Are there health benefits?
Are you the type of person who enjoys going to new places, experiencing new things and having adventures? Or, are you the type that loves to go to their favorite place to disconnect from everyday life, slowing things down and spending time just doing nothing? While they might seem to contradict each other, both are forms of traveling. Traveling of any kind has been proven to provide several health benefits. What are these benefits? How long do they last? Is a specific type of traveling better than another at delivering these benefits?
As much as we say we like to travel, Americans don’t travel as much as people in other countries. When compared to Europeans, we are half as likely to travel abroad. In fact, almost 30% of American adults have never been outside the United States. If we do travel abroad, it is usually to only one country at a time and is often to Mexico or Canada because it is viewed as being more affordable to travel them than going overseas. Over 70% of Americans believe that traveling to other countries is too expensive. Even if you don’t travel outside the country, Americans still don’t travel. It is estimated that every year almost 55% of us don’t use our vacation time. This is a shame because there are numerous health benefits to traveling.
The most useful advantage you get from traveling is lower stress levels. By taking a break from your normal routine, it allows your cortisol (the hormone that is high when you are stressed) levels to decrease. When you are less stressed, your blood pressure is lower and this decreases your chance of developing heart disease. The reduction in stress gives your mind time to relax, recharge and rejuvenate making you feel calm and content, which increases your happiness level. When you are happier, you are less likely to be depressed. The good news is that when you are planning a trip it can help bolster these feelings before you go and the feelings last for several weeks after you return.
Another plus of traveling is that when you are on vacation, you tend to be more active due to wanting to explore the area you are visiting. There are so many things to do and see that are different from what your everyday life. The key is to keep your exertion equal to your fitness level. The last thing you want is to become injured on vacation. While your activity level is increased, it is important to make sure that you have plenty of water to drink and it is from a source, such as a sealed water bottle, that won’t increase your chances of becoming sick. While there will many delicious foods to try, it is a good idea to eat small portions and find ways to incorporate healthy food options into your snacks and meals. By doing these things, you’ll be able to enjoy your increased activity level even more.
People who travel have increased cognitive flexibility and problem-solving skills, which improves their brain function. This is from learning about new areas, cultures and history. The learning process broadens your horizon and expands your thinking causing you to become more culturally aware and globally-minded in your views. Also, when traveling it is common to deal with unexpected situations requiring you to become more flexible and mentally resilient. Overtime, as you deal with more of these type of issues, you become more confident. Traveling fosters creativity because you are exposed to things outside of your comfort zone opening your mind to possibilities that your might not have considered otherwise. It is essential to note that walking, which you often do more of when traveling, and hiking can improve your short- and long-term memory. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is responsible for the retention of information and it is divided into two sections (one on each side of the brain). As you age, the hippocampi get smaller, which means they take in less information. When you get more activity, your hippocampi actually grow which enhances your memory.
Traveling strengthens your social and communications skills. When you are traveling, you need to be able to communicate with all sorts of people. Whether it is asking for directions to an attraction or seeking recommendations to find a place to eat, this interaction with locals is extremely valuable. If you are having the conversation in a language that isn’t your own, it is even more advantageous. By taking the time to interact with local people, you are provided with the opportunity to learn more about their culture. This allows you to learn new things, some of which you might want to participate in when you return home. In some instances, the people you meet while traveling can turn into lifelong friendships. Another significant consideration is when you are traveling with someone else. This means you find out a great deal about each other forging a deeper connection and build on experiences as you work together to solve any problems that arise. We, as humans, crave interaction with others, so we don’t feel isolated. Traveling is a great way to provide this interaction whether it is with new friends or those closest to you.
Your immune system becomes stronger the more you travel. Different types of bacteria live in different environments, so when you travel, you are exposing your body to them. This exposure helps your antibodies (proteins that protect you from harmful pathogens) to become stronger by adapting to the new bacteria. It is still imperative to maintain basic hygiene and proper handwashing techniques before meals and after using the restroom. You want the boost in your immune system without becoming ill.
Several studies have found that people who spend money on travel experiences are usually happier than those who spend it on purchasing things. This is because travel helps you to feel connected and involved with others. While it allows you to gain a better understanding and appreciation for new cultures and people from other areas, it also makes you appreciate your normal routine and the people who are normally in your life when you return home. If you share a travel experience with friends or family and when these people are no longer with us, they still remain a part of the stories that you share with others.
When you combine all of these benefits together, you get to the most important one, which is having a longer life expectancy. By reducing your stress, increasing your happiness, being more active, improving your cognitive function, making friendships, expanding your cultural awareness and boosting your immune system, you can increase the chance of living longer. Since you’ll also be healthier, you’ll be able to do even more traveling for a longer period of time. Traveling is essential to your health. When you consider all of the gains that are to be made, why wouldn’t you travel. So, where are you going on your next trip?