Guess what science has proven in the last few years is one of the very best things you can do for your health? It’s something most people spend a lot of time day-dreaming about, yet often think of it as an extravagance that comes after almost everything else in their lives: TRAVEL!! One of the recent articles about this research was in the Los Angeles Times, and refers to the results of a study linking travel with decreased risks of heart attacks and depression, and promotion of brain health:
Why do we so often resist following up on our dreams of feeling the white sand between our toes in the Seychelles, or hearing a lion roaring in the distance as we lay safe in our tent in the African bush?
There are a great many reasons: time, money, work (many people are afraid they will miss out on something at work while they are away – but they find out that everything gets handled without them – another fear!), children, health….another reason is that travel takes us out of our comfort zone, and because of that, it makes us grow. It changes our perspective and we don’t return home the same. It’s a way of surrendering to the unknown, and that can be very frightening, and also exhilarating.
I started traveling in my mid-forties. Before that, I never thought I had the time or money, and so, of course, I didn’t. Or, maybe I was afraid it would change my life, and it did. Now, the person I used to be seems like a character in a book I read a long, long time ago.
I didn’t think I had the opportunity to travel much while climbing the corporate ladder, and going to graduate school at night. Getting “down-sized” unexpectedly, after years at the same company, changed my perspective about life, and suddenly I wanted to experience some of those almost forgotten dreams. But, it was intimidating for me to travel alone, so I took one small baby step and went camping in the Guadalupe mountains of northern Baja with some folks I had met who were Baja aficionados.
On that trip, I saw more stars than I had ever seen at night, and experienced such deep silence, and vast expanses of empty land. I lived in southern California, and had become used to a constant roar of traffic and people in the background of everything I did. The quiet made me soften, and when I returned home, I couldn’t forget it. I wanted more.
Many of the places we long to travel include being somewhere in Nature, something we don’t often do, if we live in the city. And, increasingly non-existent in the lives of children. Yet, the feeling I experienced on my first trip to Baja was something that scientists like Qing Li, Ph.D., thinks is of great importance to our health, and better than any anti-depressant. “It’s like a miracle drug!”, he says, in this article that had a big impact on me and was published in Outside Magazine a few years ago: http://www.outsideonline.com/1870381/take-two-hours-pine-forest-and-call-me-morning
In it, the author mentions that the science proving the beneficial effects of nature on our health is so convincing that many other countries are following Japan’s lead in studying and promoting nature as a cure. Interestingly, the U.S. has not followed suit, regardless of the extremely high costs of health care in the country. But, here is something we can do, individually, to strengthen our immune systems, lower our stress levels, and so much more.
Wherever we long to travel, whether it’s to see the Northern lights in Iceland, or simply to take a day off and go to a nearby beach, the benefits to our health and well-being are enormous. And, if you don’t believe me, here are 17 compelling (and exciting!) reasons that will get you packing!
Maybe it’s time to put travel at the top of our To Do list, instead of last, because if enhances everything else in our lives, and most importantly our health!