The Healing Power of Travel

Notable author and vagabond Mark Twain once said, “20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” But did you know that traveling both near and far is beneficial to our health, too? Here’s why.

The Many Health Benefits of Travel

Whether you dash away for a long weekend or plan an extended international journey, travel provides an encouraging boost to how we think and feel. For example, the Mental Health Association in Delaware (MHAD) indicates traveling: 

  • Is often a great stress reliever. This is the benefit most of us are familiar with: getting away from the usual daily grind and taking off for a few days. Anything we can do to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, is a big plus, MHAD states. And it seems to work! “In a 2013 study, 80 percent of respondents said travel improves their general mood, and 75 percent said travel helps them reduce stress.” Some studies even suggest that this feeling can last as long as a few weeks after you return home. 
  • Helps build better resilience. “Dealing with travel delays and learning a new transit system, all in a new environment, helps you get out of your comfort zone. There are also feelings of accomplishment that come with navigating the challenges that arrive,” MHAD notes. And although it might seem counterintuitive, even people with general anxiety disorder that’s triggered by travel can use each getaway as a method to recognize and manage their symptoms more effectively. Their coping system for each trip should include solid research, proper planning, grounding exercises, and positive focus.
  • Improves creativity. MHAD references points by Adam Galinsky, a researcher and author on creativity and international travel, who says “foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought.” This real-life education helps expand your problem-solving skills, curiosity, willingness to learn, and overall perspective on life.

Traveling also helps us form better connections and reduce loneliness. This benefit applies to how you feel with your travel companions, making new memories together, as well as people you meet along the way. A 2023 study published in the Journal of Transport & Health indicated that individuals who weren’t able to travel beyond a 15-mile radius of their home reported worse health compared to those who could. 

Studies indicate that travel is a boon to your physical health as well. 

  • You’re more likely to be active because you’re excited to go sightseeing in a new area or you’re participating in hobbies you enjoy, such as walking on the beach, biking, hiking, kayaking, and so on.
  • Being exposed to different environments helps introduce your immune system to different antibodies, thus making it stronger. 
  • Your frequency of travel—at least two vacations annually—improves heart health. In fact, even planning a getaway helps lower your average heart rate.
  • For many people, their sleep improves while away, too. Depending on the nature of their trip, after a night or two in a new place, they’re able to release responsibilities more easily and get better rest. And yes, “sleep tourism” is really a thing!

Follow Your Interests

If it’s been a while since you’ve had the opportunity to take a trip, you don’t have to dive headfirst into an international multi-week cruise—unless you want to, of course! Here are some ideas:

Create healthy summer fun. Most of us have more opportunities to roam during the lazy days of summer. Spend the day at an art, food, or music festival; visit local, state, and national parks; or indulge yourself at a spa a few miles away.

Plan different weekend trips. Take one weekend a month to explore by car, plane, or train. Sign up for travel deal newsletters to see what destinations are easily accessible from where you live and head on out!

Arrange a rendezvous in a new location. Have some friends or family you haven’t seen in a while? Spice up a gathering by meeting in place none of you have visited before so everyone has a chance at some time off. 

Plan for the big getaway. Allow yourself to dream a little and decide on a location or excursion you’ve always wanted to do. Set a timeline for departure, and start putting the pieces in place to make it happen. The anticipation of something interesting to look forward to adds a lot to our well-being.

Explore More With Cottonwood Tucson

Treatment for mood disorders, trauma and PTSD, and other conditions is often depicted as being a grueling experience. While certainly there are severe issues to address, what emerges after that hard work is the opportunity for more joy in life and renewed purpose. If you’re ready for whole-person healing, we encourage you to explore what we have to offer at our desert oasis.  

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