Lots of time we focus on the downside of travel -- you can gain weight, spend too much money and party too hard. But traveling can also make you a healthier, better version of yourself. It's not all about the parties and the food tours and the souvenirs.
Last January, the U.S. Travel Association launched a multi-year “Travel Effect” advocacy and awareness campaign to emphasize and explore the healthy side of travel. We suspect the results will prove our theory that travel has a unparalleled effect on us.
Without further ado, seven ways being a traveler can make you lead a happier, healthier life.
Improve Your Social Skills
Meeting new people is one of the great upsides of traveling. Whether it's chatting up your hostel roommate, making small talk with your seat-mate on a train or having a lively discussion at a local bar, you will be forced to improve your social skills (especially if you're traveling solo). If new situations tend to make you anxious, traveling is a sure way to take steps toward reducing that anxiety.
Taking time off is an obvious way to recharge and reduce stress levels. But while staying home and resting is a worthy use of your time off, traveling removes you from your everyday life and lets you truly escape. Traveling lets you put aside your daily responsibilities and focus on yourself for a moment. When you return home you'll feel refreshed and have the motivation you felt drained of before you left.
Having a travel "to-do" list and slowly crossing things off that list keeps you motivated and positive. That list can include things like visiting certain locations or accomplishing a feat such as climbing a mountain or becoming conversational in the language of your next destination. Achieving those goals also increases confidence and gives a sense of success.
Once you catch the adventure travel bug, you'll never be the same. Let's say while traveling you get lured into taking a hike with beautiful panoramic views. You go, it's not too strenuous and the experience takes your breath away. Now you want more -- harder hikes with even better pay off. While home, you exercise and prepare for more challenging hikes. You're healthier and fitter than ever and you get to look forward to accomplishing new goals.
Become More Flexible
Sometimes things don't go according to plan while traveling. Maybe your flight is cancelled or it rains the day you're scheduled to go on an epic outdoor adventure. It's okay -- there are other flights to take (or trains, or buses) and maybe on that rainy day you'll discover a hidden bookstore to explore or an adorable cafe to experience. Traveling helps you be more flexible and open-minded, making you more zen in your everyday life.
Become More Patient
Travel can involve a lot of waiting. You'll wait in lines. You'll wait for flights. You'll wait at restaurants. Learning how to cope with those waits, how to make conversation with those you're waiting with and how to stay calm in frustratingly slow situations will teach you how to remain patient and calm in all situations.
Have Better Relationships
Surveys have shown that couples who travel together report more intimate relationships and better sex lives. While travel can't make you have a good relationship, it can strengthen it. Being free of responsibilities like doing the dishes and walking the dog helps you relax together and focus on each other.
What other ways has travel made you a healthier person?
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