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I love travelling. It is a great way to unwind, enjoy myself, get to know new cultures and in general broaden my horizons. Even when travelling just to a beach destination, I like to combine the trip with a cultural part visiting towns and landscapes.

In that sense, this summer’s trip has been very complete. I loved Croatia. It offers spectacular landscapes, striking cliffs, beautiful beaches, lovely villages, towns with interesting history and Croatian people are lovely.

Dubrovnik, Split, Prevlaka
Dubrovnik, Split, Prevlaka

A friend gave me tips on what to visit in the Dalmatian region and how many days to spend in each place, and from there we organised our trip. In addition to the purely tourist stuff of visiting towns, islands, nature reserves and taking delight in the landscapes, we had the opportunity to chat with some local people about the country’s situation, their relations with the neighbouring countries of former Yugoslavia, and the war of less than quarter of a century ago. One realises that those who caused the war should have born in mind this post’s title, as expanding your horizons means being better informed and accepting others you consider different. Yugoslavia used to be a country where different cultures and religions coexisted. As one shop assistant told us: I do not care whether my neighbour is muslim, I care about whether he is a good person.

Another very personal way of broadening my horizons, being crazy about languages, is learning some words and sentences of the local language. Although the natives are very tourism-oriented and speak several languages, it is pleasing that somebody takes the trouble to say something in their language. And that without mentioning the personal pride, when you manage to ask the lady at the fruit stand for some grapes and actually understand her when she tells you the price, or when you manage to order food at a restaurant. A girl attending to a stand selling boat excursions was dumbfounded when I told her my phone number in Croatian and we had a great laugh over it. These are little moments that just stick in my mind.

Collage Croacia

Krka, Plitvice, Sibenik

But in order to broaden your horizons, it is not necesarry to travel abroad or learn foreign languages, if that is not your cup of tea. Going to the beach, to the mountains, visiting a new spot in your country during a weekend get-away also help you get out of the routine. There are scientific studies which prove the benefits of travelling. Scientists of the Technical University of Hong Kong concluded that it helps to improve your attitude, life perspectives, social skills, to feel more energy and be more confident about making decisions.

José Manuel Castaño, lecturer at Madrid’s University Rey Juan Carlos and author of the book “Social psychology of travelling and tourism” said in an interview to Spanish magazine Muy Interesante that travelling, apart from improving the knowledge of other cultures, helps to develop confidence and self-esteem and even makes us better consumers. I might add that travelling also increase your acceptance of other cultures or mindsets.

An article in the Spanish magazine Muy Interesante on why travelling makes you feel good says that travelling and getting to know other languages and cultures also increases creativity, reduces stress and makes us happier. It is shown that new and gratifying experiences stimulate the growth our new neural links, quite the opposite to stress which destroys them.

But as one cannot always travel, there are other options to expand your horizons and be happier. Why not re-discover your home town visiting its sights, museums, parks and other spots of interest and learn something about its history? No doubt, there are spots that have gone unnoticed or others you do not even remember because you visited them ages ago.

Another favourite hobby of mine is reading. What better way to broaden your horizons than reading about topics helping you improve as a person or as a professional, or diving into stories of characters who get you caught up in their world.

And let us not forget personal relations. Meeting with family, friends, acquaintances to catch up, talk about your holidays (especially at this time of the year), exchange ideas, tell each other how your day, week, month has gone… chat about plans, dreams, ideas, talk nonsense or even share your sorrows. All this also helps us strengthen neural links, reduce stress and feel happier.

Last but not least, there are some very easy life-hacks which help keep an agile mind, break out of the routine and increase happiness: learn or do something new every day. You may ask “Every day? I don’t have time.”
But there are actually quite some ways which do hardly take up time or just mean varying your existing routine a little:

  • Read about a new subject
  • Go to a new place, even if it is just walking by the restaurant you usually have lunch at and going a bit further to try out another one.
  • Try out a new recipe for dinner.
  • Try a new class at the gym
  • Slightly change your way to work or back home. It may sound silly, but even this helps create new neural links and thus strengthen your brain.

There are many ways to broaden your horizons, learn and grow as a person. And the jackpot? While you’re at it you will feel better and increase your happiness!