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Life Success: How Travel Affects the Brains of Children

Some parents believe that traveling is rather disruptive for children and choose to limit their kids to the neighborhood around their homes. This is a completely false notion. Kids who travel have been found to have a better chance for success in life when compared to kids who don’t.

Successful children

In a study conducted by the Student and Youth Travel Association (SYTA), it was found that travel affected students in numerous ways. About 2,143 respondents participated in the survey that included teachers, group leaders, and tour operators. Almost 69 percent of the respondents claimed that travel increased intellectual curiosity in children. Kids who traveled were seen to have more confidence, increased independence, better self-expression, and a higher attractiveness to college admissions. These are basically the factors that contribute to success, both in the academic sphere and later in life.

Research conducted by Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Washington State University, concluded that family travel triggers two genetically ingrained systems in the brain’s limbic region. Panksepp calls them the SEEKING and PLAY systems. The SEEKING system in a child is triggered every time you take them for an exploration of a forest, village, beach, etc. The PLAY system is activated when children bury their feet in the sand, ride on their parent’s back, or get tickled while sitting by the pool.

(Image via pixabay / CC0 1.0)
Family travel triggers two genetically ingrained systems in the brain’s limbic region. (Image via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

During a family vacation, both systems get activated in kids. “Once your family holiday experiences activate these systems in your brain and your children’s brains, they trigger well-being neurochemicals including opioids, oxytocin and dopamine… They reduce stress and activate warm, generous feelings towards each other and a lovely sense that all is well in the world,” according to The Telegraph.

What is more astonishing is that these systems act like muscles. The more a child experiences the two systems the better, as they become part of the kid’s personality. So a child who travels will have their PLAY and SEEKING systems constantly activated, eventually developing an explorative, playful, and high-energy attitude. These characteristics play a big role in their success when they become adults.

Happier lives as adults

Children who frequently traveled with parents also tend to retain the happy memories of the trips and remember them all through their lives. This was validated by a 2015 research study conducted by the Family Holiday Association that looked at the positive effects of family vacations. Almost one-third of the adult participants admitted that they had vivid memories of the vacations they experienced as a child.

(Image via pixabay / CC0 1.0)
Children who frequently traveled with parents also tend to retain the happy memories of the trips and remember them all through their lives. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

“Reflecting on our happiest memories of joyful time spent together as a family can be extremely powerful in bringing relief and respite when faced with the darker times that life can bring… By using these memories as an anchor to take us back to more cheerful moments, we’re often able to approach problems with a fresh sense of perspective… But for many without such memories, reigniting a sense of optimism for getting through the tougher times can seem like an impossible task,” John McDonald, Director of the Family Holiday Association, said to Huffington Post.

About 42 percent of the respondents said that the places they visited as a kid are still special to them. The things at the top of the list of things that they remember from their childhood vacations include smiling, being relaxed, and experiencing something for the first time.

So don’t wait any longer. Pack those bags and start making memories.

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