Summer is just around the corner, bringing with it balmy breezes, nights outdoors, and great weather for travel! Surprisingly, despite the plethora of great options available, over a quarter of adult Americans have never left the country in their lives. Much of it is due to cost—after all, it can be a bit more expensive to go all the way to Europe or Asia than for residents of the UK to hop across the channel. But there are more ways than ever to be smart about taking a summer vacation abroad.
And, as it turns out, time abroad can have a few great health benefits. If you’re on the fence about traveling, I’d like to talk about a few of the ways that it can positively impact your life.
Mark Twain once said that “[t]ravel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Though it is difficult to find empirical evidence that this is in fact true, visiting other countries and learning the social mores of other cultures can be eye-opening. It is, of course, fascinating to partake in the customs of a culture that may be very far removed from your own. However, the more you travel, the more you realize that there’s a lot that we have in common on a global scale. The common desires to belong, to create, and support others is ingrained in the human psyche, and seeing them translate to other cultures creates a mutual understanding that can affect an individual’s life.
Experiencing new cultures can also have cognitive benefits for travelers. International travel has been linked to improved creativity and the ability to make mental connections. Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School, posits that being immersed in another culture and engaging with the local environment can boost creativity. His studies make strides in improving what many had already suspected about the link between creativity and international travel. Many famous authors have cited their time abroad as inspiration for their works; Ernest Hemingway’s works took cues from his time in Spain and France.
Still not convinced? There are numerous other benefits to traveling abroad, many scientifically proven.
For instance, travel has the surprising side effect of keeping you healthier. A study done by the Global Commission on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that taking a vacation and traveling lowers stress almost immediately, within two days of departure. Beyond that, the study discovered that individuals that take fewer vacations show higher rates of heart disease and depression. Research accounted for income levels and existing health conditions.
Even before a vacation, your mood may very well increase. Money spent on an experience such as traveling is proven to make you happier than money spent on material possessions. In the time leading up to travel or vacation plans, anticipation grows, leading to improved motivation and happiness in that period.
These benefits even last after a vacation has ended. It can be somewhat stressful to ensure that a vacation abroad goes exactly as planned, but afterwards, anxiety and stress levels can decrease, an effect that can last for weeks afterward. Other effects include travelers feeling more well-rested and less likely to experience burnout at work, a growing problem for businesses.
A surprising number of individuals neglect to take yearly vacations, and not taking time off can negatively affect productivity and motivation. In particular, pursuing an international experience can be life-changing, conferring long-lasting benefits for anyone willing to venture outside of their comfort zone and immerse themselves in a new culture. Start planning now; you never know where life will take you!