With budget airlines, Airbnb, and countless aps, vacationing abroad is cheaper and simpler than it has ever been. But Americans remain unlikely to vacation overseas, and 29% of Americans have never been abroad at all!
It seems that even though travelling is easier than ever, it’s difficult to compete with the Internet, through which we can explore exotic locales immediately and for free. But if you can muster the time and money, actually travelling delivers great rewards. One of the lesser known rewards: it can be good for your health.
There are a lot of health scares built up around travelling: exposure to dangerous microbes, blood clots in airplanes, the toll of jet lag, and so forth. But in reality, travelling is good for you. It lowers your stress levels, improves your mind, and boosts your happiness. Add in a biking tour or a day spent kayaking or skiing, and you can add all the health benefits of physical exercise to that list as well.
Stress can be terrible for you. It puts strain on your heart, increases your chance of diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and gastrointestinal problems, and can lead to a number of mental health problems. But although aspects of travel–namely, the flight–can be stressful, travelling abroad has been found to lower your stress level. One study suggested that travelers felt significantly less stressed three days after taking a vacation, and this lowered stress tended to linger for weeks.
Travelling can also improve your relationships. Travelling abroad with loved ones means quality time without the distractions of everyday life. Log out of your email, tell your workplace not to call you, and enjoy a week of unobstructed conversation and great memories. Not only will you have a great time, but becoming closer with your loved ones will help reduce the stress in your life.
Today, 6.9 percent of the American population has been diagnosed with depression, with many more who may be undiagnosed. Travel can help. In a study by the Marshfield Clinic, researchers found that women who vacationed twice a year were significantly less likely to suffer from depression. Even if you aren’t at risk for depression, travelling can increase your happiness. In fact, ot only does being abroad and away from work make you happier, but even planning a vacation can cause your happiness to increase.
Finally, people who travel abroad frequently learn to think more creatively. Frequent travellers build cognitive flexibility, especially if they make the effort to intellectually engage with the culture they are visiting. This boosts their job performance and lowers their chances of getting neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.