Do your health a favour and use all your vacation days this year for traveling. Travel isn’t just something exciting for you to spend your money on (or make your co-workers envious) it’s an investment in your health. By not traveling, you’re missing out on the benefits.
- People who travel have better social skills. Decades of research have shown that travelers make friends more easily than non-travelers (The research was unclear whether it’s because travelers are just more interesting to talk to than homebodies.)
- Men who don’t take a vacation at least every year have a 30% increased risk of heart disease. (The good news is they only have a 20% increased risk of death. Phew.)
- In a study by the U.S. Travel Association, 86% of travelers were “satisfied” with their outlook on life as opposed to 75% of non-travelers. (The study did not investigate whether the travelers were recalling a Las Vegas blowout or visiting their in-laws.)
Think about why you travel. What’s your motivation? If the only reason you travel is to drink the bar dry, I recommend another purpose. A worthwhile purpose.
Here it is: travel is healthy.
Traveling makes you healthier in mind, body, and – dare I say it – soul.
You might need convincing, so here’s every reason that travel is healthy.
Reasons Travel is Healthy for Your Mind
Everyone knows that getting away 6 months – or even for a weekend – is good for your mental health. With depression rates increasing yearly, taking care of your mental health is a big deal.
Before you start pumping your body full of Prozac or scheduling a weekly visit to a shrink, consider using travel to strengthen your mind.
Travel Reduces Stress
Stress leads to health problems that affect your body, mood, and behaviour. Travel reduces stress by getting you the hell away from whatever it is that stresses you out.
You don’t have to backpack around Asia for 6 months to get the benefits, a weekend getaway is long enough to recover from a stressful life.
But be careful: a vacation with a grueling schedule and little time for rest means you’re trading one stress for another. That’s not good for your health.
Travel Helps You Become More Patient
You’re probably used to getting things instantly. Email, texting, and online shopping makes for a life where you can avoid being patient.
That’s not to say that you don’t need patience. Line ups and slow service will always exist, and getting angry about them isn’t healthy.
Travel will teach you to be patient, and even help with anger management. Patience will always be important, whether you’re stuck in the departure lounge for another two hours, or communicating with someone in a foreign language.
Travel Builds Your Confidence
When navigating an unfamiliar subway system, bargaining with local vendors, or searching for a hotel that may – or may not – exist, you can either collapse into a sniveling ball of misery or rise to the challenge.
Travel gives you the chance to put your confidence to work. The more you get out of your comfort zone, the better you’ll handle challenging situations (even when you get home).
Travel Gives You Time to Be Alone
The thought of being alone should not freak you out. Being alone is important for your mental health6.
Alone time is good because you’re free to make choices and decisions on your own. Without friends or family influencing you, you’ll discover who you really are.
Getting far away from judging eyes, you can reinvent yourself, try something new, or just do whatever you want to do. When you travel you’re free to find out what it means to truly be yourself.
Travel Gives You a Break From Your Routine
Traveling puts you in a situation where nothing is routine. In a new situation, new surroundings, new country (new everything) you’ve got “Beginners Mind”. It’s a Zen thing, and it means seeing things with a fresh perspective. No assumptions, no expectations.
Living in the moment is mentally healthy. When you travel your mind tends to notice things that don’t stand out in your “regular” life (you may not remember your morning commute, but you’ll never forget riding a chicken bus in Guatemala). The more you notice, the more you appreciate it.
Travel Will Increase Your Creativity
Even if you’re not a professional painter or musician, it’s still worthwhile to work on your creativity. The wiring in your brain loves to be creative, and traveling will help the mind maneuver its way around different ideas.
Is creativity that big a deal? Well, even if you don’t come back from vacation and open a pottery shop, you will still benefit from increasing your creativity.
Being able to think creatively will help you solve problems of all types, even in industries that aren’t typically “artsy” (engineering and computer science for example), or when you’re desperately trying to think of a new way to get your kids to go to bed.
Travel Forces You to Practice Social Skills
Relationships are a key part of human life, and travel is definitely a social experience, whether it’s a friendly “buenos dias” to a flight attendant or making friends at a local bar.
It gives you a chance to practice meeting new people, and work on your communication skills at the same time.
If being social is healthy, then travel is healthy too.
Travel Increases Your Cultural Intelligence
You’re probably familiar with IQ, and now there’s another intelligence measure: CQ (cultural intelligence). Being exposed to different cultures and customs through travel is one of the key ways to increase your CQ.
Cultural intelligence doesn’t just mean learning about different cultures. It means you’re comfortable relating to them. The world’s getting smaller, a higher CQ can help you deal with the internationalization of your workplace, your hometown, and, well, the world in general.
Travel Makes You More Empathetic
You’ve got ample opportunity to practice empathy when you’re traveling. You don’t have to agree with every culture and custom, but at least trying to understand will help you see another point of view.
Empathetic people are better at resolving conflicts, relating to others, and problem solving in general.
Besides underlying “virtually everything that makes society work”, empathy can help you build trust with others, and help you understand the world better.
Not just useful for travelers, having more empathy is good for anyone.
Travel Helps You Deal with Change
Flexibility is a “key ingredient to psychological health”. If you’re the kind of person who goes ape-shit when there’s a slight change of plans, you might want to step up your traveling. It could save your sanity.
Whether it’s a flight delay or the hotel losing your reservation, a flexible person doesn’t get overwhelmed by stress when things go wrong (like a rigid-thinking person would).
Luckily, you probably won’t have to try very hard to find ways to practice flexibility when you travel. It’s almost guaranteed that things won’t go 100% as planned.
Being a flexible traveler is healthy, and it’s even better is when you keep a flexible state of mind when you return home.
Travel Makes You Smarter
Seriously, it’s true.
Students who studied abroad scored higher academically and were more likely to graduate than students who stayed in their home country according to a study by the University System of Georgia.
Travel may even slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s the same way that brain puzzles and thinking games do.
Consider a year studying abroad or taking time for a week-long vacation justified.