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  • Writer's pictureRachel Ogilby

6 Surprising Ways Vacations Are More Refreshing than a Glass of Iced Tea

Updated: May 11, 2020

I was blessed to travel often when I was growing up. We camped in the summer (which felt like a trip!) and my mom was sent to cities throughout the U.S. for work. My dad would take my sister and me to visit her at times, and my mom built up a great amount of frequent flier miles that allowed us to travel more. We went on road trips to Florida, flew to Phoenix to see the Grand Canyon, and drove to Maine to stay at my great uncle's "Blue House" and eat freshly caught crab legs.

I believe that travel has shaped me into a more empathetic, understanding, and kind person - and science supports this. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology states that people who travel (especially abroad) are more open, emotionally stable, culturally aware, and experience an increase in cognitive flexibility and creativity. Rick Steves, a highly-respected source for travel in Europe, puts it well:

"Travel is freedom... one of the last great sources of legal adventure. Travel is intensified living, with maximum thrills per minute. It's recess, and we need it."
Enjoying solitude during a solo hike at Bells Rock in Sedona, AZ

It's no surprise that when we come back from a vacation we are more productive and creative. We're happier too, with a boosted mood lasting for up to a week after our trip. Sadly, Americans have a long way to go until we catch up with the vacation habits of the rest of the world. 52% of Americans had unused vacation days at the end of 2017, and the average worker uses only eight of 17.2 vacation days for travel. Thankfully, the culture is slowly changing, with more Americans than ever travelling outside the United States in 2019 with a record breaking 93 million people (yay!).

Dr. Oz (yep, that one!) discussed the benefits of well-being with Forbes magazine. He shares these statistics and facts:

Taking vacations can lower men’s risk of death by 21 percent and mortality from cardiovascular disease by 32 percent.
Among women, a lack of vacation is associated with a higher risk of heart disease and death from heart disease.
Women who go on trips more frequently are less likely to become tense, depressed or tired and are more satisfied with their marriages.
Vacationing improves your mood, reduces stress, and can temporarily boost productivity.
People who travel more frequently are more satisfied with their physical health and well-being.
Vacationing can increase creativity.
Hiking for the view - Split, Croatia

Taking a vacation is not selfish or indulgent - it's necessary for good health! Travel boosts your immune system by exposing you to different environments, which creates antibodies to different illnesses (protecting you from those illnesses in the future). It has also been proven to significantly lower stress.

One study from Cornell University found that people are significantly happier just planning a trip, even if they might not get the chance go on it. The anticipation of taking a vacation affects their happiness even more then receiving a physical gift... concluding that the benefits of traveling take affect way before the trip does!

A fascinating Columbia Business School professor and author, Adam Galinsky, states that foreign experiences increase depth of thought and the ability to make deep connections. However, you must engage in the culture around you to receive the largest benefit. To make the most of your next trip, engage with the local culture and environment by taking a history tour, trying a local cooking class, or walking the city streets and markets.

Whatever you do, plan your next vacation soon, so you can start benefiting from it!

Follow #TravelisHealthy to inspire others and receive travel inspiration, hashtag created by Dr. Oz and Forbes Magazine.

Chris makes seafood paella during a cooking class in Barcelona, Spain.


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