Wandering into wonder


A deep sense of wonder can sometimes grab hold of you when you’re watching a movie, seeing beautiful scenery for the first time, trying to prepare a difficult dish, or leaving your comfort zone and traveling. Journalist Annemiek Leclaire describes her quest for this powerful emotion.

‘We sit too long in rooms with the shutters closed’. This sentiment from British travel writer Bruce Chatwin is mentioned in the opening pages of Ap Dijksterhuis’ book Wie (Niet) Reist Is Gek (Anyone Who [Doesn’t] Travel Is Crazy; in Dutch only). Dijksterhuis is a professor of psychology at Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and loves traveling with a passion. In his view, breaking out of our comfort zone on a regular basis is therapeutic for our hearts and minds. The most natural way to do this is to travel.

‘That comfort zone is a state of rest,’ Dijksterhuis writes. ‘There’s essentially nothing wrong with that; it’s a basic human need to feel nice, safe and comfortable. The disadvantage is that if you don’t break out of this state regularly, you’ll become inactive, and the same goes for part of your brain. This causes us to be less creative and take on fewer challenges. Our regular routines ensure that we stay in that comfort zone, and the comfort zone in turn ensures that we continue to take routine actions. They reinforce one another.’

According to Dijksterhuis, new stimuli can take us out of this static state of mind. This may be in the form of movies, theater or a good conversation, but in his view, nothing is as effective as going on a trip. He believes that travel enriches our emotional repertoire. New nature, new views, different architecture, different cultural customs, other food, other people, other conversations can all lead to amazement, and this is a very useful emotion 
for our well-being.

  • Read the full story ‘Wandering into wonder’ in Issue 30.

Text Annemiek Leclaire  Photography Leio McClaren/Unsplash.com

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