Writer Patrick Rothfuss once said, “A long stretch of road can teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet.” Travel has the ability to change you, and your life, in ways that almost nothing else can. The fact that traveling impacts and influences you long after you come back home is one of the biggest reasons why traveling is important. If you haven’t prioritized travel in your life, it’s time to start. Here are 15 benefits of traveling to convince you to save up, strike up a plan, and get out there!
1. Traveling benefits your health
One of the biggest benefits of traveling is it is scientifically proven to help your health. The Global Commission on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS), in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association, conducted research that showed travel offers physical and cognitive benefits, similar to crossword puzzles or museum visits. Thus, ttravel is associated with a lower risk of dementia.
Their review of the Framingham Heart Study found that women who vacationed every six years or less had a significantly higher risk of developing a heart attack or coronary death than women who vacationed twice a year. Men who skipped an annual vacation were at a 20% higher risk of death, with a 30% increased risk of death from heart disease.
Travel provides an opportunity to take a break from everyday stressors. Not taking advantage of travel means those stressors continue to elevate the levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in your body, which actually speed up the aging process and contributes to weight gain.
Travel often provides opportunities for a lot of exercise and sunshine. From hiking and biking to miles of walking, there’s no shortage of movement on vacation. Walking the streets of a new city provides miles of movement as you explore local attractions. Beach vacations provide time to swim or play around in the water. And regardless the type of traveling you’re doing, odds are you’ll be outside a lot more than you are at home, which boosts your exposure to the sun and your vitamin D.
2. Traveling allows you to unplug from your life
Whether you just need some downtime to destress or you need to completely unplug and experience a hard reset, travel is a great way to take a break from your everyday responsibilities.
Taking time away renews your spirits and refreshes your soul. It gives you new perspectives. Travel breaks the monotony of your day to day life with an injection of adrenaline.
3. Traveling gives you time to be introspective
Sometimes you don’t realize the level of stress you’re under or the noise you’re exposed to until you travel to get away from it all. It’s only when you experience a new normal for a while that you have the time to analyze your life. Travel gives you a chance to hit the pause button on the daily grind and provides the downtime you need to reassess your life goals and recommit to your priorities.
One of the benefits of traveling is that it helps you refocus on what really matters. Maybe it’s recognizing a need to recommit to relationships in your life, such as spending more quality time with your spouse or your kids. Travel can make you acutely aware of how you spend your 24 hours every day. It can inspire life changes that shift your focus back to the things that matter most to you.
There are countless people who have made dramatic life shifts after traveling. Maybe traveling gives you an itch for more independence than your current career provides. Adventuring might inspire you to move to a new state or an entirely new country! Or, it might motivate you to downsize or sell your home to free up more cash for future adventures.
4. Travel changes your brain
One of the benefits of traveling is that it tests your brain’s ability to problem solve. New problems cause you to be resourceful and can force you to develop new skills. A flat tire on your rental car in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country won’t be handled by AAA. Fix a problem you would have normally hired out at home and build your brain.
Trying new things and moving through new routines as you travel engages parts of the brain that have been dormant. Ever commuted to work and, upon arriving, realize that you didn’t remember driving there? Traveling changes up your routine and causes your brain synapses to start firing and processing new information again. Your brain will feel more energized and engaged, both while you travel and after you return home.
5. Travel gives you an appreciation and understanding of other cultures
We often live life through a narrow lens. We have ideas and assumptions about places in the world that we have never experienced for ourselves. One of the reasons why traveling is important is because it gives you a better understanding of other cultures. Experiencing another persons’ way of life first-hand helps you appreciate their customs, views, and cultural values, even if they are different from your own.
6. Traveling broadens your culinary horizons
One of the biggest benefits of traveling is experiencing local world cuisine. Timeless family recipes, traditions, and freshly sourced ingredients make dining while traveling an experience unto itself. You haven’t tasted pizza until you’ve been to Naples, Italy, enjoyed chocolate until you’ve been to Switzerland, or had steak until you’ve been to Brazil. Not only does travel entice your taste buds, but it inspires you to transform your own kitchen into a culinary adventure!
Be warned, though- travel makes you a culinary snob! I never knew a good cappuccino until I went to Europe. Starbucks is forever ruined. I didn’t realize you could be a parmesan cheese snob until I spent time in a bed and breakfast in Lucca, Italy. After you’ve been to Mexico, tacos north of the border just don’t have the same pizazz.
7. Travel exposes your brain to novelty
Visiting somewhere you’ve never been requires you to approach situations in a different fashion. If you’re a city dweller, time in the woods tests your survival skills (or lack thereof). If you live in the country, visiting a large metropolis forces you to learn how to use new systems like public transportation. Visiting a foreign country often means overcoming language barriers.
Every time you expose your brain to experiences that you’ve never had before, you develop new neural paths in your brain. Breaking away from your common routines changes your brain and can help you have more creative thoughts. Because of this novelty, many people feel inspired to try new things or approach life differently after traveling.
