Travel is a pain. Few people would say that packing, schlepping to the airport, stripping down in front of strangers for security, and wedging yourself into a miniscule and uncomfortable airplane seat for hours is exactly the paragon of relaxation. Every day, though, people spend valuable vacation hours traveling.
It might not be fun, but travel contains “the secret tonic of creativity,” according to Jonah Lehrer in The San Francisco Panorama, the newest print journalistic experiment by McSweeney’s (and reprinted on Lehrer’s blog). The distance provided by travel, and the cultural differences that people are forced to encounter, have tangible cognitive benefits. Travelers are often more creative, and putting some distance between you and your problems makes them easier to solve. The research Lehrer cites gives credence to what Thomas Jefferson wrote more than 200 years ago: “Traveling makes men wiser, but less happy.”