Category Archives: Travel Psychology

is about the human experience of travel and what it’s all about. Various essays and articles are presented on the subject of travel psychology. Sometimes they appear from time to time in the guise of a ‘course’ or a ‘primer,’ such as, ‘Travel Psychology 101,’ and more. Sometimes a short subject may appear on a very specific subject or theme. An example may be: “What is the Paris Syndrome?” “Why would someone want to know about travel psychology” is another.

Interview with Tommy:

Interview with Travel Blogger

Is Travel a Drug?

 September 5, 2015

Hi Dr. Brein,

I was doing research for an article and I came across your website. I can’t believe there are no other travel psychologists! I studied psychology at UCSC and travel is my number one passion, so I’m a bit jealous you beat me to it!

Drug Image 1

Anyways, I am writing an article regarding the question “Is Travel A Drug?” I can find a million articles on how travel makes us happy but nothing about whether it can be addictive. We all know about the blues that can occur when returning from a long trip and the urge we have to go back. I have many friends that are afraid to come home from their travels because travel is the only thing that really makes them happy. I would love to hear your take on the following questions for my article:

1. Can travel change the brain to where it starts to crave new experiences the way a heroin addict craves heroin?

I can’t really prove this or make a good case, but I suspect that there probably are changes in the brains of habitual travelers. Similar changes that may occur in the brain pathways from the rewards of travel as extreme adventurers, e.g., mountain climbers probably get from the exhilaration that results from the extreme degrees of satisfaction and accomplishment of complex physical adventurous tasks (such as mountain climbing, white water rafting, and so on).

See my document “The Exhilaration of Travel: Why I Love to Travel.” 

2. Can travel act as a drug that has positive long term effects? Negative long term effects?

Notwithstanding, not being able to resolutely affirm brain pathway changes from travel, nonetheless, there is a definite “psychological addiction” to travel. Like any other ‘habit,’ over-dependency on just about anything certainly has its drawbacks.

In so far as travel is concerned, I believe that what is so addictive is the immediacy of ‘rewards’ (and punshments) that occurs as a consequence of our actions in travel. We are in, what amounts to, a kind of ‘time machine,’ where events and activities are condensed in time—a microcosmic and kaleidoscopic cornucopia of exciting sensory experiences—all speeded up—in our own travel microcosm.

Cornucopia 1

Consequences of our actions are quicker. Rewards are more imminent (as are rebukes or punishments). The result is that benefits and achievements are more instantaneous—we grow, we mature, we achieve much more quickly than how it happens in our typical mundane daily lives. What can be more satisfying than that!

Travel reins in the Maslow Needs Hierarchy ladder in a condensed period of time. When the rewards flow so quickly in our travels relative to our normal existences, we certainly want more of the same. Hence, a form of addiction!


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Of course, too much of a good thing, might dissuade us or deviate us away from other important life quests.

The people who might suffer the most from too much ‘premature’ travel are those younger individuals who cast aside the normal, important life quests such as education, career, marriage, and so on—the normal life activities that are important to be started in a reasonable, timely fashion.

Thus, there is the danger that the lure of travel could offset these important life activities.

Having said all of the above, I doubt that these effects are that limiting. I cannot personally see any real harmful, long-term effects of continuous travel. Perhaps, fortunately, the costs of continuous travel are self-limiting. And those of us who are fortunate to be able to so much travel—well, we’ve learned how to do it, haven’t we? This, in and of itself, has to be useful in normal living, I would say!

3. Are people afraid of returning from their trips not because they are having too much fun, but because of deeper personal issues they are running away from?

Well, this certainly is a factor. Travel does have its escapist side to it. You can run but you cannot hide forever. Hopefully, travel allows a balance, whereby we have plenty of time to evaluate our lives and issues during travel. Enough so that maybe the time away can be useful for reflection and dealing with pressing issues that await our return.

4. Why do some people feel the need to always be traveling and never return home?

Those of us who are fortunate to have continuous travel-lives might be able to teach the rest of us something. You cannot come away from extensive travel without having learned some very useful, important things that have application to the rest of our lives.

5. Why do some people crave going back abroad even after they just finished a long trip?

It’s, no doubt, among other things, the exhilaration of travel. To me, it is like the first spring breath of fresh air upon walking out the door to the first true early morning of spring, especially after a cold, snowy winter. It’s like the exhilaration of reaching the crest of a hill or the top of a mountain, or the view around the turn of the next corner—the natural-high rush of a magnificent view.

