Explore the science of travel

As a photographer and co-founder of the beloved travel community and publication Tiny Atlas Quarterly, Emily Nathan has made a career out of exploring the world and capturing it. She goes beyond just pursuing picture-perfect moments and tells rich, beautiful stories that bring travel to life.

"I want to be connected to a place," Nathan said. "The more connected I am through local interactions and markets, walks and hikes, the more I will remember in a given trip."

According to Expedia’s 2016 Millennial Traveler Report, the quest for experiences and authentic connections is a hallmark of the way many young people approach travel now. "To me the point of traveling to a different place is to explore and appreciate the lives lived elsewhere apart from the world I’m familiar with," said one traveler quoted in the report. "I see it as a getaway from everyday life to learn about and do colloquial things only possible to experience in the particular place."

Traveling expands our understanding of the world. It feeds the hungry soul — and according to science, also our brains.

Navigating something new and complex stimulates new brain cell development, a process called neuroplasticity, making our minds healthier and more resilient. But researchers have suggested that genetics may also explain why some of us seem hardwired to roam. They theorize that DRD4-7R, a variant of the gene that controls levels of dopamine in the brain, may have motivated our early ancestors to migrate and thus evolve due to the correlation between elevated dopamine and a propensity for taking risks. For those of us lucky enough to have this "wanderlust gene," the greater amount of dopamine washing through our brains may be the reason we would book a spontaneous trip to New Zealand on Expedia or feel compelled to cliff dive into the Adriatic Sea.

In the 2016 book The Art of Risk: The New Science of Courage, Caution, and Chance, an anthropologist likens the genetics and calculations behind risk-taking to computer science. "To a certain extent, assessing risk is just running an algorithm in your head," he says. "People are running slightly different algorithms that help define whether or not they will take a risk. And, ultimately, over time, that one small difference in the algorithm ends up in very different lives lived."

Those computations and assessments our brains make every day essentially describe the way personality works. And that interaction of personality traits and genetic programming can inform our predisposition for traveling and the way we prefer to explore the world around us.

Before the internet, we only had our own brain algorithms to guide our explorations and calculate all the overwhelming details it takes to plan a personalized trip. In fact, finding the right trip for any traveler is one of the more complex technology problems facing data scientists today. Cue Expedia.

Now celebrating more than 20 years of matching travelers with their dream trips, Expedia’s Best Fare Search (BFS) algorithm uses data science to suggest the 1,600 best flights for every search based on factors like price and convenience. For any round trip search, BFS analyzes approximately 19 quadrillion (that’s 15 zeros, by the way) possible flight itineraries.

If you’re into hair, that’s 27 times more travel options than all the hairs on human heads. And for you astro-enthusiasts out there, that’s 734 times more than the number of miles from Earth to the closest star beyond our solar system.

When you combine the science of personality with Expedia’s power to scientifically personalize a travel experience, the possibilities you once thought to be over-complicated become limitless. Now go plug in a search — your next momentous trip is just waiting to be booked.

Watch the video below and visit the Expedia Viewfinder blog to learn more about the universe of options available on Expedia.