By Alina Buzgar, Editor-in-Chief
If someone asked you why you enjoy traveling, you’d probably answer with something along the lines of “to see the world,” or “to meet new people and learn about new cultures.” But there’s one more perk of traveling to add to your list: its positive impact on your mental health.
Thunderbirds are self-described travel nuts and I thought it would be interesting to explore why we love to travel. Often quoted reasons for travel are because the challenge it brings, enjoying new experiences, or because we feel it can help us find ourselves. Others do it to learn a new language and experience new cultures, or just to party and have fun, see new places and eat exotic food. Actually, during his speech at the 2014 Flag Ceremony, Dr Mansour Javidan, mentioned that we [all Thunderbirds] were infected with the travel bug and there was no cure for it. We get euphoric in the anticipation of traveling and that takes our mind off daily petty problems that often seem larger than life. Getting away helps clarify some things in life and allows us to redefine what we find important.
Traveling has immediate health benefits. It gets the blood flowing because it requires you to be active, fueling it with new energy. Regardless if you are swimming in the ocean, or lying on the beach, walking the streets of a historic city or riding the subway – you will be doing something! The sunlight or just the change in weather is rejuvenating, and your desire to experience all your destination and its people have to offer will surely motivate you to be active.
New perspectives and unforeseen solutions only come to us once we’ve put some distance between our familiar world and ourselves. Many writers have long been aware of this phenomenon and often travel to get inspired.
Some studies have shown how traveling opens up neurological pathways in our physical brains. Minds continue to make new associations benefiting our overall mental health. The opportunity to experience something new is a reprieve for the mind, a source of new energy and new ideas.
Sarah Jensen, a travel consultant, advocates that traveling allows for flexibility due to detours in schedule, and due to the unexpected things that happen. “Traveling allows the mind to expand and literally see the world in a new and different way”.
Matt Kepnes mentions a few very interesting personal benefits of travel in his recent article in the Huffington Post. He contends that traveling makes you: more social, better at conversation, more confident, more adaptable, more adventurous, easier going, smarter, less materialistic and happier. Read the full article.
Stress is bad?
Psychology Today reminds us that: “when you’re stressed out and tired, you are more likely to become ill, your arteries take a beating, and you are even more likely to have an accident. Your sleep will suffer, you won’t digest your food as well, and even the genetic material in the cells of your body may start to become negatively impacted. Mentally, not only you become more irritable, depressed, and anxious, but your memory will become worse and you’ll make poorer decisions. You’ll also be less fun to be with, causing you to become more isolated, lonely, and depressed.” Ouch!
Travel lowers stress level
One way in which travel reduces stress or even depression is by putting things into perspective. We might even find that we appreciate our own lives a little more because we are in a situation where we meet other people, it contrasts your world and the rest of the world.
Unfortunately many people don’t take vacations regularly. According a study commissioned by Expedia, more than 30 percent of Americans did not use all their vacation days. In contrast, vacations are beneficial, not only to workers, but to their companies and to the American economy as well. Many countries around the world agree with the assumption that taking days off is beneficial they have mandated leaves. See the global list.
Even the anticipation of vacation travel generates an increase in positive feelings about one’s life as a whole, family, economic situation, and health. Life satisfaction also increases during vacation, and these effects continue after returning home.
For the new Thunderbirds’ Module 1 was challenging. It introduced us to a completely new world made up of eclectic collection of new friends and colleagues, finals and papers, teachers and TAs, different challenges and a lot of new information to learn. The late nights studying, finishing a paper or having a party surely took their toll and we immediately and correctly responded by taking a break and traveling with our new friends as soon as we could. For the graduating Thunderbirds keeping a successful streak at school, juggling job searches and interviews has had the same effects. And for all of you Alumni Thunderbirds out there, changing the world and leaving your mark, it must be exhausting; we hope you are taking some time for yourself, your family and friends and planning your next trip as well.