have low energy, and take longer to process new information. But did you know scientists say travel is one of the best ways to combat mental deterioration? Here’s how — as well as a few tips to make the most of your travels:

It slows down your brain’s perception of time

Do you ever feel like you need more time? In the day? In the year? In life, in general? 

Neuroscientist David Eagleman has extensively studied the effects of our brain's perception of time and says time is a rubbery thing that gets “stretched out” when you fully turn on your brain’s resources.

How it works: when things are too familiar or routine, your brain goes into autopilot and stores less information about daily activities, habits or events. Travelling, on the other hand, awakens the brain — you’re exposed to unfamiliar territory, new smells, tastes and scenery. 

You’ll process more info and have more lasting memories, and push your brain to work a little harder, which impacts your perception of time. It’s why you can seem to experience and accomplish so much more while travelling, as opposed to a mundane day in the office.

Brain challenge: do one new thing each day, even if it’s simply taking a new route to work, trying a new dish, or trying to learn a few words in a new language. By pushing your brain to its limits, you’ll feel as if you’re making the most of your daily 24-hours.

Trip suggestion: Europamundo Vacations’ A Time to Remember package takes you on a 10-day trip to ten different destinations across Europe, starting from R24,225pps — the perfect itinerary to get those brain chemicals flowing. 

Your trip will be anything but routine. Europamundo’s unique circular-itineraries allow travellers to begin or end their trip at any point on the tour. It’s the most flexible tour in Europe! Enjoy strolls through the narrow cobbled streets of Rome’s treasure-filled Trastevere district to Florence’s outdoor museums and local experts. Contact your nearest Sure Travel agent to enquire or book.

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It trains your brain to be more creative

Think you’re not creative? Think again. Perhaps your brain just needs space to create. New experiences train your brain to see new patterns within things and objects: art, architecture and landscapes for example. This helps formulate your creativity and stimulates problem-solving. 

A 2014 study from the Academy of Management Journal looked at the connection between international professional experience and creativity. Based on the work each individual produced, the researchers theorised that travel compelled the subjects to think in different ways and develop "cognitive flexibility” — a key component of creativity. 

Brain challenge: make space in your day for creative endeavours. Time to sit, think, and cultivate your spirit of innovation. Need more ideas? Read this article by The New York Times.

Trip suggestion: we love this Europe itinerary for the way it makes space for creativity. Your trip will be filled with new patterns, landscapes, and objects, which are bound to stimulate your creative thinking. A visit to the Murano Glass Factory, for instance, lets you engage with ancient glass making techniques; historic architecture that peppers Zurich’s Old Town lets you get creative when choosing where to take a break from exploring for a quick Kaffee und Kuchen.  

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Travel helps you adapt

Not only does the thrill of a new adventure fuel curiosity, it helps your brain learn and adapt to new situations. Professor Adam Galinsky of Columbia Business School says time spent in a foreign country increases cognitive flexibility, depth, and thought integration

That’s because while you’re travelling, you’re constantly pushed to think on your feet, bridge language barriers, and find your way around. In the meantime, your brain begins rewiring itself to create new paths of thinking and simplify decision-making.

Brain challenge: prioritise (and budget for) travel the same way you would dining out, going to the gym, or indulging in a spa weekend. It’s just as crucial to self-care, and pretty darn great for your brain!

Trip suggestion: countries like Switzerland or France are packed with things to do, including active outdoor sports, hikes and bicycle trails that will allow you to explore (and take advantage of “feel good” endorphins. Take in Lucerne’s night sky as you adventure around its lake, or find a new eatery in Paris’ Latin Quarter.

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Travel makes your brain happy

Scientists have found that looking forward to something fun can trigger and release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centres — even well before you leave for a holiday. 

And the benefits of a “happy travel high” don’t stop once the trip is over. In a recent study from South Korea, researchers interviewed 225 tourists who travelled overseas. The research found that, on average, life satisfaction rose 15 days before travel and lasted for at least one month after returning home.

Brain challenge: even if you don’t have the cash to take a trip now, start creating your bucket list! By planning your must-sees and must-dos long in advance, you’ll be well-equipped to pounce on a spontaneous deal when it comes your way — without feeling daunted about the preparation process.

Trip suggestion: Not much of a planner? Then we’d suggest Europamundo’s 10-day A Time to Remember itinerary. You’ll see ten destinations in record time, with the most flexible tour option available. Contact your nearest Sure Travel agent for pricing and more information, or call us on 0861 47 48 49.

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