India is an old country filled with fascinating sites, but I’ve been on vacation here for two weeks now and I haven’t even visited one temple. I get so bored being a spectator. What do I do in my free time? I burn new synapses.
I go on vacation, not to have fun, but rather to break from my daily routine and rejuvenate my brain. I do that by learning new things. I’m no scientist, but I’m sure that intense learning makes millions of new neural pathways and fresh synaptic connections. I call that kind of travel “neural tourism.”
There are many ways to practice neural tourism. Some of my favorites are: learning the neighborhood near my hotel; reading a local newspaper; watching the news; trying new foods. Is there a more enjoyable way to expose our brains to new tastes, smells, and sensations than eating foods from exotic destinations? Also, we learn new words.
Which leads to my favorite kind of neural tourism: learning a new language. Ten years ago, I spent two months in Paris learning French. I rode the Metro, read books, went to French conversation classes, and watched TV. No, I didn’t become fluent in French, but I did come home bursting with energy. Mission accomplished.
Any time we travel to new destinations we are practicing neural tourism, whether we realize it or not. But it’s important to think about the process; do it consciously. Don’t we get more out of any activity when we know exactly what we’re doing and why we’re doing it?
I’ll be heading home in a few weeks, along with millions of young neurons that were born in my brain here in India. And they’re clamoring to see the exotic land they’ve heard about but never seen called “Cal-ee-forn-yuh” (That’s hard for a baby neuron to pronounce). I can’t wait to show them around.
Ah, the excitement of children never gets old.