Taking a road trip, or most other forms of travel for that matter, is good for your brain health because you are constantly exposed to novelty (assuming you don’t keep on taking the same trip). And we know from previous research (see this post on enriched environment) that novelty increases brain health by promoting neurogenesis.
A trip gets you out of your normal day to day routine. You see new things, and are hopefully open to see things differently.
Additionally, if it is the type of trips I enjoy it includes some exercise (which also increases neurogenesis) be it biking, hiking, running, or just a good deal of walking. On my recent road trip I was getting about 1.5 hours every day of biking in as I explored a lake desert each day. On past trips to Europe I found one of the best ways to really explore a new city was walking everywhere. See all the tourist stuff, but also get to explore all the stuff in between if on foot. Now of course it is not possible to explore all cities by walking exclusively, but try to reduce the use of other forms of transportation – you really get a feel for the area when walking about compared to bus, driving, or taxi.
One other side note, maybe I am not aging quite as fast as I thought I was. Normally long drives put me to sleep. When I was in my early 20s 2-3 hours in the passenger seat or driver seat would put me into full sleep mode. I had a friend who could drive all day (and most of the night) while I was done after 3 hours. On my recent trip I managed 11 hours and 1,100 km of solo driving. I was pretty happy with my average km/hr which included fueling, eating (minimal) and bathroom breaks, and I wasn’t speeding (never more than 8 km over the limit when had to get by traffic – the last thing I needed was a speeding ticket).
So I hope all of you take time out of your busy work life to take trips – explore new worlds, see new things, see things differently – and increase your neurogenesis.
To a healthier brain.