Dr. Michael Brein, The Travel Psychologist Dr. Michael Brein, The Travel Psychologist

Dr. Michael Breinís Travel Psychology FAQ

Q. What is the psychology of travel?
A. Travel psychology is the study and application of knowledge about the human mind and behavior specifically to the activity of traveling. Culture shock, for example, is an issue that people struggle with when coming to terms with the typical psychological unknowns that they must understand when immersing themselves in a foreign country for a longer period of time.
Q. What is so important about travel psychology, then?
A. Travel is one of life's major activities engaged in by millions of people who go between different cultures for the purpose of business, education, service or pleasure. For example, while we feel relatively safe and secure in our comfort zones at home, we are largely unconscious of much that goes on around us in a completely new culture.
Q. So what?
A. Like all human activity, travel can impact our lives in good and wonderful as well as bad and horrible ways. Travel psychology can help us maximize the good and minimize the bad in travel. Sometimes being more conscious or aware of our surroundings can be a lifesaver!
Q. Why do you call yourself "The Travel Psychologist?"
A. I have made the psychology of travel my particular life-long specialty to help others improve the quality of their travel-lives. For example, by studying the experiences of nearly 1,500 world travelers over three decades, I have learned what helps and what hinders in coping with our intercultural experiences overseas.
Q. What makes you qualified to do this?
A. I have earned a Ph.D. in social psychology at the University of Hawaii with a concentration in a variety of subjects having to do with many aspects of the intercultural travel experience. I have also worked in tourism and even worked as a psychologist for the Peace Corps.
Q. Subjects such as?
A. Intercultural communication; national character; culture shock; non-verbal communication; adjustment of the sojourner, and many more travel-related topics.
Q. What other life-experiences contribute to your expertise?
A. I have done extensive world travel, interviewing hundreds of people while on the road; spent considerable time in other countries; am widely read; speak a number of languages, and have spoken with some of the widest-traveled and most travel-savvy people in the world about the psychological aspects of traveling.
Q. What do you do as a travel psychologist?
A. I mainly write these days. But I am available to speak and consult on the subject of travel psychology. I help prepare, for example, US business people who are being transferred to a country with a very different culture and language - such as Guatemala. I helped train Peace Corps volunteers for their overseas stint in the Pacific island kingdom of Tonga.
Q. What do you write?
A. I am writing a book on the psychology of travel, tentatively titled: Traveling: the Everyday Psychology of Travel and Adventure.
Q. What is that about?
A. It's a book about the impact of travel on the human psyche. I explore nearly 200 psychological themes that weave their way through the travel stories of more than 1,500 world travelers. For example, I cover such topics as bad, dangerous, and frightening encounters and how travelers avoid and deal with them. I have amassed a treasure-trove of close calls, chases and escapes from danger.
Q. Why read other people's travel stories?
A. People who have experienced both the good and bad of travel have much valuable information to share with others. For instance, how they maximize the good and minimize the bad of travel can have tremendous impact on our own travel experiences. And, let's face it: reading travel tales is simply fun! You wouldn't believe the incredible stories people have told me about their travels!
Q. Such as?
A. My interviews with hundreds of people who have survived pick-pocketing, muggings, and harassments of all kinds have resulted in all sorts of invaluable travel-life lessons that can be passed on to others. Hassles with soldiers, police, border officials, sexual harassment of women traveling alone are just a few of the difficult and possibly life-threatening situations that all travelers may potentially face. There is valuable wisdom in learning how others deal with these confrontations.
Q. So why would I want to learn about the psychology of travel?
A. If I can help you to avoid or reduce the anxieties, fears and dangers involved in some kinds of world travel, well, this is a good thing, isn't it? And if I can show you how to get into some good things while traveling, won't this impact your travel-life as well?
Q. Traveling is sometimes very scary and intimidating, isn't it?
A. You betcha! Leaving the comfort, safety and security of your home environment for the unknown can be VERY threatening. Anything that helps with this is very useful. For example, if I can summarize for you how more than 100 people have dealt with being pick-pocketed, you can certainly learn and apply some very valuable lessons.
Q. Can't I just figure things out for myself when traveling?
A. Of course you can-and this is one of the great challenges of travel. But, sometimes, some very bad things can happen to you, seemingly at the speed of light! You only have so much time and personal resources to help you cope at any given moment. Like all knowledge, learning and thinking about such things in advance can often be a life-saver!
Q. You mentioned that you are available to speak or consult. On what?
A. One of my more popular topics is safety, security and survival while traveling overseas. I can speak on a variety of topics, customized to the interests of a particular audience.
Q. Have you written anything else in the field of travel?
A. I publish the world's first and only travel guide series to sightseeing and traveling on your own by public transportation in a variety of the world's most visited cities.
Q. What's this got to do with travel psychology?
A. Well, I do other things besides being 'The Travel Psychologist'! You know… when people tell you bike-riding helps you see so much more than driving?… my guides get you close to the people and everyday life so that you can fully experience the impact of another culture - something you could never get if you traveled only in super-sized, insulated, sterile tour buses.
Q. Where do your interests in travel psychology take you?
A. I am also interested in the potential contact experience that will eventually take place between earthlings and alien visitors from space (if it has not possibly already occurred!). I am the Ambassador-at-Large for MUFON, the largest UFO research organization in the western world.



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