We get so caught up in our lives–in the status quo–that we forget how amazing it is to try new experiences and how healthy it is for our brain.
My finger embraced the start button and instantly a giant roar from the engine. My heart raced as I clutched the steering wheel enchanted by the prancing horse and the 490 horsepower engine of the F430. I spent an hour blissfully navigating through the highways and downtown Houston.
Before that, I had spent hours meticulously working finding errors in code wondering when I would be able to find a solution to the problem. Another crushing day and still in the same place I was days before.
I didn’t realize at the time but an hour with a Ferrari would solve my problem. A Groupon gift, I was excited to be living my childhood dream even if just for an hour.
I honestly can say driving that Ferrari was like having a passionate affair with an Italian supermodel and even better yet my wife at the time was cool with it. I couldn’t think of anything else the rest of the weekend but that hour with the Ferrari. Knowing Monday was peaking around the corner, I started to rethink the problem that had so cruelly ate up my week and within minutes a flash of insight and the problem solved. I had banged my head all weekend long, locked in my thoughts and cubicle but my mind was still producing the same futile solutions.
It wasn’t the first time doing something novel rewired my brain. I remember two other times both involving travel. One time, I was on top of Table Mountain in Capetown, South Africa. The serene backdrop of the city hugging the Atlantic Ocean while clouds playfully climbed the mountain and the profound sense of awe I felt breathing in the cloud as it passed through us.
From that moment on, I just felt rewired and those mental blocks I had prior started to dissipate. I remember the other time my friends and I just grabbed sleeping bags, and we went to the mountains. We camped at the lake’s edge overlooking stars and waking the next morning to raindrops. My creativity flourished afterwards, I drew and wrote like the world was going to end.
So why does doing novel things especially travel impact your brain? Your brain is a bunch of neural pathways coded to represent the experiences and stimuli you’ve experienced. As you introduce new things, your brain will rewire to accommodate the new experiences. The more novel and immersive the experience, the more likely that the brain will rewire.
In fact, famous creatives such as Mark Twain, Ernest Hemmingway, and Aldous Huxley were world travelers. We get so caught up in our lives, in the status quo, we forget how amazing it is to try new experiences and how healthy it is for our brain. Experiencing new things forces the brain to build new neural pathways and rewire old ones. As Albert Einstein profoundly stated, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
Photo: Flickr/ andlun1