I am an avid traveler. Day trips, short holiday vacations, inland and abroad. But what I love the most is longer travel abroad where I get the chance not only to unwind and escape the usual daily grind but also to learn and connect with new people and cultures.
It turns out that there are many benefits of traveling the world, including benefits to your health both physical and mental. Scientists say so, and so do many literary figures.
My Most Recent Trip
As I am writing this post, I’m scrolling through the photos and videos on my phone from my most recent travel abroad. I’ll include a few of them here.
I have spent over three weeks traveling through Italy, Spain, and Poland. What a great experience and learning opportunity!
You could say, I am a cultural traveler. Spending two solid weeks on the beach does not appeal to me all that much. When I travel, I was to encounter the new, the different, the odd. Art, food, people, different lifestyles, different ways of commuting. It is all there to enrich me, even if it might be a bit more tiring than an all-inclusive beach vacay.
Here is why. Cultural travel soothes my wanderlust, that longing to explore new destinations, eat new food, speak with new people, to see the art that I was to see in person rather than only in a book or online.
Traveling the world isn’t just fun. There is scientific data that suggest many health-related advantages of traveling.
Why Is Traveling Good For You
There are so many benefits of world travel to our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, it is really surprising, why so few people take trips abroad.
Europeans, not surprisingly because of the shorter distances between the countries, travel much more internationally than Americans do. The average Frenchman has visited 5 foreign countries, a German 8 countries, and a Brit 10 countries in their lifetime. Americans visit on average only 3 counties in their lifetime and a whopping 29 percent of US citizens have never gone abroad at all.
I find it rather sad. Not only because they are missing exciting and enriching experiences, but also because they don’t get the chance to reap the health benefits of international travel.
It might seem pretty obvious why traveling abroad would be beneficial to our mental health: change of routine, developing connections, and learning new things. But travel can change us not only psychologically but also physically.
Physical Health Benefits of Travel
Assuming you’re not eating three fast-food meals a day and not moving at all during your travel, you will get physically healthier during a trip.
Getting Lighter and More Fit
On my most recent European adventure, I had a lot of good food, drank some alcohol, indulged in deserts, and ate late into the night. All the things I tend to avoid during my usual, non-traveling existence when I stick to intermittent fasting, limit alcohol and sugar whenever I can, and watch what I cook and eat in general.
During the vacation, the food was great – local, organic, healthy – and there was a great deal of eating. Yet, I still managed to drop a few pounds after these three weeks.
The reason might be the sheer amount of activity while traveling. There is so much to see, so many places to visit, and so much art to admire. On some days, I would leave my hotel in the morning and walk all over Rome or Florence until sundown and beyond. My usually tired feet took it in strides because the little foot pain was a small price to pay for all that I got to experience.
Even if you’re not into city travel like I am, you can still develop fitness habits during vacation trips. You are engaging in activities like camping, swimming, kayaking, playing sports, hiking, and strolling down the beach. It’s probably safe to say that most of us are more active while traveling than while working and sitting at a desk all day long.
Diversifying Your Microbiome
When we travel abroad, we get exposed not only to new cuisines but also to a whole different set of microbes. And it’s a good thing!
When you venture out from one place to the other, your body automatically adjusts to a huge number of infinitesimal bodies, making it significantly more groundedScientifically Proven Health Benefits of Traveling Abroad
In that sense, traveling might be considered one of the best probiotics out there.
If you’re reading my blog regularly, you’ll know that I am pretty much obsessed with gut health. I’ve had my share of issues with IBS, bowel blockages, etc. Believe it or not, after the initial adjustment of a few days in Europe, I felt like a newborn. Flat stomach, regular bowel habits, it was like magic!
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Stress is a silent killer for sure. Prolonged stress can lead to numerous health challenges and even serious illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
When traveling, no matter flight delays or highway traffic, we are breaking the daily routine and get a chance to leave the stress and worry behind. This is the reason why after a trip you feel and look refreshed and like a new person. Less stress – more wellness – less illness.
There is scientific data to back up this claim.
(A study) commissioned by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS) and the United States Travel Association shows that men who do not indulge in a yearly vacation are at a 20% higher sudden death risk and display a 30% elevated risk of contracting heart disease.The Yale Tribune
Mental and Emotional Benefits of Traveling
When we journey to other lands, we get to explore new cultures, cuisines, traditions, and behaviors. All of this makes travel particularly beneficial to our minds, by opening us up to diversity.
Travelling makes you happy. Pure and simple. Even when traveling alone, the novelty of the experience is bound to increase the level of happiness of the traveler.
Apparently, those who travel more tend to be happier than those who stay home.
A few days after taking a vacation, travelers report feeling less anxious, more rested, and in a better mood. And, these benefits linger even for weeks after the trip is over.
Not only the time after the trip is a happy time for a traveler. Even planning a trip can make one happy. According to one study, people like anticipation, and the value of such anticipation tends to be greater for experiential than for material purchases.
Experiential purchases (money spent on doing) tend to provide more enduring happiness than material purchases (money spent on having).Waiting for Merlot: Anticipatory Consumption of Experiential and Material Purchases
So, when you save up some money, what will make you happier: the newest phone or other gadget or a trip to a new destination for a few days? I know that for me, experience always outweighs the joy from even the most exciting physical good.
Boost Existing Relationships
If you travel with your partner, you’ll know one thing: traveling is romantic! New places, new experiences, less stress, more fun. All of this makes traveling one of the strongest aphrodisiacs.
Exploring the world with loved ones makes these existing connections even stronger. You are learning together, you’re experiencing something. You are making memories that will last you a lifetime.
Becoming Smarter and More Worldly
Travel will expand your horizons, no doubt about it. I often wonder why the people in my adopted country of the USA who have never traveled abroad claim America to be “the best country in the world.” How do you know? How did you arrive at this conclusion?
Learning about different cultures, meeting new people, and discovering their perspectives on your home country will make you not only more humble but also smarter and more interesting.
Learning to Prioritize
You will never be able to see everything and do everything at your travel destination. Why would you want that anyhow? Leave some sight unseen, so that there is a good reason to revisit that special location some other time.
During this recent travel, I had to pre-plan a bunch of things since I was navigating between multiple counties and cities. But, beyond the travel and lodging arrangements, I made a conscious effort to not over-schedule things.
Since we stayed in each location for at least three nights, I wanted to get the vibe of the location and only then decide what I wanted to do. This approach opened up time for some amazing experiences beyond your regular sightseeing. I got to take a class in pasta making, we traveled to the Chianti wine region and visited local vineyards, we took a tapas and cocktail making workshop in Barcelona, and got to see an amazing Flamenco show over there.
Had I over-stuffed our schedule with only galleries, museums, and cultural artifacts, we would have likely not had the time to do these more experiential things.
The funny thing about travel is that no matter how much I enjoy my experience away from home, the journey makes me appreciate that very home even more than before.
This time around, I was so ready to get back even though the time traveling has been amazing. Only when you leave your place can you truly appreciate it. The comfort of the bed, the familiarity of the surroundings, the ease of finding things, and so on.
Ready for Some Travel Fun?
Especially following these last two years of Covid panic, it’s time to get out and experience the world.
Now that you know that traveling is not only fun but also actually good for you, are you going to book your next adventure? Where would you go?
Where ever the road might take you, enjoy every single minute of it. And then come back home refreshed, rejuvenated, fitter, healthier, and happier than when you left.