By Rachael Funk
Look at you; you’re a legend. Your wanderlust has taken you through jungles, across rivers, and exposed you to some of the most breathtaking architecture on Earth. Your friends and family marvel at your adventures and sigh with regret, “I need a vacation.”
You smile to humor them, but you know something they don’t: travel is much more than just a week at the beach. It changes you. Something about experiencing the wider world moves you. Travel provides plenty of life-enhancing benefits beyond a relaxing week in a new locale. Here are a few of our favorites.
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1. Travel improves your health
The exposure to new environments allows you to create stronger antibodies and gives your immune system a boost. Travel also has been proven to decrease your risk of heart disease. The Framingham Heart Study showed that folks who travel annually were less likely to have a heart attack or develop heart disease than those who don’t. Not only does travel benefit your physical health, it also improves your mental health. Many travelers have reported relief from depression and anxiety symptoms during travel, as well as for a time upon their return. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has noted that people who study abroad and travel tend to be more open and emotionally stable.
2. It also makes you cuter
Let’s be real: stress makes a person age faster. Getting to disconnect from your mundane routine and the daily stress that plagues you will do wonders for your stress level. Giving yourself a chance to lift off the mantle of all those little stressors that pile up will not only give you a clearer perspective of your priorities, your new lease on life will be apparent to everyone around you.
3. Travel makes you smarter
It’s possible you’ve fallen into a routine and your days are pretty predictable. You may even be able to pass an entire forgettable day on autopilot. When you disrupt the habits you’re used to performing every day, it gets your synapses firing again. You’ll be faced with daily challenges such as navigation in a new place, overcoming language barriers, and last-minute plan changes. These obstacles help keep you on your toes as you hone your mental processing and filing techniques, not to mention all the new information flooding in about people, history, culture, and other tidbits you’ll pick up along the way.
4. It increases empathy and understanding
Not only does travel boost your intrapersonal, naturalist, and linguistic intelligence, it also increases your interpersonal and existential intelligence as well. When you take in new cultures and lifestyles, your perspective widens. Travel fosters empathy by teaching you how to be less judgmental about new ways of life, showing you the world how others see it, and exposing you to diversity. It may seem a cliché, but travel truly does push people out of their comfort zone and create understanding that “different” is not the same as “wrong.”
5. It gets you away from the computer and into the real world
Travel is a great opportunity to lift your eyes from your screens and take in the environment around you. Instead of taking in how other people engage in their experiences, you get to go have them for yourself. There is an immense difference between watching a nice video about your favorite destination and actually being there. Who cares if a few Facebook posts go unseen? A break from the Internet does everyone good.
6. It makes you more social
When you’re on the road, there’s going to come a time you have to speak to a stranger. Whether you identify as an introvert, and extrovert, or somewhere in between, being forced into situations where you have to strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know improves your social skills. Additionally, many travelers have reported that some of the friendships they found while traveling turned out to be some of the strongest connections they’ve made.
7. Travel makes you a storyteller
Not only does regular travel improve your conversation skills with strangers, it provides you with far more exciting stories. Your experiences will help you learn how to ask more interesting questions, paint vivid pictures with your words, and become more passionate about sharing your know-how. Small talk gets stale with the same standard questions and same standard responses, but when you share about zip lining through South America, joining a sing-along in an Irish pub, or snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, you captivate your audience.
8. It makes you more adaptable
Nothing makes you innovative quite like dropping into a foreign country and having to make your way through unexpected traffic, bad food, or a language barrier. As unique challenges arise on your journeys, you improve your decision-making skills, become better at adjusting plans, and generally learn to be more easy-going about inconveniences. Honing this skill will not only help you enjoy your vacations more, but you will also benefit from it once you’ve returned home!