 Thank you for any information. In return, you can use any of my stories from my website to share! I love telling/writing my travel stories. They are all here with many more to come:

To see Tommy’s completed article, go to “Is Travel a Drug?”

The Exhilaration of Travel: Why I Love to Travel

“The Exhilaration of Travel:
Why I Love to Travel”

by Michael Brein, Ph.D.,
aka The Travel Psychologist


Why I love to travel: Travel is exhilarating for me. It is like the first spring breath of fresh air upon walking out the door to the first true early morning of spring—especially after a cold, snowy winter. It is like snacking on a solid bar of dark chocolate. It’s like the exhilaration of reaching the crest of a hill or the top of a mountain, or the view around the turn of the next corner—the natural-high rush of a magnificent view.

Talk about the so-called endorphins you get from a variety of life’s experience—only travel can give you a kaleidoscopic cornucopia of exciting novel sensory experiences, all in your own neat little travel microcosm—all in your own little private new corner of your travel world or your travel life.

Continue reading The Exhilaration of Travel: Why I Love to Travel

Why Be Your Old Boring Self?

Be your-SELVES in your travels!

Tired of being your old mundane, boring self?
The Three R(E)’s of Travel and then Some!

Travel Psych Hats

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Why be your old mundane, everyday boring, bored, tired self in your travels and adventures? Just kidding—sort of! You get what I mean.

That is, travel is supposed to be a way to RE-invigorate, RE-juvinate,  RE-fresh, RE-set, and RE-invent ourselves, isn’t it?

When you go away on a vacation or adventure you all would like to be and do more than just the typical ordinary things according to your typical ordinary ways, and so on, wouldn’t you?

I mean, travel is a means to becoming  a RE-newed person—more of the person we would like ourselves to be, don’t you think?

Continue reading Why Be Your Old Boring Self?

Your Papers Please!

Your Papers Please!

The Dreaded Syndrome!

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This has happened to me more times than I like to remember. It is the single most dreaded authoritarian command you just don’t ever want to hear. You’ve just crossed the border into this next banana republic country and you’re very anxious and tense because of all the scary stories you’ve recently heard about this place.

Planet Earth
Almost Anywhere

You really just want to turn yourself right around and go back to where, minutes before, you just came from, but it’s far too late for that or regrets. You are now caught between a rock and a hard place–in a no-man’s land of sorts–a damned if you do and damned if you don’t scenario.

Your palms are wet, your armpits are soaked with sweat, your mouth is dry, your knees are knocking, your cheek is twitching, your eyes are darting, your face is fraught with guilt, and der Herr Comandante–actually a low-level functionary working his way up–is not only leering at you–but he is actually looking right THROUGH you!

You may be a smuggler or you may be completely innocent. Or you may be hiding something as innocuous as a white lie, or you cannot know or imagine what, even. YOU ARE GUILTY OF SOME THING! You know this, but you know not of what. Again, this is the one command that you and all other travelers fear with a passion and loathing, and now you just have to deal with it! 

Whether innocent or guilty, YOU KNOW HE KNOWS! And, if there’s really nothing at all for him to know, you must realize this: he knows you know he knows, anyway! And you can be sure the he WILL FIND SOMETHING. You are sure he is operating on a well-developed sixth sense!

You’ve heard that perhaps you should slip him something, maybe a $10 bill inside your passport, or maybe just a $5 bill to grease his palms to ease his pain. But you know it’s wrong for him to expect something like this. And who knows, maybe you could land in jail for attempting a bribe, a far worse scenario than you ever expected. 

[You’ve tried this once before with a cop who stopped you for a burnt-out taillight in New Jersey. You offered to buy tickets to the Firemen’s Pancake Breakfast. But you failed miserably at it. ]

He stood there silently and sternly for seemingly an eternity, and then he gave you a severe tongue lashing, how that bordered on being a felony.]

What to do? Attempting to bribe simply goes against your grain. It’s just not done in America (hah!). Call it being headstrong or self-righteous. You just won’t do it; you stand on circumstances. You later are told it was naive of you!

