Those Who Travel Might Just Live Longer

Your annual vacation might be more beneficial than you originally thought. 

Science said it – Travel makes you better and healthier. Best news ever…turns out my very favorite activity – travel, especially of the international variety – is scientifically proven to improve lifespan, general life satisfaction and happiness. So much for it just being a selfish love of wandering. 

Naturally due to my love of travel and my past jobs in the travel industry, much of my network is made up of die hard travelers and wanderers – in my opinion some of the raddest people around. So imagine my surprise when I read that American’s are half as likely to travel internationally as Europeans. 

Travel isn’t just for the wealthy, it isn’t just for the college dropout backpacker or the insta-famous adventurer. It isn’t just about getting the best picture or doing wild and crazy activities – research shows that it is an important part of managing our health. 

Here are the reasons why travel is good for your health: 

Travel lowers stress levels. I can only imagine just taking any sort of break from the constant hubbub and noise of our non-stop lives would lower stress levels. According to this study, women who take more frequent vacations or time off experience less stress, depression and exhaustion. Another plus, they showed improved work performance. 

For most, travel keeps you fit. Lots of people travel to hike, bike, get outdoors, wander a new city, or just walk on the beach, which is significantly better than sitting in that office chair all day. I started out by saying “for most” as a caveat because plenty of people go on a vacation – good for reducing the stress –  and lay around all day sunbathing or take the cruise travel route and eat more than they have ever consumed in their whole lives in one week. Obviously this type of travel is less ideal for overall health. 

Travel promotes heart health. The lowered stress levels and increased activity will in turn will decrease your risk of heart disease. This just makes sense. Studies have found that women who only vacationed once every 6 years or less frequently were at a higher risk to suffer or die from a heart attack. While men who do not take a little break for vacation show a 20% higher risk of death and a 30% greater risk of heart disease. 

International or at least novel (i.e. visiting new places) travel improves your brain. Think about it: learning a new language, navigating a new city, meeting new people –  all of this works to exercise your mind and keep it sharp. It will improve both your memory and concentration – something I definitely need with a family history of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It also improves your resilience as, many times, travel can create all sorts of new challenges and difficult situations. 

Travel makes you more creative. According to Adam Galinski, a Columbia Business School professor, “Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms.” In this study, he looked at fashion collections produced by the top brands around the world for 11 years and found a correlation between foreign professional experiences of creative directors and the creativity ratings of their collections. Creative directors who traveled more and had more cultural experiences showed greater creative innovation. But Galinsky also believes that international travelers can’t just sightsee, they have to be purposeful about engaging with the culture. So if you are looking for a little creative inspiration, cultural immersion and conscious travel might be just what the doctor ordered. 

It has even been said that just planning a vacation alone increases your happiness. There is an increase in dopamine during the planning stage and it increases your happiness for up to 8 weeks. As stressful as planning a bunch of trips at one time can be, I can see why I keep doing it! 

On a final note and with a failure to avoid cliche, travel also broadens your perspective. It forces you outside your comfort zone and gives you a great opportunity to view things from a new perspective. This in turn will increase your openness and understanding of others as well as enhance your sense of self, noting of course that you have to be somewhat open to it. I am sure there is a large group of us that could benefit from a strengthened personal identity and increased confidence. 

Whether local or global, all forms of travel have an opportunity to enhance our lives in expected and unexpected ways. All of these items listed above work together to prove my concept that if we travel, we will live longer. Now just for getting more time off!  

When was the last time you traveled abroad or took a vacation? If it was not in the last year, maybe consider googling a couple nearby destinations to explore. If a trip abroad isn’t in the cards, why not take a day to check out a new park, a new part of town or a visit a new place within driving distance of your home base. It is not a step down; I always love exploring places close by and always manage to find something new and exciting. 

The world is magical, every last little spot, so get out there and experience it. Your mind, body and soul will thank you for it. 

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