There’s a reason NASA trained its astronauts in the 1960’s in Iceland. It resembles the crater-filled moon in several places. The black rock, harsh conditions, and overall Wild Wild West feel created the perfect environment to explore lunar landings. Today, argonauts like myself journeyed there to find just that: another world.
Traveling to new places is healthy because it inspires both our emotions and our minds. Research shows that voyaging beyond our own borders activates different parts of our brains. In turn, we become “unstuck.” In other words, travel recharges and reinvigorates us.
One of the reasons, as neuropsychologist Paul Nussbaum states, “When you expose your brain to an environment that’s novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts.” And, “Those new and challenging situations cause the brain to sprout dendrites — dangling extensions — which…grow the brain’s capacity.”
Being away from home also provides your brain a necessary respite from work, home, or other social responsibilities. Ellen Langer, a professor at Harvard University, labels this as being “mindful.” Part of mindfulness is noticing new things around us and evaluating our “normal life” at home.
Iceland has no shortage of brain stimuli with its endless eye candy. When I recently visited, it was exhilarating filling up my water bottle from a mountain stream. And, no, I didn’t get sick. Although I didn’t carve out enough time to contemplate life, I did photograph plenty of inspiring memories to last a lifetime.
But escaping monotony can be daunting. The tendrils of family, work, and life’s responsibilities do not release their grip lightly. The good news is that you don’t have to travel far to acquire its benefits. The dividends are in the “newness” of the location, not in the particular destination.
If you feel “stuck” in a monotonousness routine try a different route to the office, eat at an exotic restaurant, or visit a local cultural festival. Often, there are nascent activities that are close to home. When was the last time you tried something new?
Here are some pictures from my recent seven-day trip.
For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name! -Amos 4:13