In September 2013, Julia Zimmermann and Franz Neyer published a paper called, “Do we become a different person when hitting the road? Personality development of sojourners”. Study participants fell into two groups: longer-term travellers and non-travellers. All participants were tested for, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness and Emotional Stability. Participants who then spent time overseas scored higher in all areas when retested. In fact, the longer they travelled, the higher the scores.
The largest study of its kind confirms what most travellers know implicitly: travel changes you.Long-term travel is an experiment in self-development.The wanderers of the world often begin their journey loaded down by baggage but over time, the load lightens. It becomes apparent that to enjoy the journey they simply need to let things go. As the external baggage lightens, so does the internal baggage. They let go of prejudice, and preconceived ideas, ignorance and fears. Any long-term journey is also one of internal geography.
The traveller’s mind-set is a way of seeing and approaching the world, whether that world is local or not. We don’t need to be nomadic to raise travellers. Each child can be raised to think like a traveller without ever leaving home. One of my favourite travellers, Henry David Thoreau once said of his hometown, “I have travelled a lot in Concord.”
My son, Indy and I travelled in Concord. We swam in Walden Pond. It was one of our countless adventures together. But like Thoreau, you can be a traveller at home. You can raise your children to think like a traveller at home. Great travellers aren’t born from a list of countries they tick off, but from the way they engage with the world around them, wherever they are.
My new series, The Lost Girls sprang from my desire to share the travel experience with young people. More teens travel internationally now than ever before, so this series encourages the reader to think about travel as more than just two plane trips and a destination squeezed in-between. These stories show that travel isn’t just about external geography, but that the journey is internal too. Each of the characters is experiencing a profound inner journey as they discover who they are as young adults, free from school, and at the cusp of the rest of their lives.
For those teens who haven’t travelled, reading books about travel is a way for them to experience difference cultures, places and experiences. I have a long history with Japan, and a great love for the country, and I hope that is conveyed in Fish out of Water. I hope through the pages in the book, young readers can sense my love for Japan and perhaps foster dreams of travelling there themselves one day.
Augustine of Hippo said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” And he’s right. But during those times you can’t travel the world, then why not read about travelling the world? Why not go travelling with the Lost Girls, from the comfort of home?
Jane Tara is the author of five novels and over eighty children’s books, many written under the name Jane Hinchey. She’s an award-winning playwright and travel writer, published in dozens of magazines around the world. An avid traveller, she has lived in Tokyo, London, Vienna, New York and various parts of Australia. She currently lives in Bondi Beach, Sydney, with her two sons. Jane’s new series The Lost Girls merges her love of contemporary YA and travel. She can be contacted via her website or Facebook. You can also find her on instagram at @RUALostGirl