Do It Naturally: How Travel Is Good For Your Health
Everyday life can be an siege on your mental and physical health- relationship issues, kids, pets, work stress, traffic, and the list goes on. I have an idea to get you out of the strains of life: TRAVEL. A 2013 study found Americans forfeited 52 billion dollars in time-off benefits and took less time off than in any point in the last four decades. Americans are work martyrs, thinking they will get ahead faster if they stick around the office. What they might actually get is unhealthier and simply burnt out.
I know, I know, you say even if I took the time, I don’t have the money. Travel doesn’t need to be expensive to effectively deliver health benefits. The same people I’ve talked to who claim it’s lack of dollars keeping them tied to their office desk are the same ones who are spending those very dollars everyday on lattes, new clothes, and the latest electronic gadget. While you may enjoy those things, and who doesn’t, adding travel to your list of purchases is just as important as eating right, exercising regularly, not smoking, wearing your seat belt and a whole host of sound lifestyle habits.
I spoke with a Paris-based journalist, two globe-trotting registered dietitians and an owner of a luxury travel newsletter and magazine who gave me four great insights into just what travel can do for your mental clarity and your overall well-being.
Leaving It All Behind
“The very purpose of travel is to explore somewhere that isn’t your home, whether that place be near or far. But the intrinsic value in such travel experiences isn’t merely to learn about another culture or philosophy but to learn about oneself”, says Lindsey Tramuta, an American journalist living in Paris and owner of the award-winning blog, Lost in Cheeseland. “Placing oneself directly in juxtaposition with another way of life begets a slower pace and heightened focus in the moment without the quotidian distractions we allow ourselves to be hemmed in by – digital connectivity, endless information, dings and alarms. The moments where I feel the most healthy, relaxed and clear about my life (my present life) is when I’m on the road with idle time to digest an experience, idle time to think”.
Once you hop that train or board that plane, your regular daily life can seem smaller and smaller, leaving you the room to be mentally and physically in the moment in a new location. Now that’s really leaving it all behind.
Changing Old Habits
By its very nature, travel “forces” change. You get to eat different food, learn a new language, hear new sounds. These changes on vacations can stay with you upon your return, says Jaime Schwartz, RD, Vice President, Ketchum Public Relations in NYC.
“I love going on runs in the cities I travel to as it’s such a great way to explore my surroundings and focus on fitness at the same time. When I return, I try to have that same exploration mentality when I’m running in my own neighborhood and try to observe new things around me. Even though I may be on that same street every day, I try to make it a new experience and appreciate the elements just as I would in a city that isn’t ‘mine.'”
Schwartz explains,”I’ve noticed I have a heightened sense of awareness when dining out when I travel, paying more attention to the flavors and mouthfeel while I try to savor and experience each bite. It could be the same type of dish I would order at home, but something about being in a new city makes me appreciate it that much more. I try to bring this sense of mindfulness to eating when I return home.”
In our daily lives, it’s not always easy to seek out doing things we love. We run on controlled schedules. Sometimes time is so tight, we seek pleasure in perhaps not the healthiest ways. We might overeat or indulge in too much alcohol just to “escape” the grind. But when you travel, there is an opportunity to choose the things you really want to do. In essence, your actions become self-soothing instead of self-medicating, training you to be in the moment.
“I find that traveling and stepping out of my usual routine clears my mind to allow new perspectives and creative ideas to emerge,” says Layne Lieberman, RD, award-winning author of Beyond The Mediterranean Diet: European Secrets of The Super Healthy. “Travel offers the opportunity to immerse myself in an unfamiliar culture in which I can be fully present in the experience of each new moment. That’s because the clutter of everyday life seems to disappear. I feel freedom to explore and participate, almost as if it were the first day in a new school.”
You have your circle of friends, acquaintances and family members at home, but travel expands the way we can relate to our place in the universe. Life isn’t just about the people and things around us everyday.
Deborah Thompson, co-founder and publisher of the New Jetsetters newsletter and online magazine believes, “Traveling gives us a sense of understanding our universe and the people, plants, and creatures that inhabit it – there is no teacher, no schoolroom, no book that can open the doors of our minds like travel can. Traveling unlocks the inner child in us – our long-lost sense of wonder, delight and awe. We are reborn.”
While travel may still be seen as a luxury, it’s an priceless investment in your health.