7 Health Benefits of Traveling Abroad

“Laughter is the best medicine.”

But, did you know that traveling abroad for a volunteer trip is a great health booster as well?

Sometimes, staying at one place for too long makes us feel claustrophobic, and the monotony of life starts taking a toll on our mental and physical health.

That’s what happened to me. I felt I was stuck somewhere, and even though days were passing, my life didn’t seem to have much growth, which left me feeling low.

It was then that I decided to take a break and travel to a place where no one knew me. I didn’t do much planning, as I wanted to go with the flow, but I also wanted to do something that would make me feel better from within. I chose to teach the monks in a school in Thailand, and it was perhaps the best decision I made in years. Not just the serenity of the beaches and the soothing blue water, but also those young smiling faces draped in saffron attire ignited my feeling of positivity all over again.

We know that certain treats in moderation, such as dark chocolate or red wine, can be good for our health.

But does traveling really make you healthier as well?

The Global Commission on Aging and Trans-America Center for Retirement Studies, in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association, has released research that shows volunteer traveling offers the same sort of physical and cognitive benefits as crossword puzzles or museum visits.

According to the study:

  • Women who vacationed every six years or less had a significantly higher risk of developing a heart attack or coronary death compared with women who vacationed at least twice a year.

Women who vacationed every six years or less had a significantly higher risk of developing a heart attack or coronary death compared with women who vacationed at least twice a year.

  • Men who did not take an annual volunteer vacation were shown to have a 20 percent higher risk of death and about a 30 percent greater risk of death from heart disease.

Men who did not take an annual volunteer vacation were shown to have a 20 percent higher risk of death and about a 30 percent greater risk of death from heart disease.

  • Benefits of travel are almost immediate. After only a day or two, 89 percent of respondents saw significant drops in stress.

Benefits of travel are almost immediate. After only a day or two, 89 percent of respondents saw significant drops in stress.

The study also noted that 59 percent of Americans dream of traveling during their retirement and that the most impactful volunteer trips are those spent with family and friends.

A few health benefits listed below might change your take on traveling if physical and mental health tops your priority list.
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Research shows exposure to some dirt and minor illnesses actually keeps your body and gut stronger. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t practice basic hygiene on the road.

You should still wash your hands or use a little hand sanitizer here and there—but having some new bacteria in your life isn’t a bad thing. When you travel from place to place, your body adapts to thousands of new bacteria, which in turn makes it much stronger.

It Decreases Stress Levels

This is probably one of the most widely-known benefits of travel: It has been found highly effective in treating depression and stress levels. It’s been scientifically proven that travel will increase your happiness, and decrease your depression.

It was found that three days after vacation, travelers felt well-rested, less anxious, and in a better mood. And these improvements didn’t disappear when they returned home; they lasted for weeks afterward.

Lowers the Risk of Heart Diseases

In one of the longest running studies of cardiovascular diseases done by the Framingham Heart Study, it is revealed that both men and women who don’t travel frequently are more likely to develop or suffer heart disease compared to people who do.

In another study sponsored by the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, findings showed that men who took volunteer vacations were 32 percent less likely to suffer from heart disease.

Reason enough? Seems likely.

It Helps You Stay Fit (or Get Back in Shape)

Volunteer travel means working throughout the day, five days a week. It doesn’t matter if you are under a field program such as wildlife and conservation volunteering or community development, or an in-house project, like a teaching volunteer program or childcare volunteering.

Each and every kind of volunteer program requires a lot of hard work and exertion. Traveling itself takes a lot out of the body.

When we travel we want to try new things and see all there is to see. This leads us to do adventure sports, walking down city streets, visiting heritage sites covering huge land areas, and more.

Traveling Improves Brain Strength

Travel expands your mind. You meet new people. You adapt to new situations. You become more globally and culturally aware. This is all good for your health because new experiences increase cognitive flexibility, keeping your mind sharp.

This is, in fact, one of the major benefits of volunteer travel that prepares you mentally and skill-wise for a great career path.

Keeps us Active and Sleeping Well

Whether you’re basking at the beach, swimming in the sea, strolling the streets of a historic city or riding a subway, you’re constantly doing something. You’ll not be sitting in front of your television or glaring into your computer which is healthy itself to begin with.

And it is a universally known fact that, when you exert your body a lot, it gets tired, leading you to a sweet sound sleep. Howzzat!

It Supports Healthy Aging

Who likes to get old? That’s right, nobody! It is the drastic deterioration of your physical and mental state that has turned the process of aging into something to be feared and avoided. But what if we were to say that if you travel frequently, this process will be less traumatic.

By challenging the brain with new and different experiences and environments, travel becomes an important behavior that helps promote brain health and resilience throughout life, the Brain Health Center, Inc. revealed to us in a study.

Another study by the Global Coalition on Aging also revealed that healthy social habits, as well as the physical and mental activities associated with travel, have been proven to have positive benefits on the mental health of older adults.

Enough said I guess! It’s time to plan your next volunteer trip abroad. You are the one who is responsible for your own mental and physical well-being, and if you are happy from within, you’ll realize that everything else syncs perfectly.

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Author: Riyanka Roy

Image: Courtesty of Author

Editor: Travis May

Source: Elephant Journal