How can you build deeper connections while traveling? It’s easier than you think!

I sometimes refer to this notion as employing the “Chemicals of Connection” (the hormones your body produces that make you feel better). When you feel better, you connect more easily. The best part, we can learn how to make those hormones flow and work to our benefit!

Last week my blog was focused on setting goals for a Heritage Journey to your child’s birth country – potentially, even these goals:

  • A journey that brings you closer together as a family unit.
  • A journey that builds self-esteem and leaves your child with a positive identity.
  • A journey that cultivates pride in your family’s multi-cultural heritage.

My intention when I design a Heritage Journey for a family is to help them realize their goals. For instance, if their goals are the same as those mentioned above, then we would focus on creating opportunities for connecting, building self-esteem, and a fostering a positive identity. You’re probably wondering how we go about that, I get it. So here’s the trick …

Following are the chemicals that make you feel good. When you feel good, you are likely to connect to the people around you more easily.

  • Dopamine is a pleasure chemical and produces a feeling of bliss.
  • Serotonin flows when you feel significant or important.
  • Oxytocin creates intimacy, trust, and helps build healthy relationships.
  • Endorphins are released in response to pain and stress and help to alleviate anxiety and depression.
  • Adrenaline causes people to have a fight or flight response and is released during situations of high-stress, danger or physical exhilaration.

This is what science tells us about these hormones:

When we release our hormones, we are setting the stage for building connections — with each other, with nature, with the world around us, and even within ourselves! Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins are the hormones responsible for our happiness.

When adrenaline is released, it can become a catalyst for the release of oxytocin (what some people refer to as the bonding or hugging hormone). Oxytocin is released when mothers breastfeed their babies, during orgasm, and in other situations.

Many events can trigger these hormones (or neurotransmitters), but rather than waiting for it to happen, there are ways we can cause them to flow.

Here are some simple ways to get our chemicals of connection flowing:

Dopamine gives us the motivation to take action toward our goals, desires, and needs, and gives us a surge of pleasure when we achieve those goals.

If you want to release more dopamine, break big goals down into little pieces so you can complete them more often. Essentially, you don’t have to hit only one finish line! Instead, try creating a series of smaller finish lines (markers) so that when you reach each marker, you’ve achieved a goal and will release dopamine. But it’s important to actually celebrate each finish line. That’s when the dopamine is released! High five the folks you’re with, look in the mirror and say good job, give hugs, enjoy a treat – every time a finish line is reached!

Serotonin surges when you feel significant or important. This is one of the biggest reasons for using adventure activities — so there can be an achievement! Accomplishing a big or scary goal is huge for serotonin production!

Even reflecting on past significant achievements allows our brains to re-live the experience. Our brain can’t really tell the difference between what’s real and imagined, so it produces serotonin in both cases. This is another reason why we ask our clients to journal, practice giving gratitude, and talking about positive experiences more than usual with each other – especially while traveling on a Heritage Journey! If you need a serotonin boost during a stressful day, take a few minutes to reflect on past achievements and victories – like when you climbed that mountain or conquered that scary zip line!

Oxytocin creates intimacy, trust, and helps build healthy relationships. Men and women release it during orgasm and mothers release it during childbirth and while breastfeeding. The good news is that we can stimulate the production of oxytocin with lots of hugs and high fives as well! I talk to all my clients about the importance of hugging, snuggling, and taking time to connect deeply while on a Heritage Journey! The more you do that, the more oxytocin you will release and happier you and your family will feel. Give more hugs!

Endorphins are released in response to pain and/or stress and help to alleviate anxiety and depression. That familiar “second wind” or “runners high” during and after a vigorous workout is a result of endorphins. Endorphins are similar to morphine. It acts as an analgesic and sedative, which lessens your perception of pain and makes you feel better. If you exert yourself – it feels good and will make you happier and more available to build those connections.

Adrenaline allows more blood to get into your muscles and more oxygen into your lungs. The consequence is that your physical performance improves. When your physical performance improves you feel good about yourself and that builds self-esteem. As your self-esteem increases, you are naturally more able to connect deeply with those who are participating with you or encouraging you. It’s that simple! You want to feel the rapid heartbeat and that out of breath feeling. That’s adrenaline surging and it helps you build connections!

At Motherland Travel we focus on using adventure activities to simulate these feelings and draw out all those happy chemicals. You do NOT have to do class three white water rapids to engage your happy hormones! Anything that takes you out of your comfort zone will do the trick – and that’s what we’ll help you realize.

If you want to read more about building connections check out my blog post on Transformative Travel at or this one on Family Adventure Therapy at

These are great tools for getting the most out of any family vacation, but especially a trip as monumental as a Heritage Journey!

Let me know your thoughts about these concepts in the comments section below. I’d be thrilled to hear what you think!

And as always, when you are ready to plan a trip to your child’s birth country, I’d love to help you figure out how to set goals for your family and get those happy hormones surging! Just sign up for a 30-minute Discovery Session with me and we’ll figure out how to get the ball rolling. You can sign up at

All my best to you,

Bambi Wineland is the mother of two internationally adopted children, a traveler, a Certified Professional Coach, and the Founder and CEO of Motherland Travel. Motherland Travel began by designing Heritage Journeys for families with internationally adopted children. The emphasis of those Heritage Journeys has always been on deepening family connections, building self-esteem and cultivating pride in a family’s multi-cultural heritage. Motherland Travel also uses the philosophies of transformative Travel for designing family trips with purpose – building rich connections, with each other and the world! Read more about her here >>

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