In the past decade, there have been some exciting developments in how health and well-being are conceived. More than ever before, many people strive to strike a balance between traditional medical treatment and holistic solutions. We eat kale and do yoga, aim for a good work/life balance, and go to therapy to cope with our problems.
However, one of the underrepresented facets of a well-balanced life is regular travel.
There are many benefits to taking a vacation, ranging from concrete perks like weight loss and better cardiovascular health, to more abstract concepts like expanding our minds and increasing creativity and tolerance.
Simply put, there are many good reasons why traveling is good for you! Here are some of its major benefits– and our favorite reasons why you should make it a priority for your wellbeing.
Traveling promotes goal-setting and long-term thinking
Even before you take your vacation, the planning, budgeting, and excitement of the coming trip forces you to focus on the positives coming your way, set long-term goals, and sort out a budget. You have to plan itineraries, travel arrangements, hotels, and activities. Even before you leave, you’re learning skills that help you better manage your own life. And having that trip to look forward to, no matter how far away it is, is a useful way to help you feel more cheerful on days when you’re feeling down.
Traveling can be a great workout
While you’re on your trip, you can bet you’ll be walking all over the place. From the bustle of the airport to those endless museums and hikes, you will most likely be on your feet and getting lots of cardiovascular exercise, which reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease.
The Framingham Heart Study, conducted over the course of 20 years, found that women who vacationed as little as every two years were nearly eight times less likely to develop heart disease or have a heart attack than women who vacationed only every six years or less.
Read related: These Are the World’s Most Walkable Cities
If your local gym offered travel as an exercise class, you can bet you’d be taking it, because you get a genuinely awesome workout in even as you’re experiencing the world and broadening your mind.
Even if you have reduced mobility or disabilities, you can still enjoy some fresh air during your trip, and move around using whatever means you can. For example, many of the world’s biggest cities are increasingly more accessible to visitors with wheelchairs, offering ramp access to popular sites and attractions and public transport facilities.
Travel lowers stress levels
Vacationing offers an important mental break from our everyday lives. Seeing new things and focusing entirely on enjoying yourself can really help you shake off accumulated mental fatigue and stress. Being removed from your usual environment and transported to a new place helps break the cycle of anxiety and stress that goes along with everyday life. While travel certainly can’t cure all your problems, it can give you a nice break to recuperate, which can make it easier to face stressful situations when you get back to them. Plus, the physical activity of traveling boosts endorphin levels and psychological functioning, which is a nice perk.
Travel keeps the mind sharp
Aside from the physical benefits it offers, travel also promotes mental acuity and sharpness. Your brain is, in a lot of ways, a bit like a muscle. You need to be constantly thinking and exploring to keep your neurons in tip-top order– and the onrush of new experiences, challenges, and joys that you often feel during travel promotes good cognitive health.
Read related: 7 Travel Journal Styles & Ideas to Suit Your Personality
Learning is just good for you, plain and simple– and travel is one of the most fun and adventurous ways to stretch your mind. And I’m not just talking about learning in museums! Meeting new people, trying new foods, and experiencing new cities expands your understanding of the world and keeps your brain sharp and focused.
Travel teaches problem-solving and resilience
Any traveler will tell you that most vacations come with a few sticky situations. Flight delays, hotel snafus, interpersonal issues, and a myriad of other aggravating scenarios: these occasional moments of stress that will come up during your vacation are going to be different from your usual set of challenges.
The good news? Things are never as scary as we make them seem in our heads, and problem-solving on vacation teaches you flexibility and patience as you explore the world outside your comfort zone.
Read related: 15 Stress-Free Ways to Budget Your Next Trip
Dealing with these problems in a foreign environment teaches you resilience and strength. When you’ve resolved everything, you’ll have more confidence in your ability to problem solve in your regular life.
Travel lends perspective
One of the most talked-about benefits of travel are the mind-broadening experiences that make you a more open-minded person. This might sound corny, but hear me out: travel often fosters empathy and greater understanding of those who are different from you. The more you experience of life outside your home culture, the better you’ll be able to understand your own experiences.
