There’s a lot of reasons why people travel, whether it’s to see the world, get over an ex or if you’re like us, hit some of the best festivals around the globe. It’s not like we need many more reasons than that to jump on a plane and hightail it to the nearest paradise, but in the name of science we decided to nerd out and find out how travel could benefit your health. So you lucky kids, the next time you’re sitting under a palm tree drinking rum out of a coconut, FaceTiming your parents trying to explain that you’re not going to make it back for Christmas because you got a job renting surfboards to Dutch tourists – hit them with some of this knowledge.
Travel boosts your immune system
While you mucky little things are running around the beaches, jungles, mountains and cities of the world, your body is being exposed to a crazy amount of new bacteria and believe it or not- that’s actually a good thing! Your body is constantly adapting to these and is producing antibodies that protect your immune system against new threats. A little dirt never hurt anyone, but that’s not us saying you should start licking the pavement in faraway lands. You will definitely get ill.
Travel reduces stress
It might be on obvious one but boy is it a big one. There have been countless studies that prove that travel is a natural stress reliever. While the idea of losing your passport somewhere might not seem like your idea of a stress-free time, it’s been proven that travel reduces anxiety, increases happiness and that these effects last weeks after returning from a trip. Like most things that make us happy, it releases dopamine in the brain which is where that warm, fuzzy feeling comes from when you’re sitting by the pool, thinking about how awesome everything is.
Travelling will make you live longer
Pretty much the be all and end all when it comes to benefits to your health. I mean it doesn’t really get better than living longer does it? The lowered stress levels and boosted immune system means that those people who make a habit of travelling genuinely do have a higher chance of living for longer. We’d say that’s a pretty good reason to hit the road and start racking up those passport stamps!
Travelling can reduce the risk of heart disease
Being away from your stressors at work or uni can make your feel relaxed, which means less strain on your heart. The long-running Framingham Heart Study supports these claims and found that people who travelled were actually less likely to suffer a heart attack or develop heart disease.
Travelling can improve your brain health
While drinking irresponsibly strong cocktails out of coconuts or buckets might not seem like the best way to treat your brain, travelling (and maybe not so much of the drinking alcohol from a bucket) has been shown to boost the brain’s health. When you’re in an unfamiliar place, you’re constantly expanding your horizons, finding new ways to solve problems, being exposed to different languages and so on. The parts of the brain that process and retain information also grow when you get more physical activity, so with all the walking and swimming and general larking around, you’ll have brains like Einstein in no time!
So as if you didn’t have enough reasons to want to pack your bags and start chasing the sun around the world, you’ve now got a few more that’ll withstand the test of science. Now all we need to do is run some experiments to see how going to a festival and partying for five days is going to let us live longer!
Written by Nicolas Gordon