By Courtney Humes
Have you ever really thought about the benefits of travel? How travel makes you feel? From daydreaming about different destinations, to planning a trip, packing your bags, and getting on the plane to a new place. Plus how you feel when you finally get there!
Through the various phases and stages of travel, we all experience a wide range of emotions. While some of those emotions can be slightly nerve-racking or even stressful at times, for the majority of people travel brings relaxation, excitement, fulfillment, and well-being. All emotions which are beneficial to our overall health and wellness.
So how does travel contribute to our health and wellness?
The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) defines wellness as “the active pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that led to a state of holistic health.” Holistic health and wellness are multidimensional and include physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and mental health.
A specific travel style called “Wellness Travel” is a great way to achieve positive outcomes in these health and wellness dimensions. The Wellness Tourism Association defines Wellness Travel as: Travel that allows the traveler to maintain, enhance or kick-start a healthy lifestyle, and support or increase one’s sense of wellbeing. To me, wellness travel is any travel that gives you space, perspective, and time for contemplation. It is travel to a destination that results in relaxation, a clearing of the mind, new perspectives, and an appreciation of your existence.
To help you achieve that state of being, wellness activities can mean different things to different people and depending on the person can range from relaxing on a beach, hiking in nature (a rainforest, for instance) watching the ocean or surfing the waves, biking down long winery-lined roads, practicing yoga or mediation at a retreat center, seeing new things and meeting new people, or simply just being in the moment.
Regardless of the main purpose of your travels – physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and mental health can often achieved. Here’s how:
Physical wellness can be achieved through all types of travel, but most especially active trip styles. Activities such as walking, hiking, swimming can all contribute to physical health. Trips that include additional activities such as biking, kayaking, yoga, or fitness classes can take that physical wellness to another level. Through these activities, muscles and physical body are often strengthened and improved.
In addition, relaxing activities such as getting a massage, sitting in mineral hot springs, sound baths, for instance, can also contribute to improved physical health by boosting blood circulation, relieving pain, promoting sleep, and clearing out toxins in the body.
Good news though, it is not only the physical activities that contribute to health and wellness. Certain destinations can also play a role. For example, being around and breathing in salty ocean air can increase iodine levels, balance skin, and improve respiration and lung function by easing sinus pressure and reducing cough. Being in the sun allows the absorption of Vitamin D, and being exposed to different environments can boost the immune system.
In general, even just being on vacation and feeling less stressed is beneficial to the physical body. By reducing stress you can lower the risk of heart disease which can result in increased life expectancy.
Emotional, Spiritual & Social Wellness
Emotional wellness is being aware of and accepting your own feelings and the feelings of others. Spiritual and social wellness is finding meaning and purpose in human existence, and connecting, interacting and contributing to other people and communities.
Travel creates experiences and memories that teach meaningful lessons in all three of these areas. It helps you open your heart and mind to yourself and others, sets you on a path you desire, and leads the way towards defining your goals and values. It allows you time and space to look within.
Through purposeful travel and exposure to various people and cultures, you become more receptive to, and gain an understanding of how other people live, think and feel. Through this, you experience deepened compassion and empathy for yourself and others, develop enhanced human connections, and cultivate a sense of gratitude and kindness for the world around you.
Mental wellness is vast and can encompass a large number of attributes. When it comes to mental wellness and travel, attributes such as happiness, self-esteem, reduced stress and anxiety, and learning, are at the forefront. Simply planning a trip can boost your mental health.
Through and during travel, you may encounter various situations which boost confidence and self-esteem through problem-solving, navigation and increased mindfulness. All of which results in happiness and satisfaction. Dopamine and serotonin production increase resulting in better moods, more creativity and emotional equilibrium.
As the mind expands and adapts to new situations, and breaks free from daily sometimes rigorous mental routines, brain health improves.
As you can see, there are many health and wellness benefits of travel. From simply taking a pause to reboot, or shifting your entire mindset through gaining new perspectives and habits, travel can make you feel better and improve your entire state of being.
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Courtney Humes is an Ontario-based Wellness Travel Advisor, Certified Travel Coach, and founder of Follow Your Shine, Inc., a coaching and consulting company. She is also a Human Resources Professional, mother of four, and lover of hiking, yoga, photography and all things nature. Courtney’s goal is to motivate and inspire others who may be overworked and overstressed to also find wellness, healing, and purpose through Wellness Travel.