This is true and happens all the time. The difference between you, the tourist, and all the others–the more seasoned traveler-adventurer types?–is that, for some unknown reason, they always seem to just walk right on through without the least bit of a hassle, while you will waste dreadful hours of blatant, fearful bureaucratic threats, perpetual bickering and cowering, and finally, anyway, winding up forking over the ultimate, inevitable cash, baksheesh pay-off!

Like this story?

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(See my recent postings)

The Travel Psychology of Laughter

 The Travel Psychology of Laughter

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The Travel Psychologist’s Take

Funny is funny no matter what the reason, who is involved, or what the consequences are. Whether at your expense, or due to your intentions, when people have a laugh, it matters not at all, the who, the  what, the why or the how. If it’s funny, people will laugh. Again, no matter if they are laughing at you, because of you, or in spite of you, the effect is the same, for better or for worse, the experience becomes memor-able. It becomes etched in stone and never, ever really and truly forgotten.

Continue reading The Travel Psychology of Laughter

What Travel Does for Me

The Magic of
*Travel Archetypes!

 What Travel Does for Me

That Is Unique to Travel
That Only Travel Allows
Me to Do

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The ‘Actor’

Travel sets the stage—the world becomes my stage—upon which I can create and act out alternative ME’s, relatively free from the constraints that my ordinary, mundane more controlled, more predictable, and more restricted life at home does not normally permit me—give me free rein—to do.

And why is that?

Continue reading What Travel Does for Me

Travel Safety & Security

I include some tips on travel safety and security for the sole woman traveler (as well as for anyone else, for that matter).  Note: some tips may appear elsewhere in other related posts.

TIP #1

Tip 1-1 Distraction

Never allow yourself to be distracted. Always pay close attention to your possessions and your surroundings at all times.

Periodically scan the quadrants that surround you as if they were the 15 min markers on a clock: i.e., 15, 30, 45 and 60 mins. on the hour.

Next time you see the Secret Service on TV, notice how they often appear to be scanning their surroundings in a similar manner.

This single most important way a pickpocket gets to rob you is to get your attention away from your possessions. The way he or she does this is to distract you. And there are a million clever ways to do this, such as dropping keys or other items right in front of you or by feigning to ask you a question, and so on.

TIP #2

Tip 2 Running on Automatic

Do not run on ‘automatic.’ Pay attention!

This is just a simple, all-important catch phrase that’s well worth becoming something of the ‘new mantra’ for overseas travelers and adventurers. I think the ‘ordinary’ tourist (one who’s not so particularly steeply immersed into the travel experience versus the ‘traveler,’ who is more travel savvy as a result of a more in-depth travel-life history) may too easily just pay lip-service to the notion that one ought to be running on all cylinders overseas rather than just ‘running (blindly) on automatic’ as we tend to do when we travel, just as we typically do when at home, when we need not be particularly ‘conscious’ or aware of what is just at the perimeter of our envelopes, bubbles, what have you — our personal psychological and physical space . . .

The above is not meant so much as a warning that “the sky is falling; the sky is falling,” as it is a bid that we all need to be more conscious and aware than we tend to be in our overseas travels. The world is ‘a changing’, so, please, pay (more) attention!

TIP #3

Tip 3 Daily Patterns

Always vary your patterns.

The shortest distance between two points is usually the straightest-line between the points. It is too easy to become predictable in our comings and goings. All kinds people are looking to victimize people who exhibit regular patterns, i.e., who predictably, reliably, and dependably — and like clockwork — always do the same things, go the same ways, exhibit the same unchanging patterns — can be regularly, depended upon to be at the same places at the same time and exhibit the same patterns repeatedly.

The more your behavior can be predicted, the easier it is to ‘plan’ you to become a victim.

By varying your comings and goings you are less likely to ‘stand out’ or be noticed.

TIP #4

Tip 4-1 Exit Strategy

Always have an exit strategy — a way out!

Avoid getting yourself into a situation in the first place that you cannot get out of if you have to. Not always easy to do. Probably the single-most frequent cause of people getting into trouble is where and when your options are reduced to the point where ‘there is nothing you can do,’ i.e.,

your options or choices go to zero! You may become a victim when you allow yourself to have too few escape options.

The best example of this is people hitchhiking: getting into a stranger’s car or truck at night by yourself or into a third-world taxi cab where your escape options are too few or non-existent.

Maintain some degrees of freedom. Hold in reserve some kind of an escape valve.

