3 min read

You can slow down time with travel and novelty

Slow down time with travel and novelty

If life feels like it's wizzing past, try to add some novelty by travelling. I just spent 5 weeks as a digital nomad in Las Palmas, Spain while working on No CS Degree and High Signal but I swear it feels like I was away for 5 months instead. I've experienced this phenomenon before when I've gone abroad and added lots of novelty to my every day life.

Re-wiring your brain with novelty

Basically, by radically changing your routine your brain has to re-wire itself. Instead of doing your daily routine, seeing the same people, walking down the same street and seeing the same scenery your brain is confronted with a new neighbourhood, new people, and in my case, a foreign language. So your brain has to learn things like how to get to the store, lots of people's names while often trying to remember another language.

David Eagleman, a neuroscientist from Stanford University, describes this effect:

“In my mind there is only one way to slow time: seek novelty. The reason this works is because new experiences cause the brain to write down more memory, and then when you read that back out retrospectively, the event seems to have lasted longer"

As I was staying in a hostel, I also probably encountered 50 to 100 new people if you count every brief passing introduction. Add in another 50 or so digital nomads from meet ups, an unfamiliar city and speaking in Spanish every day, that's a lot for a person's brain to handle!

Imagine your brain having to rapidly store information for all these new people like names, what their personalities are like, how you feel about them etc. So all this extra work the brain does give you the impression that you have been abroad for longer. You can read more about the science of novelty and our brains in the awesomely named Brain World Magazine.

Meeting digital nomads in Las Palmas

How you can make time pass more slowly

The obvious answer is to inject novelty into your life by going abroad. Aside from being in a new place and speaking a different language, I also tried a lot of new activities which challenged by brain and body. I went to a bachata class (it's like salsa), I did a surfing class, I fell in love with beach volleyball, I went to lots of different meetups and met loads of new people. I also did 5 day trips across the island.

Las Palmas beach with surfers

Slowing down time without travelling

I get it- not everyone can saunter off to Spain whenever they feel like it. But you can still inject novelty without leaving your town. When you stay in the same place, it's very easy to stay in a safe routine, going to the same places, meeting the same people and doing the same hobbies.

So some suggestions from me are to try new activities, even ones you think you might be terrible at. (I was more nervous about bachata dancing than going surfing where there is always a danger you might drown!) Go to different cafes, hang out in a new part of town and find ways to meet new people you wouldn't usually meet. I meet a lot of people I wouldn't normally by going to my local parkrun.  

If you liked this article, check out my digital nomad review of Las Palmas

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