BY: ZOE MELNYK
If for some reason you need another reason to travel besides the thrill of adventure and the opportunity to explore the hidden corners of the world and your mind, try your health.
Besides the obvious psychological benefits to traveling—the beauty of finding yourself while growing with every step of the journey and all—there’s actually scientifically proven mental and physical benefits to traveling that tackle the issues of stress and depression that are commonly intertwined with our hectic lives. Arguably, the spiritual benefits of traveling far outweighs the effects of medication or the advice any psychiatrist could offer.
US Travel Association strongly believed that there was more to traveling than simply self-exploration, and so they began a multi-million dollar research project called “The Travel Effect.”
Research from the association found that children who travel outside of their region between the ages of 12 and 18 often times become more interested in their studies in school and are more likely to graduate with a college degree.
Now, this may seem rather bias—of course the kids with the money to travel will be the ones to afford college and have the time to be interested in school. But the researchers were careful to evaluate children from a range of social classes and the same results were found true across each survey.
Research from the association found that children who travel outside of their region between the ages of 12 and 18 become more interested in their studies in school and are more likely to graduate with a college degree.
Children are not the only beneficiaries of traveling, women also posed very interesting results with an increase of travel. Working with The Global Commissions on Aging and Transamerica for Retirement, the US Travel Association also found that women who travel at least twice a year were less likely to suffer from a heart attack than women who travel once every six years or less.
It doesn’t stop with women and children—everyone who travels can feel the relief of stress, since studies show that 89 per cent of travellers feel significantly more relaxed within the first two days of their journey.
John Lehrer from The Guardian did an interesting take on this topic with his article “Why We Travel” as he delved into the idea that by distancing ourselves from our lives and our problems we have the ability to see our issues from a new perspective. Problems that seem catastrophic in the moment might be easily solved from a fresh point of view.
By distancing ourselves from our lives and our problems we have the ability to see our issues from a new perspective, which may be why 89 per cent of travellers feel significantly more relaxed within the first two days of their journey. A healthy mind stimulates a healthy body.
For those of you looking to travel for an extended period of time, there’s a whole other spectrum of growth that comes from opening yourself up to a new culture. By moving to a country and learning their language, for example, you could potentially exercise and develop different parts of your brain.
Different studies provide evidence that learning a new language can help strengthen the parts of your brain involving memory and creativity, and despite what some believe, you don’t have to learn the second language as a child to reap the benefits. Edinburgh University researchers tested 853 adults and still found beneficial results to learning a second language past childhood. For example, being bilingual could help delay the effects of alzheimer’s disease and onset of dementia, according to Canadian studies.
Of course, none of this is relevant if you travel simply for the pictures and not for the experience, as Lehrer also points out. Buying a ticket is just the first step. Flying around the world without any attempts to immerse yourself in a new culture won’t help you to see anything new and in fact, it could be counterproductive.
As James Michener puts it, “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” So when and if you go, leave yourself behind. Forget the familiar, dismiss your fears and embrace the uncertainty and frustration that accompanies the joys of exploration.