Dr. Meagan Stanley
Q: I want to make my vacations this year meaningful. How do I do this?
Updated: Apr 17, 2020
Exploring the expected and not so expected benefits of travel.
I was excited to see this question not only because I think it’s an important topic but also because this question gave me the opportunity to remember all the places and people I have got to know through travel. Since I was not raised in a family that traveled, exploring the world was something I had to push myself to do. At first, it was quite frightening to encounter so much novelty previously unknown to me in such a short amount of time. But now, I come to cherish every moment of these types of experiences. Here are some of my thoughts on why travel is good for your mental health.
Why is it important to travel?
First and most obviously, there is a huge amount of perspective you can gain from learning about people that are seemingly different from you. We can become so stuck in our routine that we may believe there are right and wrong ways to live life. I find that being around unique cultures and people can help shake up our existing thoughts and beliefs that have become engrained in our thinking over time. As cliché as this may sound, travel opens our mind and can challenge what we think we know, ultimately leading to more acceptance of ourselves and others.
Our culture focuses mostly on succeeding in our careers and taking care of ourselves and our family. We can become very self-absorbed with our own wants and needs. Connecting with others, especially when you are open and interested in this way, allows you to get outside yourself.
There is such beauty in getting out of your head and into the world.
Are there psychological benefits of traveling?
Although research suggests there are many upfront benefits of travel, including stress reduction, increased creativity, and improved overall mood, I’d like to offer an additional perspective on this.
To grow means we likely will have to be uncomfortable in some way. In these states of discomfort, we learn the most about ourselves. I once had a spiritual teacher tell me “your stuff follows you wherever you go.” Although we often think vacation is meant to help us “escape,” I have found that it usually shines a light even brighter on things we need to face. Although this experience may not be as “restorative” as we hope, what travel can bring to the surface is invaluable.
How do I make the most traveling if I'm a budget?
You may be thinking that travel is a complete privilege and luxury, and in a lot of ways you are right. However, finding powerful experiences through travel may take less time and money than you may expect. One of the best parts about living in the United States is that there is so much diversity and culture to see and experience, sometimes only a city or neighborhood away. In fact, I find that the more untouched/less travelled parts of the country (and our world) have even more to teach us than popular destinations. It’s amazing how just driving a couple hours from where you live can show you something you didn’t know before.
So start small, start moving, and start learning.
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