Sadly, a good deal of dangerous situations discussed in this book were for women travelers who wound up having NO or few degrees of freedom, that is, they got ‘boxed in’ into in-escapable situations in vehicles or with strangers and with few if any ways out.

TIP #5:

Tip 5-2 Intuition 2

Always trust your ‘instincts.’

If it doesn’t ‘feel’ right, the chances are very good that it probably isn’t. Better to over rely upon or over trust your intuitions sometimes and your so-called ‘sixth-sense.’

We are always trying to talk ourselves into ‘rational disbelief’ of unusual or unlikely situations and are prone to feeling and wanting to convince ourselves that ‘this cannot be happening,’ or ‘it cannot happen to me.’ — i.e, it cannot be happening, so therefore it is NOT happening; ‘This is too unbelievable,’ therefore. I DON’T believe it, and so on.

It is much easier to talk oneself into being complacent than it is to believe tor rationalize or convince yourself that something bad or horrible or unlikely is either about to happen or is actually happening.

Rationalizing, judging or ‘reasoning away’ a bad or difficult situation often robs you of invaluable ‘escape’ time, so that it can become too difficult, too late to deal with a bad event in a safe and effective manner.

Often paying attention to one’s inner self or gut level opens you up to attending to inner cues that you might tend to just too easily dismiss or rationalize away before it is too late.

It is better to be safe than sorry. If escaping a bad situation, because you err a little on the side of paranoia, just observe how good you feel when you finally manage to extricate yourself from a potentially troublesome situation.

TIP #6:

Tip 6 No Go Areas

Always consider where you should or should not go!

No stranger knows better than the locals, which places are to be avoided for safety’s sake. There are bad and worse neighborhoods to avoid during both day and night. If you ‘feel’ that an area is too remote, too quiet, too still, too dark, too many ‘questionable’ types hanging about . . . then maybe re-routing yourself is not such a bad idea.

TIP #7:


Be careful of over-confidence in both yourself and others!

‘Quantum,’ unpredictable, or chance events do pop up or occur from time to time that even experts may find difficult to deal with. It’s too easy to become over-confident that ‘I can deal with this.’ or ‘I can handle this’ (or anything) that comes my way or crosses my path.

All too often, unforeseen dangers pop up and happen to people who become ever-so-slightly less observant or prepared to deal with simply because they become too complacent or careless due to over-confidence.

TIP #8:


Know that you get what you drink!

Never, ever, ever walk away from your drink! Also, do not drink (or shower in) the water!

Rule #1
(Is strictly common sense):

Never, ever, EVER leave a drink unguarded, even for a moment!

Who among us has not witnessed a girl (or woman) getting up from her table or barstool to go to the restroom, glibly abandoning her drink to anyone and everyone to be potentially tempted to do the dastardly deed as ‘slipping her a mickey‘ (dropping something untoward in her drink), i.e., something as evil as like a date rape drug or God only knows what other incapacitating substance!

Has it every really happened? You betcha! Such goings on have often been reported to have happened to travelers to Mexico, for instance. And it’s certainly not limited to there; it happens at home; it happens everywhere.

Rule #2:

When in doubt, don’t drink the water.

Bottled Water:

A corollary to this is that you get what you drink! Just never simply take a chance and drink that bottled water UNTIL YOU CHECK THAT THE CAP IS SEALED!

Bottled water is touted as the be all, end all for drinking water overseas.

They say that bottled water is as pure as a newborn baby. Maybe so. But they also say, “Hey, that’s nothing more than tap water!” Can you be sure you can trust third-world bottled water? Hell, you never know if it is just tap water, but the chances are these days that you can pretty much count on it being purified, with this one caveat, however.

All too often people simply will drink the bottled water without first checking that the bottle is COMPLETELY SEALED! Make absolutely certain that the cap is firmly SEALED to begin with!

Rule #3:

Be careful of the shower! Be aware that shower water in third-world countries CAN do you in!

Shower Water:

And, finally, here’s another thought about drinking the water. Well, I don’t suppose you think of shower water as something that you strictly drink, do you? But here’s something I’ll bet very few people really think very much about.

When you take a shower, water enters you just about everywhere — EVERY orifice: your eyes, your nose, your ears, your mouth, your skin . . . It can be tantamount to taking a drink. And, let’s face it: it only takes but ONE vermin to give you “Dehli belly,” doesn’t it?