2021 has definitely been a tough year for travel, but that should not discourage you from traveling in the future. With the COVID-19 vaccine being distributed around the world, the ability to travel to some places has followed. If you are anything like me, and you already love to travel, you might have spent some of those months in quarantine watching travel videos. As I was locked away in my house, I would dream of traveling the world through the experiences of others on YouTube. Traveling is exciting and comes with many benefits — some of which you might not have been aware of before.
For starters, traveling improves our health. An NBC News article states that “according to a joint study from the Global Commission on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association, traveling actually keeps you healthier.” In this study, women who went on vacations two times a year were shown to be at a much lower risk of a heart attack compared to people who travel once every six years. The same rings true for men who are shown to be at “a 20 percent higher risk of death and 30 percent greater risk of heart disease” if they do not travel at least once a year, according to the same NBC News article. Walking and moving around is so important for our physical and mental health, and traveling places lets us be more active. When we are in a foreign country, we are walking around and exploring a new environment, whereas in our everyday lives, we might not have time to roam aimlessly around a city or go on a daytime hike.
Our mental well-being is just as important as our physical well-being, and traveling allows us to escape from our day-to-day life, as well as the stressors that come with it. When we are traveling, we don’t need to worry about work or household chores but rather what new cuisine we want to try or which monument or museum we want to see next. When you are abroad, the stressors of daily life seem to become minimal or manageable, as you begin to see that the world is much greater than you imagined. Gustave Flaubert, a French novelist, once said, “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” I couldn’t agree more. According to a study from Cornell University, the mere act of planning a trip is directly linked to an increase in happiness. Everyone needs a break, and traveling allows us to not only take a break but to learn about ourselves as well as the world around us.
Traveling forces us to step outside our comfort zone. While stepping outside our comfort zones is obviously difficult, it is necessary in order to grow as a person. In fact, according to a Psychology Today article, “leaving your comfort zone ultimately helps you to deal with change,” which life is all about. As COVID-19 has impacted the lives of everyone across the globe, we have all been faced with change and forced to find ways to manage it. If we lived life never taking risks, we would inevitably lead a boring life in which we would always desire more. Life comes with challenges, but when you are able to overcome those challenges, you begin to truly realize what you are capable of.
Traveling allows us to learn about ourselves as well as the world. Being exposed to different cultures and different people is so important for our personal development. While it is one thing to learn about another culture in a textbook, it is an entirely different experience to learn firsthand. While we can learn about a concept from a book, we can not gain the wisdom and true appreciation that only experience can provide. Traveling allows insight into the real world and a window into just how beautiful our planet is.
While traveling can introduce us to ourselves, traveling also allows us to meet new people, whether they are native residents or other travelers. Staying in a hostel for a night can expose us to so many different people from countries across the globe. In one room, there can be individuals from opposite sides of the world all together to experience a culture that neither have experienced before.
You don’t need to be rich to travel. There are ways to travel without breaking bank, and sometimes those ways provide even more meaningful experiences. Living like locals and immersing yourself in the environment is not only the cheapest way to travel, but also the best way to really experience a new place. In addition, if you do not have the finances to book a ticket to another country, traveling could also mean visiting places in your country that you’ve never seen. The United States is a huge country, and each state has its own personality. Traveling is about taking a break, stepping outside your comfort zone and exploring places you have never been. We learn through experiences, and traveling gives us an endless array of them.
However, some cannot afford to travel abroad or within their country. A week off from work might not be feasible for some, but they can still take the lessons that traveling teaches and apply it to their lives at home. First, it doesn’t need to be a week off, but perhaps an hour designated for relaxation. This “vacation” from your work day could be taking a yoga class or gardening for an hour. Making time for yourself to de-stress is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves. Learning about yourself and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone can come from activities within your own community, like joining a neighborhood Facebook group and meeting up for a hike with people you have never met before. Learning about different cultures could come from watching documentaries, and experiencing new foods could come from visiting authentic restaurants within your own community. At its core, traveling is about making memories and challenging ourselves.
A famous quote of Mark Twain reads, “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” If you are able to, now or in the future, travel! No matter how far or how close, how long or how short, you will gain knowledge about yourself, your values and the world. It will be an experience to remember. Traveling could take the form of booking a plane ticket halfway around the world, driving a few hours to another state or even having experiences outside your comfort zone within your own community. Life is hectic, and we must remember to take time to appreciate our surroundings and do things that make us happy.
Eve Marks is a junior double-majoring in environmental studies and philosophy, politics and law.