“Travel is good medicine.”
It should come as no surprise that the benefits reaped by travel extend beyond the obvious enjoyment of taking a vacation. Yet we easily become stuck in the rut of our day to day lives, and procrastinate on making plans to take our next trip. With full-time jobs and busy lives, we forget how refreshing and rejuvenating time away can be. As well, worries about spending our sometimes limited funds on an activity such as travel can seem frivolous or selfish, and those thoughts can be hard to banish.
During a recent conversation with my sister, I was reminded of my good fortune to have been given the gift of time and the ability to take a trip with no restriction in length. Knowing me as well as she does, she was quite taken aback that I was just sitting around the house and not taking advantage of my hiatus from the working world. After this wake up call, I made travel plans within the next 24 hours. Almost instantly, my mood improved and the dark cloud that had been hanging over me for the past couple of months lifted. I had a renewed purpose and a project to work on. For a self-professed travel junkie there is nothing more satisfying to me than setting the course of action for my next adventure.
Even if you’ve not made travel plans on impulse, you’ve probably felt that surge of excitement course through your veins as you press Complete Purchase when making a plane reservation or booking a trip. It should come as no surprise that studies have found just the act of planning a vacation can spike happiness, providing benefits long before you even leave your home. Beyond that initial buzz of energy and enthusiasm, there are numerous other health benefits to be gained from travel.
“Travel is good medicine”, says Dr. Paul D. Nussbaum, Ph.D. “Because it challenges the brain with new and different experiences and environments, it is an important behavior that promotes brain health and builds brain resilience across the lifespan.” Additional studies, such as The Framingham Heart Study, have concluded that women who traveled at least twice a year, were less likely to develop heart or coronary problems when compared to women who only traveled once every six years. Also, women who did not travel were twice as likely to suffer from depression. For men, there were benefits too. Men who took an annual vacation were shown to have a lower risk of death as well as a lower risk of heart disease causing death. Even when taking into consideration pre-existing poor health, researchers confirmed that there are restorative behaviors involved in vacationing and that regular participation in social or leisure activities associated with travel can help promote mental health.
Probably the most obvious and potentially important facet of taking a vacation is the reduction of stress. Everyday stressors are damaging to our immune systems, increase our chances for various health ailments, and the production of cortisol caused by stress can actually speed up the aging process.
With that in mind, there’s no time like the present to start booking your next trip. If you’re of the mindset that you’ll just wait to do all your traveling when you retire, you may want to reconsider. After all, there are no guarantees in life, and you may not make it to retirement age or arrive there in good health. Futhermore, the mindset previously followed by past generations of living our lives in the traditional method of school, work, and then personal time is quickly becoming obsolete. Instead, the new thinking incorporates our educational, personal and occupational time in a more intertwined convention. This means a lifetime of learning and dedicating more time for ourselves, including taking more vacations during our working years. Studies have concluded that travel is part of aging well, but also point out that you can’t wait until retirement age to start. If you want to live a long, healthy life, activities that contribute to health aging, like a good diet, exercise and travel need to be started before your 50’s or 60’s. It’s important to make health decisions across the course of a lifetime to reap the benefits.
For us travel lovers, it’s not a revelation to hear that there are many positive benefits to traveling, yet those lingering doubts or nagging thoughts still crop up. When this happens to me, I just remind myself of two things: #1 – I’ve never come back from a trip with any regrets (other than missing something cool along the way) and #2 – I can always make more money.
Jamie Lyn Beatty
“Jobs fill your pocket, but adventures fill your soul.”
Here are some other great benefits of travel to ponder:
- Exercise is more fun. When you’re out in the world, hiking, biking or rock climbing doesn’t feel like your average workout. Soaking up the sites while walking for miles in an unexplored city is enjoyable and fun, instead of a chore.
- Travel makes you smarter. Navigating in an unfamiliar territory, reading a map, making quick decisions and doing other activities that take you out of your comfort zone or regular routine will fire up your synapses.
- Allows time to reflect. If you’ve spent time watching the landscape go by while riding in a car, or have stared out at the endless horizon over the ocean, you may have noticed some profound thoughts pass through your mind. Travel makes an ideal environment for introspection and reflection. Away from distractions, you are free to see yourself from a distance and consider the life you’ve built for yourself.
- Helps build relationships. Have you noticed how much easier it is to make friends and bond with people when you are on vacation? Sometimes it’s the alcohol or party atmosphere, but even without that, you can meet people from all walks of life and feel an instant connection. Strangers meeting while on vacation, who might otherwise ignore each other, are suddenly more than happy to take pictures or give advice and directions.
- It expands your sense of self. You can be a different person when you’re in a different place. When you travel, no one else knows you or your self-perceived faults. Away from your every day life, and your boss, spouse or your kids, you are free to just be yourself.
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”
So consider your health and set aside your guilt or whatever else is preventing you from taking your next vacation. Go out and explore. It doesn’t have to be an extensive or costly trip, as even a long weekend can provide a much needed break to refresh and reset. As for myself, I’m going to enjoy my time off from the hectic working world, go on an adventure and live my life to the fullest with no regrets. I’m going to do what I love most – travel!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”