Sensory Travel – how to make your holiday memories last longer

Once in a while we might get a whiff of a certain aroma or eat a particular dish that instantly brings a wave of nostalgia about a holiday. For me this is always the scent of the salty air by the sea, that always reminds me of growing up by the coast as well as my first long haul holiday with my now husband, to Antigua and Barbuda, where he proposed almost 10 years ago.

I recently had this memory evoked when I was in Santorini, an island surrounded by the beautiful azure Aegean Sea, and smelling that wonderful scent of the sea brought back such happy memories for me.

Similarly drinking a well made classic Mojito triggers memories about Havana, Cuba for me, as it is there where I possibly had the best Mojito of my life! Every time I enjoy a mojito it really puts a smile on my face and brings that unforgettable memory of Cuba to the forefront of my mind.

Interestingly for both of those trips, social media wasn’t quite as popular as it is now and so I did spend more time awakening my senses and experiencing both places through sight and smell, as I wasn’t overly obsessed with getting that perfect Instagram shot, as Instagram didn’t even exist then! Smartphones weren’t even the same as they are now, and the photo quality was rubbish and so I mainly used a camera back then. For instance, not only did I just smell the Mojito, I tasted the lime, the sugar syrup, the rum and the scent of Havana all around me, which is why I think its such a prominent memory for me.

The concept behind sensory travel is that certain senses trigger certain travel memories and according to a team of Oxford University experts, there is a correlation between the length of time memories stay fresh in your brain with how many of your senses were awakened and experiencing it at the time. This means that in order to have stronger travel memories for longer, you need to try and awaken all your senses whilst away on holiday. This is based on research lead by experimental psychologist and renowned Oxford University sensory expert Professor Charles Spence.

“When we watch something unfold from behind a lens, we’re not truly living and sensing the experience. Smartphones can prevent us from creating fully-fledged memories as capturing a picture only really engages one of the senses – sight. It’s only by really engaging with our experiences on holiday through all of our senses that we can hope to process all the stimulating information to lay down the sorts of memories that will last, and that will be easier to retrieve.” Professor Charles Spence.

This is so so true, and on a recent trip to Bali, I feel like I truly experienced the holiday with all of my senses, especially when I visited the rice paddies. The sight of those lush green rice terraces combined with the fresh smell of harvest all around is embedded in my mind, and such a strong travel memory for me, and I attribute it to immersing myself in my surroundings, and taking it all in over a decent amount of time, rather than just taking a quick shot and moving on to the next thing.

“Scientific evidence is clear in suggesting the more of our senses we stimulate, the more robust the multisensory memory that is formed. Technology keeps our eyes occupied, but while it plays to our dominant visual sense, it fails to connect with our more emotional senses.” Charles Spence.

You can watch the following film which features two artists that have synaesthesia, alongside psychologist and sensory expert Professor Charles Spence, and explores their sensory stimulating experience at a TUI Sensatori resort.

How I will adapt my future travel to make the most of sensory travel

My primary job is to be a full time food and travel blogger and so I do spend a lot of time behind my camera lens shooting images. I do want my memories to last longer and so I am going to be mindful about awakening my other senses too, by taking the time to notice what is around me, the scents, colours, aromas, and try and let those memories be vivid in the future.

TUI understands that the senses play a crucial part in storing and reliving holiday memories, with scent a particularly potent trigger. In addition, scientific research also shows that picking up a pencil and drawing defining moments is an effective way of reminiscing. With this in mind, as journalling is something I do every day, I am going to try and also draw out some of my holiday memories, as it is thought that this will make them last longer.These are also tips that Professor Charles Spence has proposed to lock in holiday memories for longer.

I also took the TUI Sensorialist quiz to find out  how in tune I was with my senses. You can have a go and get the chance to win an exclusive all-inclusive 7 night holiday to a Sensatori resort in Rhodes. To access the quiz, visit the website here.

You can find out more about Tui Sensatori Luxury holidays here.

I would love to know your thoughts about sensory travel and whether you have experienced certain smells or seen something that has brought memories back for you. Let me know in the comments below xx

Disclaimer: This blog post is a sponsored post in collaboration with TUI Sensatori. TUI Sensatori provides the ultimate luxury holiday experience where all of their five-star resorts are carefully and purposely designed to fuel the senses. All photos and views are my own.



About Binny

Hi, I'm Binny - a writer, dreamer and serial wanderluster with a love for Wildlife Conservation. I am originally from Kenya but I now live in London. 'Karibu' to Binny's Food and Travel! I regularly share my experiences eating out, cooking and travelling, both in the UK and globally, as well as educate on the plight of Wildlife. I am an ambassador for World Animal Protection and regularly support the work of The Born Free Foundation, Four Paws and Dreams Come True Charity. I love packing my bags and going off on adventures as one of the best things about travelling is the ability to just get lost in it. To set aside the maps and itineraries and just see where the road takes you, learning and evolving and living in the moment along the way. It's my goal to get swept off my feet as often as possible!

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  1. This makes so much sense – I mean how often are people ignoring their surrounds to share their ‘perfect holiday’ on social media these days!?

    Posted 5.5.18 Reply
  2. Laura wrote:

    That is so true, certain foods often transport me back to a holiday or a happy memory from a place we have visited.

    Posted 5.15.18 Reply
  3. Marguerite wrote:

    Interesting fact – smells so often bring back powerfully vivid memories, and apparently it’s because the part of our brain relating to smell is right next door to the part of our brain relating to memory!

    Posted 5.28.18 Reply
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