Sunday, February 19, 2012

Are you a right-brained traveler?

To Michelangelo, the left hand meant life.
I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about being lefthanded while growing up. Raised in a house full of righthanders, I simply adapted to  unfriendly can openers and blister-causing scissors and got on with life.
Life as a lefty, though, meant drawing a certain amount of flack. And flack is fuel for stubborn individualism.
For 1 in 10 people (a number consistent through history and all cultures), being lefthanded (and thus predominantly right-brained) has generally meant being chided for daydreaming, considered clumsy, nonconformist, possibly criminal, definitely different.
Right-brainers live in the vivid moment.
Reading Rik Smits' book The Puzzle of Lefthandedness (2011) makes me glad I wasn't born to a tribe that crippled lefty children's dominant hands with fire to force them to use their right, or live in a time that deemed lefthandedness "sinister" and equated it with magic and witchcraft. Who wouldn't be a recluse or rebel if everyone you met made the sign of the cross?
The book's a great romp through history, superstition and science. Smits concludes that swimming against the tide of  90% of humanity in fundamental ways of thinking makes lefthanders self-reliant and independent, attributes that made me a determined solo traveler while still in my teens.
Work - much of it secretarial (the QWERTY keyboard is one of the rare tools that favors lefthanded users) - had one purpose: to fund missions to see my personal grails. Wide-eyed and strangely unworried, I pursued my obsessions like Super Mario, full blast, leaping obstacles as they rose in an era before the safety net of cellphones, internet access, ATMs or easy overseas dialing for a parental bailout.
Exercising your left brain is definitely a good idea, too.
These days, I plan more but still often find trip inspiration in a single painting, building, artist bio, old photo, film, fairytale illustration, myth, legend, even the occasional nursery rhyme.
But when it comes to travel, left-brainers may be better at making it happen. Logic, time management, finance and planning skills go a long way towards turning an idea into reality. And coming up with ways to turn costly "vacations" into viable travel-related businesses.
But do right-brainers (and you don't have to be lefthanded to be predominantly right-brained) get more out of it? 
I believe travel is addictive because it stirs and satisfies the creative, emotional, sensation-seeking right brain in all of us. Every step we take frames new pictures. New smells, tastes, even atmospheric conditions, rivet our attention in the moment. The rocking of a train, even the disorienting twilight of an overnight flight through multiple time zones, eases us into a meditative state that quiets our thoughts, makes our minds more receptive, allows us to feel, not just observe.
Travel is a direct ticket past your corpus collosum into the vivid, dreamy realm of your right brain. Whether you maintain permanent residence there or just visit from time to time, it's a groovy place to find yourself.
Yeah, baby! (Ad by Shalmor Avnon Amichay)


  1. This is a very interesting topic. This is good stuff to know and now I understand why my brother does a majority of the things much differently than me.
    Going to continue to do more research on this topic.

  2. Things are getting clearer (and more colorful)! :D

  3. Interesting to note that lefty Michelangelo actually embedded brain imagery /neuroanatomy in the Sistine Chapel:

  4. Life definitely seems to look more colourful as a lefty.