White sand beaches sprawling for miles on either side with teal water coalescing into fluffy clouds, or snow-peaked mountains towering over hidden forest trails while cool fresh air causes the happiest tingling in your ears or the sound of soft ripples as your boat progresses on a tranquil lake…
Don’t you just wish you could chant some magic spell and transport yourself there immediately?
For those of you avid travelers, you’re probably reading this as you stuff your boots into your rucksack for your next trip (another check mark on your bucket list).
For the other sort (the sort that is unhealthily comfortable in the confines of walls), stretching your legs that far may seem like an uncalled-for, too-much-of-an-effort expense.
We all know how wonderful a good vacation can be. The fun and frolic, the food, the feeling of living on the edge, and the relaxation. But for some of us, that’s not enough to get us moving.
In our attempt to nudge you (particularly the latter sort) to book tickets (flight, train, bus…whatever suits you) and explore, let’s turn a keen ear to the physical and mental benefits of traveling.
1. Travel decreases your visits to the doctor.
Different air and unfamiliar terrain bring with them the exposure to a plethora of foreign microorganisms that can give your body’s defence system a much needed prod.
It is a conditioning process (the same mechanics behind vaccinations) much like training for soccer. Until you understand the curvature and surface of the ball and how you need to manoeuvre your foot, you will not be able to direct the ball away from you (your foot being your immunity and the ball being a microbe).
According to the Hygiene Hypothesis, infections (microbial invasions that our body has not encountered before) strengthen the immune system to prevent diseases like asthma and allergies.1 This holds particularly true for young children.
So, don’t let your toddler get in the way of a mandatory vacation. It will do you both good!
Also, if you’re headed to the beach, desert, or warm tropical climate, OD’ing on vitamin D from the sun can help boost your immunity further.
Unknown to many, this sunshine vitamin has functions beyond strengthening bones and maintaining the body’s calcium balance. It also helps modulate our innate and adaptive immune responses, preventing autoimmune diseases in the bargain. Our bodies reciprocate by synthesizing more vitamin D.2
2. Travel hails the artist in you.
Unacquainted sensations—sights, smells, sounds, and tastes—and cultures—language, lifestyle—trigger novel neural networks in the brain. This enhances your creativity.
It is no wonder so many artists travel to draw inspiration.
Travel without social interaction makes no difference (besides creating a hole in your pocket). Interacting with locals does.34 How different a culture is from yours and how much time you spend immersed in that culture is what matters.
Rise above stereotyping and expand your mind and creativity with a few cheerful chugs of a local brew with the natives.
If money and time are constraints, you don’t have to leave the country or even city. Sometimes just a long walk to a different neighborhood can expose you to a whole new lifestyle and thought process.
3. Travel is the best antidote to your worries.
True lasting happiness (it’s okay to be idealistic at times) comes from experiences, not from objects. Science backs this very philosophical claim, too. A study showed that experiential purchases tend to make people happier than material purchases.[/ref]Carter, Travis J., Gilovich, Thomas D. The Relative Relativity of Material and Experiential Purchases. In Journal of Personality and Social Psychol. 2010.[/ref] Restricted from the freedom of holding our green eye wide open, experiences are unique to each of us and do not allow for extensive mindless comparisons. Thus, the satisfaction from our experiences is more long-lasting when compared to that of shopping.
In addition, when we travel, we are forced to interact with people (whether we like it or not). Such interactions have been shown to have positive benefits on the mental health of older adults.5
4. Travel safeguards your heart.
You might think that all the exertion that travel brings with it must take its toll on your delicate heart. It’s quite the opposite. One study showed that women who vacationed every six years or less compared to women who vacationed at least twice a year were more prone to heart attacks.6 Also, men who thought it a waste of time and surpassed their annual vacation had a 20% higher risk of death and 30% greater risk of death from heart disease.
The math is simple. Travel=Less stress=Healthy heart. This also means it’ll take a while before you need botox (you’ll age well).
What’s more, all the fun stuff normal people do on normal vacations like listening to music, solving puzzles, and visiting museums have been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by a whopping 47%.
5. Travel trumps gym.
Assuming you’re not going to snuggle in bed all day long at your hotel, the more curious traveler can benefit from all the trekking, cycling, walking, rowing, running, etc. Climbing uphill or walking on sand are sure-shot ways to tone your muscles. And it won’t feel like you’re trying too hard cause you’ll be too busy having fun.
6. Travel may lead you to sites of healing.
No, we are not referring to the Blair Witch Project witchcraft or Hogwart’s wizardry. If you travel to healing sites like the mineral-laden hot springs of Bath in England or Pamukkale in Turkey or the energy harnessing Table Mountain of Cape Town in South Aftrica, your body will be more than grateful to you for doing so.
When Western medicine fails us, it is wise (not foolish) to seek relief in time-tested, traditional methods of recuperation.
Flipping the coin over…
Indulging in fun activities and avoiding mishaps while you travel can manifest as prime health.7 Emphasis lies in ‘fun.’ Traveling when you’re sick or traveling unprepared despite knowing you have a medical condition can not only be dangerous but also extremely strenuous. So…
Be prepared and hit the road, Jack.
For the sake of your health, it’s time you invest in a sturdy travel bag…
…get your passport updated, carry medication that you think you will need, and start using all those leaves you’ve been piling up.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Dale T Umetsu. Early exposure to germs and the Hygiene Hypothesis. Cell Research. 2012.|
|2.||↑||Cynthia Aranow. Vitamin D and the Immune System. J Investig Med. 2011.|
|3.||↑||William W. Maddux, Hajo Adam, Adam D. Galinsky. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2010.|
|4.||↑||William W. Maddux, Hajo Adam, Adam D. Galinsky. Be a Better Manager: Live Abroad. Harvard Business Review. 2010.|
|5, 6.||↑||Destination: Healthy Aging: The Physical, Cognitive and Social Benefits of Travel. Global Coalition on Aging.|
|7.||↑||How Does a Vacation from Work Affect Employee Health and Well-Being? Psychology & Health. 2011.|