5 Tips for Tranquil Holiday Travel
Personality research offers insights that can help us travel with ease.
Posted Oct 30, 2018
As the holiday season approaches, here are some timely tips on how to use our understanding of personality to maximize comfort and minimize stress from seasonal travel. When we visit family, family-of-choice, or friends, paying attention to differences in personality can be helpful. I offer the OCEAN (5-Factor) model of personality as a way of thinking about our individual differences when it comes to journeying away from home.
- Openness. Some people are eager to try what is new, to venture into the unknown, or, in the extreme, to reject what is familiar, finding it boring and routine. They prefer change over adapting past experiences to present conditions. Those who score high on Openness often approach travel with a search for discovery, even the exotic. Those low on this continuum can be loath to change a destination or activity. For them, neither location nor the nature of a gathering nor the details—time, foods to be offered, people included—none are up for grabs. They find comfort in that which is known and can become irritated when the specifics are modified without warning.
Source: RonnyK/Pixabay (CC0)
- Extroversion. Those who are highly extroverted are probably the happiest about holiday gatherings and—true to style—the more, the merrier. With their love of groups and their diversity, they can thrive when unknown guests appear at the table or simply stop in to say hello. They get their energy from interacting with others and are likely to become more and more animated as time passes. In contrast, those who are more introverted might do well to reread Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. The effort they must exert to deal with more than a small number of people at once leaves them easily exhausted. They replenish their wells from the inside, through quiet time or meditation, perhaps connecting to nature. They find holidays that involve a lot of people, especially people who are new to them, stressful. While extroverts may delight in the casual relationships formed at rest stops, in airports, on trains, the introvert wants to duck in and out of public places as quickly as possible. They may need to sit quietly, perhaps alone, at a table and read their book or listen to their music. Finding a protected cubicle may be heaven.
- Neuroticism. Those high in neuroticism are generally fearful, holding expectations that difficulties will inevitably arise. Even worse, they may be uncertain that they will be able to cope with the demands that those challenges might call for. Because their concerns are rooted in beliefs, they can be hard to budge. Pointing out the realities or pleasant aspects of a situation falls on deaf ears. They are worriers. Empirical data are irrelevant; anticipated disasters can lurk behind each real or imagined moment. Those who are very low in neuroticism may fail to rise to an occasion, retreating instead into “la belle indifference” and a belittling of those who are trying to solve a problem. Resolving differences between these two extremes can be a challenge on any trip.
Personality reflects the maturation of biologically-based temperament. By taking the time to know one's self and one’s travel companion(s), whether through the lens of personality or the more specific somatically-based temperament, we can approach holiday travel with mindfulness, negotiate strategies for anticipated (or unexpected) challenges, and have backup plans when one traveler finds the trip enervating rather than enriching, destructive rather than broadening. An expanded set of coping skills can become the gift you give yourself for the year to come.
Cain, Susan. (2012). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Crown Publishing.