What are the first things that come to mind when you hear the word ‘travel‘…Vacation? Meeting new people? Instagrammable sunsets? Traveling can be exciting and memorable. However, it’s so much more than sipping cocktails on a sun-soaked beach paradise. Have you ever wondered if travel improves your health? It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but travel is good for your physical and mental well being. A large amount of scientific research suggests that traveling to & exploring an unknown part of the globe can work wonders for your mental and emotional health. Here are five, evidence-backed, ways that travel improves your health both physically and mentally!
Travel Improves Your Health by Relieving Stress
Dr. Tamara McClintock Greenberg, a San Francisco-based clinical psychologist and author of Psychodynamic Perspectives on Aging and Illness, states that “the stress of work and daily demands can distract us from what we find to be actually meaningful and interesting.” Thus, it makes sense to take a break from the day-to-day grind. Doing so is essential from your mind to relax, recharge and rejuvenate.
We cannot think of a better way to do so than to pack your bags and escape to a foreign desitnation. Traveling promotes happiness and aides in taking your mind off stressful situations. This, in turn, leads to lower cortisol levels, which makes you feel more calm and content. Greenberg goes on to say that “(travel) also helps us reflect on our personal goals and interests”. A study from 2013 found that more than 80% of Americans, who were surveyed, noticed a significant drop in stress after just a day or two of traveling. Jacintha Verdegaal, a regular traveler and creator of Urban Pixxels – a travel and lifestyle blog – states that “even though I’m always busy when I travel, whether it’s sightseeing, taking photos or just exploring a destination on foot, I know I’m the calmest and most relaxed when I travel.”
Travel Improves Your Health by Helping You Reinvent Yourself
Patrick Rothfuss once wrote, “a long stretch of road can teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet.” Experiential traveling, specifically to a foreign country, can help you re-evaluate and reinvent your life. “If you allow it, travel has the ability to expand your mind in a way you never realized was possible,” says Valerie Wilson, a solo travel expert and founder of the Trusted Travel Girl.
Furthermore, the valuable lessons that you learn along the way broaden your take on life. Travel also makes you more aware and open to new things. Verdegaal commented that “traveling to places with different cultures because it forces you to think about your own.” She goes on to elaborate that “different is not better or worse, it’s just different. But being confronted with these differences helps (her) re-evaluate (her) own principles and values and, sometimes, change them.”
Venturing off to new places can also give you a fresh start if you’re recovering from a major transition in your life. “When I had Lyme disease, for several years, my world shrunk. I lost friends who didn’t know how to deal with a sick friend – I was quite alone and lost a lot of my self-confidence,” says Wilson, who began to travel “out of fear of relapsing.” “By traveling and interacting with the world around me, I found a new passion for life. I convinced myself to travel even when I wasn’t feeling well. It has brought me happiness, given me a purpose, and has made me a strong, independent woman,” she explains.
Travel Improves Your Health by Boosting Happiness & Satisfaction
Besides the obvious fact that you don’t have to go to work, traveling provides an opportunity to step away from your daily grind. New events and experiences help rewire your brain, which in turn boosts your mood and self-confidence. “I think people, in general, are not meant to be tied down to just one place their entire lives. I especially feel “trapped” when I have to stay in the same place for too much time, without being able to really move about and explore,” says travel aficionado and co-founder of The Passport Memorandum, Marta Estevez. “My life feels most fulfilling when I’m outside, living through new experiences and learning,” adds the travel expert who has been to more than ten countries.
“Travel definitely makes me happy,” agrees Wilson. “Even the act of planning a trip gives me something to look forward to and brings me happiness,” says Wilson. Turns out, she’s not the only one who feels that way. According to a Cornell University study, the anticipation of a trip can increase your happiness substantially, even more than the anticipation of acquiring something tangible, like a new car.
Travel Improves Your Health by Making You More Resilient
Going somewhere where you’re excited and intimidated at the same time help you toughen up mentally and emotionally. “When I was younger, I couldn’t see myself traveling the world on my own. But now, I travel by myself most of the time. And I love it! It’s never as scary or dangerous as you make it in your head,” says Verdegaal of Urban Pixxels.
Furthermore, adversity forces you to learn and adapt to a life that’s out of your comfort zone. This makes you more patient, flexible, and emotionally strong. “Travel has taught me patience, to surrender control to the uncontrollable, and effectively problem solve,” says Wilson who describes herself as a “naturally anxious and impatient person.”
Dealing with Tough Situations
It can also help you deal with “larger issues in life with more grace and patience,” adds the travel expert.“One of the worst experiences I had was being mugged just a day before I was due to fly home. It taught me to accept situations like this more calmly and to attach less emotion to belongings. Now, I can get over similar stressful situations very quickly, without having the issue get me down for long,” tells Allan Hinton, a London-based photographer who quit his job to become a full-time traveler.
Travel Improves Your Health by Enhancing Creativity
According to Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School, visiting a foreign place and immersing yourself in their local environment (for instance, attending a ‘snake boat’ race in southern India or feasting on crispy tarantulas in Cambodia), increases your cognitive flexibility. It also enhances “depth and integrativeness of thought,” consequently giving a boost to your creativity. Galinsky is the author of multiple studies that look into the connection between creativity and international travel. Although, it’s important to note that traveling stimulates creativity only when you engage with the local culture of that place. Merely visiting a new city or a country isn’t going to cut it.
Additionally, extended traveling also improves your productivity, problem-solving skills and can even increase your chances of getting promoted at work!
However, “it’s important to remember that vacation can be very stressful for some,” notes Greenberg. Try taking “short, structured vacations in order to get used to the experience of having time off,” she suggests. Also, plan your trip properly, in advance, to avoid last-minute panic and chaos.
How Can You Recap the Benefits After Returning from the Trip?
“I encourage people to hold on to aspects of your travel experience or vacation that was pleasurable,” says Greenberg. For example, “if you liked the food in Paris, learn how to cook French food,” she explains. “Remember the peaceful moments you had on vacation and try to remember what was different from your present life. Maybe you took the time to eat breakfast, maybe you exercised. Those things are crucial reminders of what we should do every day,” adds the clinical psychologist.
Now that you’ve finished reading about all the wonderful things travel does to your brain, it’s time to plan your next trip with the Travel Beyond Limits team!