Miami. Paris. Costa Rica. Fiji. New York. The places you could see once you step out your door are endless—places that exceed your expectations and that seem painted by mere imagination. Many of us crave to be wanderers and explore the earth inch by inch and others simply love the idea of getting away from the mundane rituals of everyday to breathe and renew their energies. Whether dancing in Carnaval in Brazil, swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, floating in the Dead Sea or sipping whiskey in a Tennessee rodeo, traveling allows us the opportunity of momentarily being whoever we choose and most importantly, seeing how the rest of us —in different corners of the world—live and love. We become witnesses, journalists and sociologists who observe, analyze and imprint what we see into our mental notebooks and psyches; we marvel. In this way, traveling can be an essential part of life and an ingredient for strong mental health.
On the other hand, there is mental time travel. According to new research, the brain's ability to maintain simultaneous awareness of the past, present and future, is called chronesthesia. During our lives, we travel back and forth between these cognitive states in order to make sense of who we are and who we would like to become. During moments of psychological crises, it is more likely that we remain stuck in the past or fearful of the future. When in session, we are asking our patients to trust us, travel with us through pain, hopes and relive memories. As therapists, we are fully aware that being in the present is the best place to be, but we too are just as human as the rest and also fall into the trap of this psychological “travel.” Neuroscientists found that this is due to the chemical composition of our brain structure that seems to cause us to emphasize on the past and present, rather than the future. This is the ultimate proof that we are all indeed fellow travelers of life’s inducing anxiety (and often paralysis) in the march towards tranquility and authentic happiness.
In sum, we must be cognizant of the power of travel and the role it plays on our psyche, history, and behavior (and those of our patients). Being that traveling is a unique method of self-interpretation and introspection, we must take advantage of the lessons the world can place before our eyes and in our hands and appreciate the people we meet and admire along the way.
Stephanie Dargoltz is a bilingual counselor who works at a private practice in South Florida with children, adolescents, and adults. Her interests include Sport Psychology/Counseling and plans to pursue these careers in the near future.