The results of a new study support what most travelers, including the late Mark Twain, have always known to be true: Traveling abroad makes you a more trusting, empathetic and open-minded person.
What many travelers might not realize, however, is it is not how long you stay in a particular country or how many months you spend on the road that is key, it’s the amount of countries and foreign cultures you expose yourself to while abroad that has the greatest impact. In other words, the more countries you visit, the more open-minded and trusting you’ll become.
The Northwestern University researchers behind the study were big fans of the Mark Twain quote “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime”, which Mr Twain wrote in his book Innocents Abroad.
The researchers decided to test Twain’s theory – does travel really cure narrow-mindedness? – and did so across five different studies. The five studies involved a total of 700 participants (both American and Chinese)
The Surprising Findings
* Breadth (the number of countries visited) seemed to have more of an impact than depth (the length of time abroad). The results showed that those who’d traveled to multiple countries were more trusting (I.e, they had developed “charitable views of men”) than those who may have spent several years abroad but who had only experienced one or two foreign cultures.
* People who visited countries whose cultures were vastly different from their own tended to be more trusting than those who had visited countries that were similar to their home country.
Apparently “seeing more of the world may be as or more important than spending a longer period of time seeing less of it”, according to the lead researcher Jiyin Cao.