[caption id="attachment_6346" align="alignnone" width="625"] Reap the benefits of health, happiness and gratitude on your next journey. [Photo credit: Adobe Stock][/caption]By Wendy Sue Knecht for Next Avenue
Some people are just lucky — they’re born with it. I’m not talking about good looks or money. I’m talking about wanderlust …. that something inside of you that just makes you want to go places, explore and of course, wander.
My own wanderlust was cultivated at a young age. Although my family never took anything but road trips growing up, my father used to regale me with bedtime stories of Gee Gee Go-Go, a fictional character who traveled all over the world on his tricycle. It’s no surprise I became a Pan Am flight attendant!
What Research Says Travel Can Do for You
I know, there are many reasons why the word “travel” doesn’t have the allure it once had: security, restrictions, frenzied airports and packed airplanes, to name a few. I also long for those glamorous days of travel. But although the journey may not always be as exciting as the destination these days, I still think that traveling — whether to places near or far — should be on the top of your list.
Why? Because research shows that travelers are healthier in mind, body and spirit. These seven compelling reasons to travel might be enough to send you packing:
1. You’ll Be Healthier
The research is clear that travel makes us healthier, especially as we age. The Framingham Heart Study found that women who vacationed at least twice a year are healthier and much less prone to suffering a coronary event than those who vacation less frequently. A study sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute found that men with high risk for coronary heart disease who took frequent annual vacations were 21 percent less likely to die from any cause and 32 percent less likely to die from heart disease.
A Global Coalition on Aging study also credits travel with helping to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s, especially with retired people. This all makes sense when you think about how stimulating the act of traveling is for your brain. Travel requires you to make new decisions, learn new routes, read maps and adapt to new situations. New adventure means negotiating new paths.
2. You’ll Be Happier
According to a Cornell University study, people can even experience a direct increase in happiness just from the act of planning a trip. I’ve seen this in action with my husband, who loves researching travel options and will spend hours on the computer, enjoying every minute of it.
For most of us, having a change of scenery to look forward to, something that takes us away from the everyday routine and stresses of life and lightens the heart, boosts the spirit. Buying “experiences” brings more satisfaction than buying “things,” according to the Cornell study.
3. You’ll Relieve Stress
Traveling takes you away to another world far from your normal surroundings and alleviates stress by transforming your focus.
A study from the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin found that women who vacation at least twice a year are less likely to suffer from depression and chronic stress than women who vacation less than once every two years. The study also found that married women who vacation are more likely to be satisfied with their marriage.
Other studies conclude that the stress reduction factor of traveling is a major contributor to longevity with men who are at high risk for coronary artery disease.
4. You’ll Gain a Sense of Gratitude
It has been said, “It’s great to leave, and it’s great to come home.” One of the best effects of travel is the resulting increased gratitude and appreciation for what we generally take for granted. Whether you are vacationing on the French Riviera, touring rural India, visiting a national park or stopping by a town just a few hours away, these are experiences that enrich your view of the world around you. Being exposed to new surroundings and the diversity and beauty of our world leads to a greater sense of appreciation for life, and can be spiritually enlightening and gratifying.
5. You’ll Make Important Memories
They say, “travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” I think that’s true. Experiences made through traveling help create deep connections with others. Whether you travel alone, with a group or with family or friends, you will cherish these memories for a lifetime.
6. You’ll Be More Interesting
Immersing yourself in new places and cultures opens up your world to firsthand knowledge, more than you can learn from reading alone. The enriching experience of “being there” broadens your scope of understanding and makes you more interesting all around. You’ll never run out of cocktail party conversation!
7. You’ll Be More Compassionate
Travel helps you make sense of the world around you. How can you effectively understand others if you haven’t seen how they live? As Mark Twain wrote in 1869 in his book, The Innocents Abroad:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Almost 150 years later, these words ring true now more than ever.
The facts should be convincing; travel is good for us. Time to get packing!
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