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I Really Found Myself When I Travelled Solo For The First Time

16/04/2015 3:42 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Diana Abroskina

Science Creates Happiness

When I get old, I want to remember the adventures from my youth and share them with my grandchildren in as many details as I can. Now, it is a good time to start collecting not just a number of years, but a bouquet of unforgettable moments. And here is a secret of it.

The human brain's memory is able to store up to 1,000 terabytes of data. (To picture this amount better, in the U.S. Library of Congress there stored only about 10 terabytes of data. The Human Memory) New data is created by thousands of neurons in the body, connected together, constantly sending each other signals. With every fresh experience, depending on its emotional amplitude, the brain rewires its physical structure and can memorise the moments with the highest emotional level better than others.

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A moment is a comparatively short period of time filled with excellence or conspicuousness that leaves an imprint on your life. For a moment to stay in your memory longer, it has to be filled with positive and pleasant emotions, when the sensors in the body are alert and active. The best way to start a collection of happy moments is to dive into a new country on your own, when every step of yours depends only on you, your emotions strip in the midst of adventure, and you learn yourself. A foreign environment activates all the senses and makes them work at their hundred percent capacity. Consider this next time you plan a globe-trotting adventure.

Traveling Solo Makes Your Brain Work Harder

Why do we need an unfamiliar environment to experience more emotional moments that will stay in our memory? A new environment often puts you in the situations, when you have to be double smarter, double more careful, and double more open-hearted. Having all your senses do double work activates the brain cells that used to be asleep in your home country, where you routinely do the same set of actions.

I went through this kind of brain-cell-shake on my last trip to China. It's not the farthest I could go for a lifetime adventure, but exotic enough to experience the moments I will recall for ever. Being a young woman from Russia, who spoke zero Mandarin, was not a big fan of spicy food, and barely knew how to use chopsticks, it turned out to be an emotionally thrilling journey. It was my free will to erase everything I knew in order to feel a new world with bare senses, like a child does for the first time.

I've never felt more fulfilled and satisfied with my little victories before. Here are the life lessons I've learnt that activated every neuronal cell in the body and, for sure, are stored among those hundreds of terabytes of data in my memory:

When you are on your own, the level of responsibility for your well-being increases.

The understanding of what you want becomes clearer. You are left in your own company, with your thoughts (which can be a little scary at first), so you learn how to listen to your desires. You can see yourself as a separately existing entity that needs to be taken care of to thrive.

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There's nothing more energetic and inspiring than feeling outside of your comfort zone.

Once, when I was in China, late in the evening, my phone ran out of the battery. The address, where I stayed in Shanghai, was saved on it. To get back home, I had to explain the driver where to take me. The driver understood no English and simply laughed at me, when I explained with gestures, where I needed to go. I felt helpless and desperate, and scared. He asked a couple of people in the street for help, but no one spoke any English. I began to direct him the way, street by street, trying to recall places that looked more or less familiar, after having spent four days in Shanghai. Slowly, the driver started getting aggravated.

At the crossroads, he stopped the car. I looked out of the window: the darkness of the night and the neighbourhood didn't look appealing to step out of the car. Suddenly, looking around in search for familiar objects, I saw the golden top of the temple, located near the hotel, and we headed straight there. When the cab driver dropped me off at the hotel entrance, he shook my hand, and I laughed in tears. We made it. I felt so proud. Whatever situation life puts you in, always keep calm and trust your intuition. Herman Hesse wrote "begin to listen to the teaching your blood whispers to you."

When crossing the borders of communication you learn a new way of thinking.

Visiting a foreign country and not speaking its language is as intimidating as it can be and sets up certain limits on your stay: you don't know where to go, what to eat, and how to entertain yourself. Even if you cannot communicate with local people, still give it a try to explain yourself. Don't feel hesitant to ask for directions and help. Be kind and respectful. When you feel free of inconvenience, and simply smile, people will be eager to do their best to help you enjoy your stay. In Shanghai, every time I was in the city on my own, when I needed to find my way around, I would come up only to young people, because there's a higher chance that they speak English. They would recommend me nice coffee shops or malls, or just show a direction to the closest subway station. You don't only get outside of your shell, but also learn how to talk without words and open your heart to strangers. This is a tremendous experience to live through.

You'll be surprised of the capabilities you've never thought of before.

Even though we may think we are adults, we can't possibly know every inch of ourselves. Surrounded with the monotonous environment of our day-to-day lives, we are not even closer to see what we, as personalities, really are capable of doing. Exploring yourself and discovering new traits in your character is a vital part of action-reaction process. When you face new challenges, or run into someone you never could have possibly met in your regular life - that's when your new self comes out, and your reaction can become very unexpected.

And the most important thing: you'll find out so many interesting things about your nature and desires, your ethics and food preferences, your personal traits and the people around you. You will become more aware of who you are.

There's nothing more rewarding in life, both for your self-esteem and your brain activity than to travel solo. Especially, when you are in your mid-twenties, standing at the crossroads, and still figuring out what it is like to exist on the planet Earth, in your particular body-sphere. Besides the benefits of making all the decisions on your own, more time for shopping, and less arguments about what to have for lunch, there is a whole bunch of life-changing experiences you can learn and memories you can store in the brain hard drive, when you travel alone. Try to make more moments special by being more sensitive to what's happening around.