Written by: Heather Mikesell
While most of our passports have been gathering dust for the past year or so, it looks like we’re finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel as the COVID-19 vaccine is rolled out, travel restrictions are lifted, and people resume making travel plans for the future. Domestic travel is looking to be especially enticing for those looking to get away from it all after a long travel dry spell. Just the act of researching and planning an itinerary is enough to spark joy in many. It may involve delayed gratification, but there is something to be said for the anticipation that comes with knowing travel is on the horizon. Although we were told to temporarily stay home for our health, there are also many health and wellness benefits associated with getting out there and visiting some of the spectacular destinations in our own backyard and beyond. Here are just some of the reasons you’ll want to consider booking a getaway, beyond experiencing the much-needed change of scenery it’ll provide.
If you’ve ever wondered why Europeans seem so much more relaxed than Americans, you might think it has something to do with the number of paid vacation days they get in a year, and you’d probably be right. Europeans, on average, get at least four weeks of paid vacation each year as opposed to our two, maybe three, if we’re lucky. That’s a good chunk of time to focus on things other than work. Unplugging from email and taking a break from mindless scrolling can do wonders for relieving stress. Travel provides us with an opportunity to shed our normal routines and create new healthy habits, such as getting a full night’s sleep, waking up for morning yoga, enjoying a wine tasting, or spending quality time with our friends and family.
Increases Physical Activity
Traveling is not for the sedentary. Getting from point A to point B takes effort, and even if your ideal vacation is kicking back with a cocktail by the pool, chances are you’re going to clock some miles as you take advantage of all the things there are to do and see. According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness tourism is projected to reach $919 billion by 2022. While the recent pandemic may have slowed that growth a bit, research shows that more people are embracing wellness tourism, which is travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or improving personal wellbeing. From on-demand workouts to state-of-the-art fitness facilities, hotels today offer a multitude of wellness-related programming, including fitness options that help boost your heart rate, burn calories, and build endurance. In fact, the Framingham Heart Study, revealed that those who didn’t vacation regularly were more likely to suffer from heart attacks than those who prioritized travel each year. The bottom line is that travel promotes physical activity and is good for your heart.
In Yale University’s The Science of Well-Being course, professor Laurie Santos reveals the misconceptions we have about what actually makes us happy. Research proves it’s not things but experiences that bring us joy. Travel fits that category perfectly. A recent study in Science Daily revealed that frequent travelers are happier with their lives than those who don’t travel. In fact, participants in the study who reported frequently traveling more than 75 miles from home were found to be approximately 7 percent happier than those who rarely or never travel. According to Tia Graham, founder of Arrive at Happy, travel boosts happiness in multiple ways, such as in the excitement of planning, the anticipation of the trip itself, the pleasant emotions tied to the actual experience, and the positive feelings associated with reminiscing over the photos and videos. “The world is such a fascinating place,” says Graham. “And travel is one of the biggest happiness experiences there is.”
Expands the Mind and Critical-Thinking Skills
When we’re surrounded by people who think, speak, and act in a similar manner, it’s easy to forget that there is an entire world that does not. It’s often not until we venture beyond our homes, neighborhoods, and communities that we discover how diverse the world and country really is. It’s then we truly grasp how many different ways there are to do things, how people can view similar events so differently, and how priorities differ, based on where we find ourselves. Travel encourages us to re-examine our values and belief systems. When experiencing another culture, it’s nearly impossible not to consider the perspective of those who live there. It also requires us to navigate unfamiliar situations, such as figuring out a train schedule in a foreign country, reading a map when we can’t rely on our phones’ GPS, communicating when we don’t know the language, and understanding the local currency.
When we’re feeling in a rut or uninspired, changing our surroundings can be just the fix we need to untap a flow of fresh ideas. It’s why a simple walk is so often recommended when we’re feeling stuck. Sometimes the mind just needs a reset from the daily grind, and travel provides that, especially when we’re able to distance ourselves from the distractions that monopolize our attention. Instead, we’re able to appreciate a stunning sunrise, enjoy an unexpected conversation, or enjoy the vibrant energy of a thriving city. Traveling gives us new perspective, which is key when we’re at a loss for ideas. While creativity is a muscle that needs to be flexed, it’s also important to feed it a steady diet of inspiration.
Promotes Connection to Others
When we travel, we’re exposed to people from all walks of life. From locals to nomadic travelers with wanderlust running through their veins to visitors on holiday, what most of us have in common are interesting stories that connect us all. There is something about sharing a fleeting moment or experience with a stranger that makes us appreciate the lasting relationships in our lives. We become better listeners, which also makes us better communicators. Interacting with a wide range of people—a local guide, a fellow hotel guest we meet at the pool, or an Uber driver—also helps us to develop empathy, as their stories help us to understand the rights and privilege we may take for granted. Traveling helps us to cast aside our judgments and embrace those around us for who they are. It also brings us closer to those with whom we share our travel experiences.
Broadens Our Horizons
There is nothing like a new setting to expand our world view. Interacting with locals, experiencing unfamiliar cultures, and trying new activities shows us more than our sliver of the planet. Traveling also gives us an opportunity to immerse ourselves in a new passion, such as studying a foreign language or learning to cook authentic Thai food. It provides a window into how others see us and helps us to understand issues that we might not experience in our own lives. In some cases, it may even help us find purpose. Opening ourselves up to new travel opportunities and experiences offers a chance to overcome the fears that keep us from discovering the things that make us truly happy.
Challenges Us to Go Beyond Our Comfort Zones
Although travel can be uncomfortable at times, it also helps us build resiliency. Flight delays, missed connections, and disappointment when our expectations aren’t met can make us wish we had just stayed home. However, these are the things that make us more adaptable, flexible, and patient. The ability to recover quickly from difficult situations gives us strength in other areas of our lives. By trying new foods, embracing new experiences, and leaning into the unknown, we develop coping skills and learn how to overcome challenges.
Feeling inspired to hit the road? Benchmark Resorts & Hotels offers a collection of wellness tips, stories, and culinary recipes from its portfolio of experiential properties across the U.S. Check them out here.