Whether you’re dreaming of a magical white Christmas, long, sun-kissed beach days, or jungle safari sunsets—a good chunk of time away can do you more good than you realise.
Studies have shown that travel is a priority across all ages, from young professionals to retirees. And that’s no surprise. Travelling satisfies curiosity about the world beyond, opens the door to new experiences, and leaves you with gratitude and inspiration. Here’s why travel is so good for your mind, spirit and health.
It’s good for lowering stress levels
Putting physical distance between you and your stressors allows the brain to sort the problem out in the back of your mind as you focus on other things - namely the relaxing scenery and exciting activities that claim your attention when you travel.
We don’t advocate running away from your problems, but taking even a small step back can certainly reset your brain and put things in perspective. A US Travel Association study found that 89% of their respondents experienced a significant reduction in stress as early as the first one or two days of travel.
Long-term stress reduction benefits of travel translate into physical effects too. The Framingham Heart Study found that women who took only one vacation every six years increased their risk for coronary heart disease eightfold compared to women who took two or more vacations a year.
It’s good for your mood
What else happens when you’re 2000 miles away from your toxic workplace and chaotic home? Your mood rises like an Indonesian hot air balloon!
Knowing you don’t have to worry even just for a little while is sure to make you get up on the right side of the bed. The novelty of a strange place gets you excited to start the day, explore your new surroundings, and tick off every stop on your itinerary - a change from the usual, and sometimes mundane, routine you wake up to back at home.
In addition, the mobility of travelling exposes you to plenty of exercise, fresh air and sunshine - all of which are natural mood boosters. Sunshine and exercise raise serotonin and endorphin levels, while getting fresh air while you’re out and about boosts the oxygen levels in your brain. Put together, all these things do wonders for elevating mood.
It’s good for your problem-solving skills
Travel isn’t always about Instagrammable moments in front of Prague Castle or the Ginza Temple. Half of the time, travel is about the undocumented calamities: delayed flights, getting lost, motion sickness, food poisoning, allergies, misplaced luggage, stolen passports...
Yet, these disruptions to normal living that you have to cope with when you travel are what will reinforce your mental toughness. Being far from the comforts of home forces you to adapt. You’ll develop resilience to discomfort (like when doing your business in the woods instead of a hotel toilet, for example) and critical thinking skills (like how to find your way in a city where you don’t speak the language, or trying to figure out a complex train system). It also teaches you to keep your emotions in check when dealing with situations out of your control.
Travel keeps your brain plastic and flexible as you problem-solve your way out of extraordinary situations. With every challenge you overcome, you’ll come home with a confident attitude: if I can make it through that, I can make it through anything.
It’s good for connecting with others
Travelling is a fun way to coax you out of your shell. You’ll have to request directions, haggle, ask strangers to take your photos, and basically do a lot of talking. It’s great practice for conquering shyness and social anxiety.
This is also a chance to connect with fellow travellers. Friendships formed on the road have a heightened intensity - relationships that you know will end on the next flight out can be treated differently than the friendship you have with your deskmate whom you see 40 hours a week. Done wisely, this can lead to valuable experiences.
More importantly, the most human thing about travelling is meeting people with cultures and backgrounds different from your own. Immersing yourself in a new culture goes beyond just eating their delicacies and being awed by their tourist attractions. It can be a social and spiritual experience if you really take the time to engage with locals and hear their stories.
When seeing the world through digital screens, it’s easy to prejudge cultures and people and label them as other or different. When walking their streets and interacting with them as real people, though, it’s harder to deny how much all human beings have in common.
Travel is a cure for hate and ignorance, two things that flood your mind with negative energy. In fact, a 2011 study shows that harbouring racial prejudices has been linked to poorer mental, social, and even physical well-being! If you’re willing to take a practical course in how to be a more understanding, open-hearted, and inclusive human being, travel can help with that.
It’s good for finding yourself
Of all the people you meet on your travels, it is most crucial to meet the person you are when you are not defined by your job, your family, or expectations your peers have of you. When you travel by yourself, you have the chance to explore how you would respond to situations if the choice were solely up to you. You may find yourself making decisions a little differently than if you were being watched by your boss, your kids, or your partner.
Travelling unearths facets of your personality in ways the routine of home cannot, and it is these lessons about your true self that can change your life when you return. Putting it all together, you discover who you are when you’re not bogged down by day-to-day life, when you’ve seen what it’s like to be happy and worry-free, when you’ve found confidence in your ability to face challenges, and when you’ve touched a stranger’s life for the better.
Finding yourself while travelling will always be a good enough reason to get up and go—and self-awareness is worth more than any souvenir you could bring back home. ■