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5 Amazing Health Benefits of Traveling

GREAT REASONS TO USE YOUR VACATION DAYS

Article by Kaylene Mathews

Photography by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay

There are many health benefits of traveling, but fewer than 50% of Americans are taking advantage of them.

One of the most significant health risks for Americans today is not taking vacations. I completely made that up, but I believe it’s real, and here’s the data to support my unscientifically proven point.

The Statistics on American Vacations

Americans have the lowest number of paid days off of any country in the world, according to a study conducted by Statista and Forbes. The UK, France, Spain, Germany and Australia all have a minimum of 20 days paid time off in addition to paid holiday time, which can add up to 15 additional days of time off. The highest on the list was the UK, coming in at a whopping 37 paid days off annually.

However, what little paid vacation time we do get in America, many of us don’t even take.

Statistics showed that as of 2016, 73% of the civilian workforce had access to paid vacation time. However, only approximately 50% of the workforce actually took their paid days off.

In 2018, Americans had a total of 768 million unused vacation days, forfeiting 236 million vacation days entirely. People talk about hating their jobs, yet they won’t take time away from them.

While older Americans take more time off, younger people, like Millennials and Gen-Xers, used their time off to travel.

Why Aren’t People Taking Their Vacation Days?

According to a study conducted by Project: Time Off and GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications (GfK), the underlying reason why people sacrifice their hard-earned time off is:

  1. Fear of returning to a mountain of work (40%)
  2. The belief that nobody else can do the job (35%)
  3. Inability to afford taking time off (33%)
  4. Fear of being seen as replaceable (22%)
  5. To show greater dedication to the company and the job (28%)

What they have not taken into consideration is that the health benefits of traveling far outweigh anything they fear they will come back to. Studies have revealed numerous positive effects of travel, which include improved relationships, sharper mental health and stronger heart health.

5 Amazing Health Benefits of Traveling

1. Strengthens Bonds with Family and Friends Through Shared Experiences

Close personal friendships have many health benefits, including extending our lives and defying dementia. Strong bonds ward off feelings of loneliness and depression, replacing them with feelings of worth and value. When we feel valued, we are more productive, empathetic, compassionate, and make more significant contributions to the world around us. These positive feelings are enhanced through shared experiences with the ones we love, which is why traveling together is so healthy.

Our family has traveled together for years. My kids have not known a different life other than long car rides, airplane trips, visiting new places, returning to favorite places, and making new memories. Many a conversation and reflection starts with, “Remember when we were in…” and we all hop on board for a trip down memory lane.

I’ve had the same experience traveling with friends. There is something about that shared experience in a new location that bonds people together in a way nothing else does.

I’m not alone in my experience. One of the health benefits of traveling is the positive effect it has on relationships, whether it’s family and friends or with colleagues and clients when you return.

When surveyed about how they felt about their relationships after taking a trip, respondents had this to say:

  • 82% came back from vacation with more patience for colleagues and clients
  • 80% agree that regular vacations strengthen their relationship with significant other
  • 79% agree that vacations rekindle their relationship
  • 90% agree that vacations help them to feel better connected to family and friends

{Source: Expedia Vacation Deprivation Study 2018}

2. Relieves Stress

When traveling for fun, you have the opportunity to rest and recharge, which helps to reduce stress and adds years to your life—and, by default, life to your years.

Far away from the demands of daily life, traveling gives us a chance to renew, recharge and revitalize our otherwise monotonous, responsibility-filled lives. Removed from activities and environments that are the source of our stress, we have a chance to take a breathe and gain perspective.

“The stress of work and daily demands can distract us from what we find to be actually meaningful and interesting,” says Dr. Tamara McClintock Greenberg, a San Francisco-based clinical psychologist and author of Psychodynamic Perspectives on Aging and Illness. “It also helps us reflect on our personal goals and interests,” she adds.

3. Enriches Your Life Experience

When you get outside of your comfortable quadrant, life changes. You think differently, you act differently, and your mind is expanded beyond its original limits. Arguably, travel is the best form of education, and it’s also a great way to be a more interesting person.

Especially when you travel abroad, your way of thinking is changed. People living in other places do things differently. Depending on what it is, it could be useful, or it could make you appreciate what you have at home more.

Another benefit of traveling is that it makes you a more positive person. Traveling allows you to try new things and participate in activities that you wouldn’t usually try. New experiences wake up your senses and make you come alive. After years of studying the effects of experiences on people, psychologist Rich Walker of Winston-Salem State University concluded that “people who engage in a variety of experiences are more likely to retain positive emotions and minimize negative ones than people who have fewer experiences.”

The collection of experiences while traveling will make you a more positive person upon your return to daily life.

4. Increases Your Sense of Happiness

Studies have also shown that traveling makes you more alert, mentally engaged and happier.

Our brains love the anticipation of vacation almost as much as actually being on vacation. Studies show that people who plan and take vacations are more productive than people who don’t. The planning process gives you something to look forward to. When we have something to look forward to, we are naturally more hopeful.

Happiness is also a natural by-product of the first three benefits mentioned above. When your relationships are enhanced, stress is reduced, and your life is enriched, your overall sense of well-being increases exponentially.

The after-effects of vacation linger long after the vacation has come to an end. It’s what my family calls the Vacation Afterglow.

5. Reduces the Chance of Heart Attack

One of the biggest health benefits of traveling is a healthy heart. Men who have not taken a vacation in several years are 30% more likely to have a heart attack. Women who vacation on average once every six years are eight times more likely to suffer from a heart attack than women who travel more frequently.

Part of the reason traveling people are healthier is that they are more active. It’s not unusual to walk up to 10 miles a day sightseeing when on a trip to a new destination. Frequently, people will try new activities such as snorkeling, hiking, or paddle boarding. Trying new physical activities boosts both physical and mental health.

But another reason is you are removed from the environment and people who trigger elevated cortisol levels in your system. Sustained high levels of cortisol are harmful to your health, including being bad for your brain. Cortisol wears down your brain’s ability to function correctly. It also kills brain cells and can even reduce the size of your brain.

You must give your brain a break from work and get away from it all. Traveling helps your mind to relax, providing a much-needed detox to reenergize you.

How to Make It Happen

Make a plan. People who plan their trips are more likely to take the trip versus those who don’t plan. And as you learned in No. 3, planning can make you almost as happy as actually being on the trip.

If you’re an inexperienced traveler and uncomfortable with the idea of a big trip, plan a small one, or get help from a travel agent. But just plan something and pack your bags!

Tip for planning your getaway: If you love a good deal, here are a few sites you will want to check out when planning your next trip:

  • TripAdvisor – useful for finding reviews on anything and everything related to vacation.
  • Skyscanner – this app is excellent for finding the best airline deals across all airlines.
  • Scott’s cheap flights – this website offers a free and premium option to find the best airline deals.
  • Airbnb – great site for finding less expensive accommodations in cities and locations worldwide.
  • VRBO – also an excellent site for finding less expensive accommodations in cities and locations worldwide.

Conclusion

Take your vacation and get away from your familiar surrounding. Your health depends on it! Traveling strengthens relationships, reduces stress, enriches your life, increases your sense of happiness, and reduces your risk of a heart attack. With all of those health benefits waiting for you, you can’t afford to forfeit your vacation days this year!

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