Unforgettable vacations

Traveling is a life-changing experience, it’d be a shame to forget it once you return home. Source: Kal Loftus/Unsplash

CAN you remember what you had for dinner three nights ago? Most people can’t.

And that’s okay. It probably wasn’t significant and therefore doesn’t hold a prized place in your memory.

However, if you think about your favorite vacation, you can probably recall a memory in a few seconds.

That’s because “Travel memories hold a special place in our autobiographical memory,” explained University of Zurich neuropsychologist Professor Lutz Jäncke.

Jäncke was commisioned by Swiss International Air Lines to carry out “The Memory Experiment” which studied how people recalled memories from their vacation.

The experiment concluded that most of the 30 participants aged between 18 and 80 could recall their favorite vacation in vivid detail pretty much instantly.

But unlike when they were asked about their recent dinners, the participants were given stimuli such as playlists and images, when talking about a vacation.

Images are the most significant stimuli for remembering a vacation, “Our sense of sight plays a key role because evolution has made us that way,” added Jäncke.

“Visual information is particularly important to humans and is prioritized in terms of processing.”

Jäncke also explained that storytelling could reveal complex experiences and bring distant memories leaping to the forefront of our minds.

“During such a conversation, we activate our memories, refresh them and give them a new status as we re-order them within our memory.”

Memories are also attached to emotions and the sense of carefree abandon we experience when we’re on vacation.

As our emotions heighten our memories intensify. “This is because emotional stimulation releases hormones and neurotransmitters such as noradrenaline and adrenaline, which promote the development of synaptic connections,” added Jäncke.

In simpler terms, these chemical reactions allow us to remember scary situations as clearly as we remember getting married, having children, and experiencing the vacation of a lifetime.

A holistically positive and relaxed mood can also create unforgettable memories.

What’s so essential about recalling vacation memories?

Vacation memories can flag up areas of emotional support in our life experiences and provide a framework to enable us to organize many of our other memories.

The ability to recall pin-sharp, colorful and sometimes sound-containing memories like laughter or singing birds can allow us to momentarily relive our experiences.

This provides us with a sense of reward, much like scratching an itch or satisfying hunger.

The renowned memory psychologist Daniel Schacter once summarized the importance of our memories by explaining, “We are our memories.”

Meaning that our travel memories account for a large segment of our personalities and without them, we’d be a lot duller.

So, what can you do to ensure you can relive your favorite traveling memories again and again for decades to come?

1. Take your time

According to Jäncke, during a vacation, you should take five to 10 minutes a day to consciously engage with a situation or moment.

This could be sitting on a beach and counting the waves rolling into the shore. Or perhaps laying in a park breathing in the sweet scent of the meadow flowers.

2. Create memory networks

While you’re in an unfamiliar setting use your imagination to create storylines for passersby.

For example, if you’re sat in a cafe, make an effort to observe those around you, what they might be doing with their day, whether they’re tourists too or on a date.

This process gives your mind something to leap back to when you’re trying to remember the fantastic cake you ordered there.

3. Write your memories down

If it’s good enough for our ancient ancestors, it’s good enough for us. But forget about inscribing cave walls, we have fancy notepads nowadays.

Keeping a travel journal is one of the best ways to remember specific emotions and the most intriguing occurrences from your travels.

4. You’ve got mail

Mailing a postcard to yourself can instantly transport you back to where you were when you wrote it, how you felt at the time, and perhaps even what you were sipping as you spelled out, “I never want to come home.”

5. Travel brag to your heart’s content

Talking about your travel experiences keeps them alive and fresh in your mind.

The more interesting your stories are, the more your friends will want to hear them. And the more you tell them, the more vivid and detailed they’ll become.

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