I was struggling with a title for this blog post, mostly because the totality of what I want to talk about won’t fit in the title. What I really wanted to convey was, travel isn’t just good for the soul, it’s good for the heart and mind as well. This may not be a new concept to many, as I am pretty sure you “feel” the good it does for your mind, body and soul while you are on vacation, but sometimes in the hustle and bustle of this crazy world we live in, we forget that our bodies “need” or “crave” the change of pace most vacations offer. I say “most vacations” because places like Las Vegas & Disney Parks are fun, but I am pretty sure most people need a vacation from those vacations once they return. 🙂
To support this theory I did some research and found that there have been studies done, that indicate that travel, on a regular basis (i.e. at least once a year) decreases the risk of heart disease and death. I was a little surprised to find that the reduction of both of these in women was higher. One of the biggest contributing factors to reducing heart disease is reduced stress, however, I think they must mean once you get to your destination because I assure you that my trip to Tuscon last year at Christmas time caused me so much stress I was worried I might have a heart attack on the spot! (don’t travel during the holidays if you can help it………). All kidding aside, getting to your destination can be a bit stressful, but once you arrive, all your worries should fade away and the stress should lift.
Another factor of travel that reduces the risk of heart disease in those that travel regularly is increased physical activity. If you travel to warm locals, you are doing things like bike riding, hiking, and swimming, to name a few. And if you travel to cold climates, you are likely doing so to partake in winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, & sledding. I did have a little chuckle when I considered we likely eat more while we travel as well, which may counteract some of this, but hey, you’ve got to have a healthy balance right? 🙂
Travel actually reduces depression. This makes sense, but lets look a little deeper at that. The faced paced lives that most American’s, like me, are living are killing us! They are causing us to be depressed, anxious, and stressed. It makes sense that traveling more can decrease depression. But what if you are in a situation where you cannot afford to travel twice a year (as the study suggests)? Well, a lot of us can if we make the choice to prioritize the things we “need”, a concept that is finally starting to really hit me. I used to think I needed coffee on my way to work every day, but when my diet didn’t allow for that coffee, I was surprised to find I didn’t NEED it like I had programmed my brain to think, but I had become accustomed to it. What I found was, the money I saved was shifted in to buying healthier foods, (another post for another day) but perhaps you could take that money and put in a piggy bank or extra savings account and watch how fast it adds up. While coffee money might not buy you a ticket to paradise, it will get you time away with your best girlfriends, or a road trip with your spouse, or camping with your kids. You can even explore close to home for free. Getting out and finding some beauty in this chaotic world can go a long ways towards reducing your anxiety and depression.
The last time my Husband and I went to Maui, we picked up our rental car and fought the crazy parking lot and lines at Costco, and then headed for the condo we had rented. As we started to drive away from the airport and could see the water a sense of calm came over me. I think I said “ah, I feel like I’m home”. ‘The stress just started to lift. It rained a bunch during that trip, but it didn’t matter. We hiked in the rain (it was a muddy, hilarious mess), we swam in the rain, and snorkeled in the rain. It wasn’t just about being in the sunshine (but did require the heat), but rather, it was about leaving most of our responsibilities at home. The stress relief of leaving your cares behind is a huge benefit of travel.
I read a few other facts on various reports, like one that said traveling to different countries can boost your immune system. Now, being a nurse I pondered this from a scientific stand point and decided I might be able to see where they are coming from, being exposed to new germs, bacteria, and such might boost your immune system, however, the nurse in me shuddered thinking about all those germ you are exposed to while flying long distances (or any distance for that matter). I find myself cringing every time I hear people coughing or sneezing repeatedly on airplanes, but again, this is a good topic for another post. Another study suggested that international travel increases our creativity. Something along the line of engaging in local culture increases your creativity. I can agree that it might make you a more well-rounded, culturally aware individual, but increasing creativity, at least for me, seems a stretch. My only increase in creative thinking while traveling is trying to be creative about how I can stay longer. 🙂
I find this topic fascinating, and I truly believe with my entire being that travel is good for the head, heart and soul, but I also love the fact that it has been studied and scientists agree as well. Now if only I could offer myself up to travel for another study.