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.