Recently, my family and I spent two weeks on Oahu, and it got me thinking about the challenges and joys that travel brings to our lives. Here is a list of the great things travel does for your health, both physical and mental (if you let it!):
1. It gets you moving. Whether it is hiking, sightseeing, swimming or working out at the hotel gym, travel offers many opportunities to get physically active and challenge your stamina and abilities. You may even want to prepare before your trip with extra walking or swimming so that you can enjoy the trip without being exhausted.
2. It challenges your brain’s ability to learn and adapt to new surroundings. Too often, we get “stuck” in routines and habits, leading to boredom, stress and mental stagnation. In a new environment, these routines are broken, and we are forced to pay conscious attention to things like securing food, finding our way around new places, and avoiding new dangers (like pickpockets). In my experience, and watching my boys after their adventures, the mental challenges of travel bring fresh perspective upon your return to “normal” life.
3. It exposes you to new foods. Sampling locally popular foods can be a great way to try something you never have before. Eating a wide variety of foods is a great way to make sure you are getting all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need for health without the need for supplementation. The Hawaiian favorite “poke” (marinated raw tuna or salmon) was a big hit with our family, as was fresh pineapple and taro chips, none of which the kids ate beforehand.
4. It exposes your immune system to new viruses, bacteria, and parasites. This may not seem like a good thing, and certainly no one enjoys getting sick on holiday, but exposure to a wide variety of immune challenges can strengthen your immune system and increase its adaptability. If you do get sick on holiday, be sure to see your naturopathic doctor or other health care professional upon your return, for a health evaluation.
5. It exposes you to new cultures, and new ways of doing daily activities. As the travel writer Bill Bryson puts it, “one of the small marvels (of travel is) the discovery that the world could be so full of variety, that there are so many different ways of doing essentially identical things”. Too often, we see only one way of life as the “right” way, and it can be both challenging and delighting to see that people in another part of the world do things very differently. You may even find something you want to bring home and incorporate into your own daily routine.
6. It reduces stress and improves enjoyment. Our trip featured beach closures, high surf and occasional thunderstorms, but working around these not-ideal things gave us a feeling of accomplishment and enjoyment, and we still had an excellent time. Whether it is sitting on the beach with a good book, as is my preference, or visiting world famous landmarks, or whatever you enjoy most, travel is great way to love life!