The Health Benefits of Travel
I always miss summer as it drifts away - the carefree days, a time when people unwind a bit. Like a teacher asking that cliche question, I always like to find out what my patients did for their summer, and I enjoy hearing about their travels.
I encourage traveling, not as a travel agent with profit to be gained, but as a doctor interested in improving their health. I honestly feel that travel has the potential to improve health and well-being.
Ideally, a vacation is a temporary respite from the typical daily burdens - work, home, and other obligations. Sometimes, when we are in the typical grind of life, it is difficult to see things objectively and stepping out makes it easier to see and gain perspective on our lives. My wife and I often use vacation time to make goals, set priorities, and come up with a plan for the coming months, even years.
In Europe, it's common practice to take time out at a spa to focus on health or some particular ailment and it would be nice to see this movement catch on in the states! Still, a vacation can be a time of rest and recovery, a time to rejuvenate. I tell my patients that they can recover on a beach after surgery just as well as on their couch.
Mark Twain said, "Travel is the antidote for bigotry and narrow-mindedness."
And indeed, I think travel can open our minds. It takes people out of their comfort zone. When we are not like those around us - different language, accent, skin color, dress - it humbles us. And finding food and shelter in a foreign place can sharpen our life skills.
In a sense, we "grow up" a bit emotionally, embodying the term "worldly." The norm and the comforts of home are appreciated more. We are more accepting of others. Sadly, Americans do not typically venture from the familiar. Only around 30% have ever applied for a passport.
I believe that travel can be beneficial for health. It offers us time to gain perspective on our lives. It broadens our horizons and helps us to refresh our senses.
What did YOU do this past summer?
Photo Credit: Edgar Barany