Being reminded that life is a huge, colorful experience and that people are complicated, wonderful and full of contradictions is a fundamentally life-improving experience. From the distance of a foreign country or a new environment, you can learn things about yourself, your life, and your problems that you wouldn’t have been able to see without being removed from your routine. Plus, you’ll get to meet new people who teach you about what they’ve learned along their own journey.
My bottom line?
If bodily health is the key to a long life, then emotional growth is the key to a fulfilling one! Travel supports personal growth on almost every level, and it does it much more quickly, efficiently, and delightfully than any other method I know of. If that’s not a good reason to ditch work and get on a plane, I don’t know what is.
Seoul, South Korea is a huge, vibrant city that is home to more than ten million people. With a population that size, it’s no surprise that there are endless things you can do while vacationing there. From its historic palaces, serene gardens, vibrant shops, incredible food, and some of Asia’s coolest night spots, this capital has pretty much everything you could want and much more you never knew about. If you’re looking for a good Seoul travel guide for the curious beginner, you’ve come to the right place.
In no particular order, here are 7 key sights and attractions you should check out if you’re visiting South Korea’s largest city. These are essential, but also original and intriguing: the perfect places to encounter the city for the first time in an authentic way.
Once the site of a protective city wall, Namsan Park is famous for its incredible city views over Seoul. Palgakjeong viewing pavilion is a free spot to appreciate the view, but it’s definitely worth it to buy a ticket to the viewing platform of N Seoul Tower. At 1,500 feet in the air, the views are breathtaking, and lovestruck couples can attach padlocks to the fence to celebrate their love. On Saturdays, you can stay on the observation deck until midnight, and the night views are incredible. Bring a jacket: It can get windy at the top! If you feel like a treat, there’s also a restaurant in the rotating platform at the very top of the tower.
Though this palace isn’t the largest one in Seoul, it’s my personal favourite for its incredible landscaping and architecture. As Korea’s longest, continually inhabited palace, and its most intact royal residence, Changdeokgung has well earned its UNESCO World Heritage Status.
Aside from the stunning, colourful architecture, the real treat at this palace is the incredible “Secret Garden” that takes up about 2/3 of the property. Traditionally reserved exclusively for the monarch, visitors can now take guided tours of the garden, which features a model nobleman’s home, some incredible scenery, fountains, and even a lotus pool!
The Secret Garden tour and the palace tour require two separate tickets, but they’re inexpensive and well worth the price. English tours run Tuesday through Saturday, and the palace is closed on Mondays.
If you want a taste of Korean youth culture, Hongdae is the neighbourhood for you. Located around Hongik University, this area is a great place for tourists to stay because of its incredible night life, street food, and art. If you’re a night owl, Hongdae is one of the best places to go! Hongdae’s “Club Day” on the last Friday of each month gets you access to the hottest area clubs and music venues for around $14 USD, and you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to restaurants.
But if you’re looking for something a little less festive, don’t miss the weekend markets near the university on Sunday. Hongdae’s student-heavy population means shops here are a bit cheaper than the rest of Seoul on average.
This neighbourhood is the place to be if you’re hunting for traditional Korean goods. Tea, ceramics, calligraphy, and wooden carvings are all popular wares, making this area a perfect place to hunt for souvenirs and local art. Plus, the whole neighbourhood is picture-perfect and full of windy, adorable alleys lined with street merchants, musicians, and street performers adding a lively energy. Come on weekends to experience the area without any vehicle traffic, and you can almost imagine you’re back in the Joseon Dynasty! Weekends do tend to be a bit more crowded, so for a more laid-back experience, come on a weekday.
Bukchon Hanok Village
To get a glimpse at the traditional style of a Korean home (called a hanok), Bukchon is a beautiful neighbourhood to check out. Located in the hilly north-central area of Seoul, Bukchon Village is comprised of around nine hundred privately-owned hanoks that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. Visiting here is free, though you can stop into some of the hanoks that have been converted into coffee shops or art galleries to take a look inside! Additionally, you can rent a hanok as your home base while you travel.
