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!
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.
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!
(click on image to enlarge)
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: tommygoround.com.
To see Tommy’s completed article, go to “Is Travel a Drug?”