8. Travel encourages you to try something new
Travel removes a lot of the inhibitions we feel in our daily lives. The freedom of being in a new place where you aren’t known gives you the confidence to try something new. Always wanted to try ballroom dancing but have two left feet? Take a class halfway across the world where no one will know you!
Our love of landscape photography started while visiting friends in St. Thomas, USVI. Once we got the travel photography bug, it was over! We’ve since purchased a fancy DSLR, gone on several trips, and are constantly thinking about and budgeting for our next adventure.
Having new experiences when you travel often leads to new hobbies at home. Maybe you try an art class, take a chance at throwing pottery, or enjoy a cooking class while you’re adventuring. Falling in love with a new skill while traveling is a surefire way to bring your travel experiences home and relive them again and again.
9. Traveling makes you a more interesting person
When you travel, you open yourself up to a whole new world of experiences and life lessons. You have countless stories to tell about your adventures. Not only do these stories make you more interesting to talk with, but the experiences you garner traveling give you unique perspectives that you can bring home and share with those around you.
Remember those newfound hobbies you have at home, thanks to traveling? They make you more interesting, too!
10. Travel helps you know yourself & builds your confidence
Like age or alcohol, travel is a personality enhancer. Your type A personality will shine through when you stray from the intended agenda. Anxiety will pop up if you don’t handle a new situation well. You might realize you aren’t as patient as you thought when you travel with young children.
Testing out your nerves on an extreme adventure might show you that you’re stronger than you knew or more capable than you had believed yourself to be. As you get to know yourself, you might just find that you are more skilled or independent than you previously thought. And this newfound wisdom does wonders for your confidence, both home and away.
11. Traveling enables you to meet new people
Traveling gets you out into the world where the people are. And just like The Little Mermaid, there are tangible benefits to experiencing life with people, even if only for a short time. Sharing travel experiences with strangers bonds you in a way daily life rarely does.
Striking up conversations with other travelers is incredibly easy compared to how it can be back home trying to talk to a random person on the subway. Other travelers are eager to chat about their experiences and to give suggestions of things to try or places to go. It’s amazing the kinds of people you can meet- and the stories you can hear- when you are open to a conversation while you travel.
Friendships forged in the experiences of travel can last a lifetime. Students who travel abroad with groups often stay connected for years beyond their shared experiences. Sometimes the people you meet while traveling instantly become some of your favorite folks on the planet. And thanks to the ever-evolving world of social media and transportation, it’s easier than ever to stay connected and continue those relationships.
12. Traveling can improve the look of your home
Ever stepped into the home of someone who regularly travels? Chances are their decor is as eclectic as their life perspective. Snagging a souvenir to showcase in your home is a great way to remind yourself of your adventures and connect them to your day to day life.
If souvenirs are out of the question because you need to travel on a tight budget, consider printing out some of your favorite shots and creating a photo gallery wall of your travels. It’s a fun way to remember places and experiences, and it will likely inspire you to plan your next trip every time you see it.
13. Travel gives you a newfound appreciation for your ordinary life
There’s really no place like home. Sometimes it takes being away from your daily life to truly appreciate the things you have. International travel makes you thankful to return home to a country where you understand the language and social norms. Hotel beds make you thankful for your own pillow to rest your head. While travel gives you a chance to check out of your daily life for a bit, coming home helps you better appreciate all that you have.
14. Travel can make you more altruistic
Not only does travel help you appreciate your ordinary life, but it can make you more altruistic. Seeing all you are blessed with, in contrast with the lack you become aware of as you travel the world, leaves an impression on you. For some, this impression leads to giving more generously to global charities or organizations. For others, it means planning future travel to serve others, such as ecotourism, missions trips, or responsible volunteering.
Check out The Altruistic Traveller for more information on how you can help change the world through travel.
15. Travel enhances relational bonds
Want to improve or enhance your relationships with those closest to you? Take a trip together! The research from the TCRS noted that 59% of Americans dream of traveling during their retirement years and that the most impactful trips were those spent with family and friends.
Traveling with your spouse, children, extended family, or friends, helps you build stronger bonds as you face travel challenges together. It forces you to hone your communication skills as you navigate your journey as a team. Shared experiences unite people, creating common values. And the memories you make traveling together will last a lifetime.
The greatest benefit of travel is that it never leaves you the same
“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing Changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
No matter where you travel to, or who you travel with, know that the experience of traveling will not leave you the same. From improved health and improved relationships to a new perspective, travel changes who you are and how you see the world. It inspires you, builds your confidence, and opens your mind to opportunities.
There’s no time like the present to commit to prioritizing travel in your life. There’s a great big world out there just waiting to be discovered. Chances are you’ll discover a few things about yourself along the way, too!
Looking for more inspiration?
Check out our 6 part series on Traveling on A Budget