Mind & Body

The Mental and Physical Benefits of Traveling

We all know traveling can be fun. It can also be a bit of a nightmare. But here's the good news: Even the most stressful and seemingly unpleasant travel is actually great for both your body and your soul. Here are some of the wonderful things that happen to you when you travel:

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You Learn New Languages!

There are countless online courses and physical classes that can, in theory, teach you how to speak another language. But even the best formal language instruction is no match for the education you receive while actually traveling to other countries. Order food at restaurants, engage in conversation with the locals, make embarrassing mistakes as you struggle through a few sentences in the hope of tracking down the nearest bus station. Most local speakers are more forgiving than you'd expect.

You Develop Empathy

A surprising number of the world's problems today spring from a basic lack of empathy. In order to act selflessly or help people who are not immediate friends or family, it helps to understand a bit about the struggles of "others." And while it's tempting to think that this understanding can come from a YouTube video or Instagram feed, it can't. Only when you fully immerse yourself in another culture can you begin to truly empathize with other humans.

You Build Resilience

Let's face it: Traveling is hard. Even the most well-thought-out and meticulous plans tend to go amiss when you're out of your comfort zone in a foreign land. Plan B's and Plan C's start kicking in when flights need to be rebooked, passports recovered, or when it turns out that hotel whose website you couldn't seem to find has actually been closed for a year. It's these seemingly disastrous events and their subsequent headaches that actually make you stronger and more agile as you're forced to think on your feet and quickly adapt to a slew of unexpected and uncomfortable situations.

You Get Healthier

Although the science is still a bit unclear, it's been found that traveling to different countries actually makes you healthier, especially when it comes to your heart and your brain. In fact, The Global Commission on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies have released research that shows travel offers the same sort of physical and cognitive benefits as crossword puzzles or museum visits. The research found that women who vacationed every six years or more had a significantly higher risk of developing a heart attack or coronary death compared with women who vacationed at least twice a year. Similarly, the findings showed that men who did not take an annual vacation were shown to have a 20 percent higher risk of death and about a 30 percent greater risk of death from heart disease.

You Boost Your Creativity

Your brain is like a muscle; it does its best work when it's "exercised" on a regular basis, and traveling (especially traveling abroad) constitutes some of the best mental exercise around. When your brain is thrown off its usual routine, stimulated with new experiences, and forced to adapt to new challenges, it becomes stronger and more powerful — meaning you're more likely to have sudden bursts of creative inspiration and thought. So make sure to bring a pen and pad with you while you're walking around in a foreign land; you just might come up with your next great idea.

Lower Your Risk of Depression

Yes, vacations can be stressful. And stress can act as an unwelcome agent for depression. However, unless your travels go horribly wrong and devolve into utter chaos, the positive mental effects are likely to far outweigh the bad. Studies have shown that people (especially women) who take vacations frequently are less likely to become tense, depressed, or tired, and that they tend to be more satisfied with their marriages and careers.

Start Your Travel Adventures Now

Bottom line: Traveling, even if it feels stressful at the time, is a wonderful way to stretch your mind, relax, and boost your health. So ditch the easy excuses, grab a map, pick a destination you've always wanted to explore, and book the ticket.

We also recommend recording your travels with these interactive World Travel Tracker Scratch Off Maps, which feature a gold top foil area that you can scratch away whenever you visit a new country. Pick one up before your next trip for just $23.99 — over 45% off its usual price.

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