Why Traveling is Good for Your Health
I know, I know. You’re going to tell me about “the worst food poisoning you’ve ever had” from ceviche in a foreign country. There’s plenty of things that can happen while traveling that aren’t good for your health. But, when you look at health from a holistic standpoint (body, mind, stress, emotions), traveling is great for your health, even if you fought with your spouse the whole time, drank the water (it’s true what they say, for the love of god, don’t drink the water!) and missed your connecting train because no one spoke your language. Here’s why:
Reason #1: It gets you out of your comfort zone.
Traveling can be frustrating sometimes. You’re faced with weird food you’ve never seen. (What on earth is that fuzzy red fruit that looks like an eyeball inside? Or the stinky spiky thing? Or the chicken feet soup?) You’re often surrounded by a language you don’t understand, and customs that you are unaware of. (Why is that man mad at me for putting my feet up near his alter?)
Because of this, traveling can feel uncomfortable. So why is this good for your health? Because it’s so healthy to get out of our comfort zone! So many of our daily habits are subconscious actions that we’ve been enculturated to believe are normal. It’s so good to realize which things are cultural, which things are habit, and which things are truly you.
Why is this important? For one, you get to know yourself even better. You learn what are your true passions, and what things are just habitual, and which areas of life you didn’t realize had other options. Also, it gives you the opportunity to make healthier decisions. For example: You’ve always eaten cold cereal for breakfast. (The worst thing to start your day with, but that’s another article). You’re in southeast Asia, and they’re eating Miso soup for breakfast! What??!?! That’s not a breakfast food! (Our culture says). So you try it, and maybe you feel a million times better. I’ve picked up a ton of healthy habits traveling that that never would have crossed my mind.
Reason #2: It’s great for stress
“But traveling can be so stressful!” I hear you arguing. Yes, but even that can be good for you! Even if you have a crazy stressful trip…you’re shocked by poverty you’ve never seen, you don’t have hot water in your hotel, and then you get pick-pocked by a 10 year old. Why would that be a good thing? When you return home, you have the opportunity to be grateful for what you have. And recognizing gratitude daily has been proven to relieve stress and increase happiness.
In my experience, most of the time traveling is fun! New foods, new people, new adventures. And if you’re off work and just living in the moment, that can do wonders for your overworked adrenal glands. When I lived in the Caribbean, I used to back-float in the 90º water and just close my eyes. It felt like I was floating, and I could feel any muscles aches and irritations melting away. We all deserve that feeling! And sometimes it means we remove ourselves from our daily stresses to feel it. (And when you go back to normal life, you have a place in your heart to return to.)
Reason #3: We move more!
This is not always true (there are people who sit in sun chairs and drink margaritas all day when they travel), but for the most part, we move more when we travel. I usually end up walking everywhere, swimming, biking, hiking, and just generally moving. And there’s no time spent sitting behind a computer! So our bodies get a vacation from their usual habits.
Reason #4: Enjoying Your New Comfort Zone
Once you’ve pushed boundaries, tried new foods, new experiences, and have a new stock of amazing memories, you get to go home and enjoy your new comfort zone. What does that mean? Well, there could be a lot of things that make you uncomfortable, or things that scared you. Once you face your fears, it’s no longer a fear or discomfort. Are you self-conscious alone at a party? Well once you sit at a bar alone with no one that even speaks your language, that shouldn’t be as scary! Freaked out by new food? Once you’ve checked out the roasted insect vendors, curry should seem pretty tame. Nervous dancing in front of people? Once you’ve been dragged into a salsa dance in front of locals and looked pretty silly, but laughed with them, a club should seem like nothing to fret about.
The less things that cause us discomfort, the less stressful and more fun life can be!
Tips to make travel as healthy as possible:
- Instead of an “all-you-can-eat/drink” cruise, take a yoga vacation or sports trip.
- Instead of staying at American chain resorts, stay in a local place and try the local, homemade fair. (Chain hotels usually served canned imported food.)
- Don’t just hangout at the hotel, go out and explore and meet new people!
- Don’t drink the water. Please. Just don’t.
- Be wary of raw vegetables. Fruits with a peal are usually fine, but salads and such can be a danger zone for travelers. (Raw meat even more so.)
And if you’re looking for something that has it all, come join me for a yoga vacation to Peru! Daily homemade meals included, professional guides, daily yoga, hikes, wildlife viewing, fresh air and all the fun you can think of.