We’ve all heard that spending money on experiences is better than buying stuff, but what exactly is it about travel that makes us embrace our best selves and puts a smile on our faces?
While it’s true that there are many health benefits to travel (lower risks of heart disease, decreased levels of stress, less chance of depression), mental well-being is the most noticeable effect of trotting around the globe. Whether it’s a weekend escape to a hidden cove, a summer volunteer opportunity, or an RV trip without a final destination, merely getting out of the daily routine and seeing new skylines boosts our levels of happiness.
It’s a self-confidence boost
It doesn’t matter if we have planned our trip to the last minute, unexpected events are going to come up, and we will need to deal with them. And checking into that cliff-side hotel at the end of the peninsula is going to feel even better after we navigated through buses without schedules and hikes without signs.
You become a more interesting person
In addition to facing the necessity of speaking up (unless you don’t actually want that delicious-looking pastry with a strange name sitting in the corner) and taking initiative, travel makes us the star of any dinner party. Even the most mundane events, such as getting a tire changed in the middle of Mongolia or hand-washing laundry in Ecuador, are going to become heroic adventures painted with swash-buckling adjectives and a good dose of nostalgia.
New relationships are built (and old ones are strengthened)
Travel puts us in contact with new people every day, and it’s important to adapt the mindset that strangers are friends waiting to be made. Trust and gratefulness will come hand-in-hand, whether you are asking for directions, crashing on their couch, or getting into someone’s vehicle. In addition to new friends, being away from friends and family you’re used to spending time with makes you appreciate them more. Coming back home, lunch with Mom or a night out with the girlfriends is going to be freshly exciting.
You realize the value of mindfulness
Whether it’s because you are traveling outside of WIFI signals or because of mandatory solo time, travel puts you in the “here and now.” You are forced to sign out of social media and, instead, tap into your own self. Fill your lungs with fresh air, exhale deeply, and root yourself to the moment (this is a great meditation method that can easily be taken back to the life of daily routines).
Routines are broken
As Paulo Coelho said, “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it’s lethal.” There is nothing more deadly to creativity, growth, and happiness than going through each day on autopilot. Sprinkle some excitement into life, try new things, get out of your comfort zone, and surprise yourself with the vastness of possibility in the world. New schedules in new places are rejuvenating, refreshing, and productivity-boosting.
The outdoors are calling
Whether it’s a beachside resort or adventure trip through Thailand, travel gets you out of the office, off the couch, and into the real world. It’s in humanity’s DNA to connect with nature, even if it’s getting more and more difficult to do. Breathing fresh air, soaking in thermal springs, and getting a Vitamin D boost is nothing but beneficial to your body. Now it’s easier to justify that getaway to a warm, sunny island, huh?
The world becomes a classroom
There are languages to learn, cultures to (try to) understand, dance steps to master, histories to read, and maps to draw. Travel challenges us through social expectations, language barriers, and our own misconceptions; in turn, expanding perspectives boost our self-acceptance and reaffirm that, in the grand scheme of things, we are small in a mighty world. That’s a great, humbling feeling.
Extra perk: happiness is infectious
It’s hard not to smile when mingling with the locals on Thai beaches or seeing a child giggle at the orphanage you’re working at. And it’s difficult to get frustrated waiting for a late bus when surrounded by street urchins kicking a ball around and laughing like they’re on top of the world. Likewise, this easy-going and positive mentality that is characteristic of travelers places you in good company. It’s even better when you realize that you’re part of that crowd, and that your positive mindset can inspire others.
More good news: the effects of travel are long-term (although it is recommended to periodically recharge). Knowledge can’t be un-gained, life lessons can’t be untaught, and stories can’t be unwritten. Mentalities learned abroad can be brought back home, and voyages for worldly knowledge certainly don’t stop at our doorstep. Incorporate the freedom and adaptability of travel to every-day life back home, and, when in need of inspiration, plan the next trip.
Julia is an avid traveler, lifelong artist, theater geek, interior designer, future author, and occasional teacher. Originally from Germany, she was raised and started her university studies in Texas, before moving to Italy for her first formal teaching experience. Since then, she has traveled throughout Europe and the Americas, constantly on the look-out for the next adventure. She is currently working as an editor at GoAbroad, hoping to encourage people to study abroad and experience the world beyond a textbook.