You don’t have to tell me how hard it is to take the plunge and throw yourself out there. I know all about that! There are so many reasons not to. These include your job, your family, your security, not knowing what to take, or what is out there and the fear, of course. For those reasons and others, millions don’t pursue their dream of seeing the world. Heck, they almost kept me from getting back out there on many occasions.
That’s a shame, because – as you no doubt know by now – I’m an advocate of the open road and what it can do for us. I believe travel is good for you, and I don’t just mean that for us as individuals, either.
I’m convinced that travel is a natural antidote to the surge in nationalism we’re seeing today.
(For those hit by the latest demonstration, check out my article about how to get out of the US of A)
So, to balance the ledger and counter some of those ‘why not’ arguments, I’ve collect some of the best reasons why travel is good for you in one place. These aren’t things I’ve just made up, either. Each one is supported by science. In that way, when all those other reasons try to crowd out your dreams, all you need to do is refer to this article. For with these arguments as a counterweight you’ll be able to get yourself out there.
Sound good? Then let’s get started!
1. It boosts your immune system
A lot of people think that dirt and germs are evil and should be eradicated at every turn. Those people are actually likely to get sicker because of this belief. Why? Because research has demonstrated that if you are exposed to germs and viruses your immune system becomes stronger.
If you think about it, that’s not so surprising. After all, if you want to grow your muscles do you give your muscles as much rest as possible, or do you go exercise? Similarly, if you want to get smarter, do you try not to think or do you strain your brain by learning stuff?
Is it, therefore, surprising that our immune system gets stronger when you give it a workout?
So yes, that does mean if you’re a parent you should let your kid get dirty every once in a while. And if you’re an adult? Then you should go see more exotic locales. This will expose you to all sorts of new germs and dirt, which in turn makes sure your immune system is as strong as it can be.
In that way, when a more serious illness comes along, your body will be ready to deal with it.
2. It makes you happier in the long term
A lot of people seem to think that the way to being happier is a new couch, car or watch. The research disagrees strongly on that count. It is experiences and not things that make you happier.
That’s not so strange. If you sit down and analyze yourself, you’ll realize that things only make you momentarily happier. They give you a quick happiness burst that then dies away as you get used to the new thing and want the next item on your list. What’s more, things wear away and get older with time. And as they do so, our ideas about them change as well.
That doesn’t happen with experiences. They don’t wear away. In fact, there is some evidence that memories get better as they get older. We tend to forget the bad and remember the good. For that reason, to get the best bang for our buck, we should buy experiences. And what better experience can you buy than time abroad?
3. It makes you smarter and more creative
Another great way that travel is good for you is in the intellectual department. Studies have shown that if you study or work abroad, you actually become smarter. That’s right, you read that correctly. We’re not just talking about one study here, either. There’s a growing body of research that shows that travel is good for you because it boosts your gray matter.
How does it do that, you ask?
Well, it helps you become more flexible in your thinking by making you more multi-culturally engaged. This, in turn, boosted something called ‘integratively complex’ thinking. This is where you take disparate ideas and connect them together. That’s something useful indeed for both problem solving and creative thinking.
Sounds pretty good, right? But wait, there’s more! (God, I sound like a commercial. All this can be yours for one yearly trip abroad!) THose who go abroad are more likely to start businesses, create new products and be promoted.
There is one caveat: You do have to be willing to adapt yourself to the culture you live in. So if you close yourself off, spend all your time at the country club, and can’t stop shouting ‘the steaks are better at home’, you won’t benefit much.
4. Travel reduces both stress and your risk of heart attacks
Okay, you probably knew that travel reduces stress and you don’t need me to tell you. I still will, though. Just to be thorough. Research has demonstrated that going on vacation significantly reduces stress levels. This doesnt end when you open your inbox (though it might feel that way).
Instead, these effects can last several weeks even if you just travel for a few days.
Travel is good for you and your heart as well. Regular (preferably annual) trips abroad decrease your risk of a heart attack.
5. You become more open to experiences and boosts your emotional stability
If you go abroad for a long time this actually affects your on a fundamental level. A study in Germany showed when students went abroad for one or two semesters two attributes of their big five personality traits changed. Not familiar with the Big Five? Well, it’s made up of ‘Openness to Experience’, ‘Agreeableness’, ‘Extraversion’, ‘Conscientiousness’ and Emotional Stability’.
The ones affected, as the heading suggests, are ‘Openness to Experience’ and ‘Emotional Stability’. Both were positively affected. That makes sense. Openness to Experience is affected because you’ve got to adapt to a new place, new ways of looking at the world and new cultural values and norms.
Emotional Stability receives a boost from appreciating other people’s point of view and getting a more mature world perspective. This makes you less sensitive to the day-to-day mood swings than those that don’t travel.
Now, do note that these changes were not enormous. You won’t go from being neurotic to being a Zen master. On the other hand, they were robust and consistent across the sample. So the change might not be huge, but it will nonetheless happen.
6. You’re more likely to fall in love
Been alone for long enough? Then that’s another area where travel is good for you. “You widen your margins before you leave for a trip, knowing you are going to do things you don’t normally do,” marriage and sex therapist Dr. Jane Greer told Paste Magazine. “You give yourself the permission to experience different and possibly risky pleasures… And romance is the biggest—and most dangerous—pleasure you can get.”
There isn’t just anecdotal evidence, either. There are plenty of studies that support her words. For example, one study has revealed that adrenalin brings us closer together. And as you no doubt well know, you’re more likely to get adrenalin surges on the road than at your 9 to 5 job and Friday nights at the pub.
So, if you’re looking to open you heart hit the open road.
There you go! That’s six fantastic reasons to travel supported by science. They’re not just silly little reasons either. Avoiding heart attacks, becoming smarter and more creative, getting a stronger immune system, and finding love are among the things we’re all looking for. And here there’s evidence that the best place to find them is when you leave your home and see the world around you.
So yeah, it’s scary to make the leap into the unknown. At the same time, it’s well worth it. In fact, I believe it’s something that everybody should give a try. For travel is good for you as well as the society you’ll return to. After all, there’s no better way to fight hatred and racism than for us to interact with different people and see they’re just like you.