The area is very hilly, so wear walking shoes and expect to be on your feet for a while. Since it is also a neighbourhood where people actually live, remember to obey noise rules and be respectful of the people who live there.
Korea started the cat cafe trend, so you definitely shouldn’t miss visiting one! Visitors to cat cafes can hang out with a small herd of beautiful, friendly cats while drinking coffee or tea. For sanitary purposes, you sanitize your hands upon entering and you usually take your shoes off and replace them with slippers. Then you order your drink or food and take it into the cat section!
You can hang out with the cats as long as you like, and the owners and workers are usually characters who have a lot of passion for their feline friends, so it’s a great place to people-watch. And cat-watch.
Cat cafes are a great place to rest on a busy trip. Who wouldn’t feel relaxed with a cat on their lap and a hot drink?
There are a ton in Seoul, but here are a few recommendations:
- Y Cat Café: 3F, 358-125, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, Korea
- Café Café MyeongDong : 8-5 Myeongdong 8-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Built in the 14th century, this incredibly well-preserved Confucian royal shrine was once the worship place for the Joseon Dynasty rulers. The original temple was destroyed during the 16th century Japanese invasion, but the 17th century rebuilt temple still stands today. The main shrine and the Hall of Eternal Peace are the notable buildings on the site, and every year the Jongmyo Jerye ritual attracts huge crowds to honour rulers of the Joseon dynasty.
Except on Saturdays, you can only visit the site through a guided tour, so remember to think ahead. A tour is really the way to experience this place; the peaceful atmosphere and restrained decorations might make wandering around here without any context a little dull.
Still, the shrine is incredibly beautiful and relaxing in and of itself, so it’s worth a visit for the peaceful atmosphere alone.
Here at the Loftus Guides, we don’t like to generalize. From our experience, one size rarely fits all. Really, one size doesn’t even fit most. Everyone’s different, and whether we’re talking about your choice of dinner or your vacation destination, you shouldn’t put yourself in a box. And the same goes for travel preferences: everyone has their very own. This is the beauty of travel – to expand your horizons and experience a trip that you will remember for a lifetime.
Choose a travel style that suits your preferences, passions and habits, and you’ll find your experience to be more relaxed, personal, and experiential. Here are some different travel styles you should consider! Which one suits you the best?
Small Group Travel
For some, touring around the world on a guided tour is the ideal way to travel. With built in structure and a whole new set of like-minded fellow travellers to get to know, small group tours are intimate but still highly social.
Great for: People who enjoy structure but aren’t afraid to make new friends!
If you love getting lost in the majesty of nature (but hopefully not on the trail), you may be an environment-oriented traveller! This type of touring will take you to some of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights and remind you of your place in the ecosystem of our planet. These trips range from the rustic hiking tours across mountains and plains, to more easygoing trips that bring you to more easily accessible destinations.
Great for: People who love nature and own decent hiking boots.
If you love a good adventure, you may be among those who choose to approach their vacations as experimentation in the extraordinary. Why have an ordinary vacation when you can have a once in a lifetime experience? Sky diving, cliff jumping, zip lining, you name it, travelling for adventure is a surefire way to make memories you’ll never forget.
Great for: People who will try anything once and have an open mind!
Urban environments are home to some of the best food, the coolest art, and the most diverse culture. You can have access to a huge range of activities without having to move hotels all the time. Galleries one day, flea markets the next; city touring is a great way to get an energetic sampling of everything.
Great for: People who have a good grasp of public transport, a love of culture, and a thick skin.
Faith Based Exploration
For the modern pilgrim, visiting sites of religious importance can be an experience that touches every part of their life. Touring temples, churches, and religious historical sites can bring your faith to life and make your spirituality even richer and more personal.
Great for: People who want to experience a religion with every sense they have!
If you have a civic-minded heart, travelling to a destination and supporting a local community with sustainable volunteer work can combine a love of people with a love of seeing the world! Trips that focus on community development and assisting underserved communities can change you forever.
Great for: People who aren’t afraid to put their back into helping others.
Share with us which type (or types) or traveller you are!