Category: Travelpsychology

The paradox of choice


I’m sitting in front of my laptop, researching all the places to go and all the amazing cultures to explore. I look up fares for flights to different continents, different dates and different cities within a country. I venture through all the accommodation sites; comparing the possible hostels, hotels or Airbnb places. After days of research, you know where I end up traveling and spending the night? Nowhere.

I’m trying to decide what I want to study and what kind of profession I want to have when I graduate. I end up deciding to study psychology and try to find a job as some kind of community or social worker. I made a choice. But what do I get? Doubt. Insecurities. Dissatisfaction with my final decisions.

What’s at the base of these results of not making any choice at all or being unhappy after finally deciding to stick to one thing? The abundance of choices.

In “The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less” Barry Schwartz explains why the increase of options leads to less satisfaction with our decision or may cause paralyses which results in making no choice at all. This all feels contradictory with the modern idea that freedom of choice and being able to make your own decision about what you buy, how you look, your way of life, your partner and everything else is the ultimate goal and what makes us happy. Of course, there is some truth in the idea that having choices has a positive impact. It is linked to our sense of autonomy, which is one of the basic human needs (something I explained in previous blogposts) and fundamental to our happiness.

“Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder.
And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.”
― Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

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Coming back is not the same as never leaving – the hardest part of studying abroad

Studying abroad. Leaving your safe nest to move away for 6 months, maybe a year, maybe longer. Most of the students at this point are still dependent on their parents or financial aid. The majority of the expats isn’t used to fixing problems themselves, keeping their finances in check and figuring everything out on their own. It’s not their fault, our student years are supposed to be carefree before we have to dive into the real, working world. But suddenly you’re dropped in a strange city and while they promise you can rely on the support of the university, in reality you’re on your own. Some get lost for a little while. Others love the freedom and just roll with the punches. What if I told you that taking the big step and moving to a different country isn’t the hardest part of studying abroad? What if I told you having to leave again and moving back ‘home’ is way worse?

“Coming back is not the same as never leaving.” – Terry Pratchett

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Fear Of Missing Out: are you travelling for the right reasons?

That fear of missing out on things makes you miss out on everything.
-Etty Hillesum 

In my blogpost about Porto, I mentioned I have some sort of fear of missing out. This fear is defined as a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent and is characterized by the desire to stay constantly connected with what others are doing. Another source defines it as the fear of regret, which I think is more in line with what I’m experiencing. I choose not to use the abbreviation FOMO because it makes me think of Yolo and then I just can’t take it serious anymore.

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An ode to Porto

This is going to be a completely different blogpost than the last one. Like I previously said, I recently went to Porto for 3 days and I wanted to share my experience here! This isn’t going to be a typical, touristic resume of all the places I went to or the must see attractions. I traveled to Porto without any expectations. I didn’t look up anything beforehand and had no idea what to expect. The only thing I knew was that it was a 2,5 hour flight from Brussels (which would probably get a delay, which it did), the sun would be shining and I could use some of the Portuguese I learned in Brazil. I was kind of counting on my Brazilian friend (who had been to Porto before) to be our guide and just enjoy the adventure as it comes. I feel like this mindset has brought me more of an authentic experience in a new city than being fixed on an agenda and on a certain idea of how the weekend should look like.

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But what is it, travel psychology?

Welcome (back)!

Maybe I started a bit too excited with my introduction and first blogpost. I decided to dive right in instead of thinking it through a bit further and providing you with additional background information. Because that is me; spontaneous. Sometimes a bit impulsive. That’s why you might find some spelling mistakes from time to time (yes, I can use this personality trait as an excuse!) But it’s truly how I am though. If a new, adventurous opportunity arises, I would grab it with both hands the minute it does… And then I’ll start to think about it and realize maybe it’s not such a great idea…
I experience this in every aspect of my life. When I see something tasty to eat, I can’t control myself. When I see somebody juggling or slacklining, I want to learn it too! These two last things are two examples of things I did stick with. Most of the time, I get excited for a few moments, maybe days and then I rationalize it and put the enthusiasm aside. I can’t seem to find the time and courage to actually go through with it. So while I am impulsive in my reactions, I overthink everything. And in the end, I take very little action and sometimes end up regretting this.

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l’appel du vide – the attraction to and fear of high places. And falling from them.

Here we go with the first real post!

A few weeks ago, I went to Porto with my best friend to meet up with a Brazilian guy we hadn’t seen since our adventure in Recife last summer. I will cover this short trip in another blogpost but a conversation I had on the last night got me thinking.

I was standing on the Ponte Dom Luiz at night, looking out over the stars, the lights all around and the river far below us. Our dancing, Uruguayan guide (who didn’t know his way around btw) told us he couldn’t look up at the stars. He said that it would make him dizzy and there was a chance he would fall, a feeling he described as ‘vertigo’. The word sounded vaguely familiar and after looking it up, it means a sense of dizziness and the feeling that your surroundings are whirling around you. The guy linked it to an attraction to and at the same time a fear of heights, in particular falling from high places. It’s the feeling you get when standing at the edge of a cliff or on top of a tall building, suddenly getting the urge to just leap over. You’d think the internet can give an answer to everything but somehow it couldn’t really reveal a link between vertigo and this feeling. It did lead me to “l’appel du vide”, a French term that can be translated to “the call of the void”. The sensation the guy was talking about, could be described as the simultaneous desire to move towards and away from the void.

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Welcome to un(t)raveling the mind!

Well hello there! You’re the first people who wandered into my blog!
I’m very curious which magic way led you to this moment…

But first: welcome, welcome to the next chapter of my life!
I am Renate, 22 years old and living in Belgium (some people refer to it as a city but it really is a country! A tiny one, that’s true). I am currently finishing my Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and just ended my internship in a special youth care facility. This means that in a few months, I’ll officially be a psychologist! This also means I have some big decisions ahead and I have no idea what I’m going to do or where I am going to end up. The only thing I know is that I love two things: the human mind and traveling. Okay no, it would be quite sad to only love two things. Maybe writing too. And music. And food, lots of food. And staying up with random people, talking about the meaning of life and suddenly realizing it’s morning. And stars. And nature. And singing along with very bad songs. But mostly the first two. So I figured; what better way than to combine my two passions into a blog?!

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