The Wild Pair

Why Travel Is Good For Your Mental Health

In Travel Tips on November 22, 2008 at 6:26 pm

These are the best of times and the worst of times. What was true yesterday isn’t true today, and the volatility of climate change, the stock market, consumer prices and the environment are enough to propel anyone into a straight jacket. Add to that relationship turbulence, kids, parents, pets, work, traffic, health and you can easily find yourself sitting on top of a heap of stress that just keeps growing. Life seems to be an assault on your mental health. Some folks binge, others take to the bottle, many seek respite in drugs (legal or otherwise) and develop situational anxieties and depression. We have another idea about how you can climb out of the pressure cooker without leaping into the fire: travel. And here is why:


It doesn’t happen when you start packing, or when you stay up half the night before your trip trying to answer emails and take out the trash. But once you board the plane, train or get in your car, you breathe a little more deeply as the daily grind gets smaller and smaller and then disappears in the rear view mirror.


When you encounter new sites, something opens up in your mind and heart and you can have new insights about old problems. A change of scene can make things back home look very different.


When you hit the road, there are infinite options for active engagement with your environment. You can walk, bike, hike, climb, paddle, skate, dance. When you are at home, it’s sometimes hard to get motivated for physical exercise. When you are away, it all seems so much more appealing. And you certainly know that an RX for depression and anxiety is—move your muscles.


To be really well, one has to be in the moment, the now. When you travel, there is so much new stimulation that it forces you to respond in the present. You slip effortlessly into the zone.


If there is a certain ennui associated with the same people and the same stories back home, then the remedy is meeting people on the road. Haven’t you made friends in faraway places when you traveled?

If you haven’t, it’s time to start. They can be part of your travel group, or people you connect to who live in your chosen destination.


An antidote to self-medicating can be self-soothing. When you travel, you do things you love, you buy treasured souvenirs, you pamper yourself with small pleasures. These actions make you feel good about yourself. They don’t rile you up. They don’t perturb or upset you. You replace a desire to escape with a real escape that is much better for you.


Maybe you’ve had a rough spell at work or with relationships. You feel a little worthless or useless.

When you travel, you exercise your high school Spanish or French, you successfully navigate your way around an unknown environment, you excel at hiking or cooking. You do things that make you feel proud of yourself and that help to build back your self-esteem.


At home, maybe you look longingly at your bed, or even spend way too much time there. On the road, you want to get out and explore your environment. You’ve paid a lot of money to be where you are. You certainly don’t want to squander your time by having bleak thoughts under a blanket.


There are different kinds of pain: physical, emotional, psychic or spiritual. They are all quite real. Somehow, by some mysterious alchemy, travel can alleviate pain. You just feel better. The sprained ankle carries you up a mountain. The wrecked love affair seems more remote and you can foresee a life beyond it. Your relationship to the Divine is renewed through nature.


Worry and the blues can sometimes be attributed to habits of thinking. You get in a mental loop you can’t get out of. You fret about the past and are anxious about the present. It is hard to change your thoughtsä.but travel facilitates that change. You literally walk new paths, eat different foods, speak to different people, hear exotic languages. These changes can help to yank you out of habitual patterns that sap energy from your life.


A good yuk can go a long way towards brightening a day. Have you noticed how much you laugh when you are traveling? You see a funny sign, an odd translation, a street performer, you meet a friend from junior high school on top of a mountain. And you let it rip with a belly laugh. Aaaah.

ABOUT THE WILD PAIR: Ellen Barone and Judith Fein,

They’re smart, sassy, savvy, award-winning travel journalists and photographers and now they’ve joined forces to become THE WILD PAIR, bringing you cutting-edge information and tips on how to turn your next vacation into a life-enhancing experience.

© Ellen Barone and Judith Fein. All Rights Reserved.

  1. Ah…this post reminded me of how much I love to get outta town.

  2. […] Click here and listen to today’s one-minute travel tip. Learn how changing habits is just one way travel is good for your mental health. For more, read our full posting ‘Why Travel is Good for Your Mental Health‘. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: