Health Benefits of Travel
When we travel, we’re always looking for things like quiet, clean air, a refreshing experience. Sometimes people question us: “Ooh, why haven’t you taken the kids to New York City yet? Wouldn’t Toronto be a fun family vacation?” You know, we love to see new cities or go back to places that we’ve had a blast in the past, but now when we’re thinking about travel, we need to allow our experience to breathe some new life into us and also be enjoyable for the kids. We need some health benefits of travel.
We reached out to a licensed massage therapist (LMP) down in the Columbia Gorge to get her perspective on travel and how it impacts health. Kelly Blanchard works in a locale that’s known for being relaxing and drawing city folk away. She’s located at the Strawberry Mountain Spa in White Salmon, Washington. Her clientele ranges from locals who’ve retired to the quite to young business people escaping Portland or Seattle for a weekend. Who better to talk to about the health benefits of travel?!
2TD: How has your experience working with stressed out peoples’ bodies shown you the importance of travel?
LMP: As an LMP for 12+ years, I love to travel via my massage clients. They tell me about their experiences and trips, and you can feel their tension start to lessen. Also knowing what it feels like to re-integrate into life after traveling myself, I can say that adding body work into the ‘coming down’ of the traveling high has a very positive impact. It keeps the calm of vacation even though you’re back to the grindstone.
2TD: What do you see are the main mental health benefits of travel?
LMP: You’re not home! Perhaps you’re out of cell/internet range, so you’re unplugged. There are no piles of laundry, or dishes, no messes to distract your attempts at an afternoon of couch surfing. No neighbors to drop by or mail box full of bills to get out, trash to take out or pets to care for. All of those minutes and hours you spend dealing with everyday tasks and naggings, they’re now your own! That lighter mental load carries into your muscles.
LMP: Train and plane travel can make you sick because of all the bugs in the air, you know close quarters, but with some help from some vitamins and essential oils you can skip that. Build up your system so that you don’t get a physical plague. And think of travel as a reboot for your life; a fully justifiable way to maintain a healthy outlook. It’s not just the traveling though. The exciting time leading up to a trip can propel us through all kinds of “life dung” that inevitably gets on us.
2TD: What is it about travel that provides the mental release?
LMP: Travel is the time to reinvent you; to shed any preconceptions of yourself; to arrive home fresh and new. You get to try new things/foods/adventures. Meet people! Even if you’re not going to a tropical destination, a new place can feel…exotic!
2TD: What are some physical steps people can take to get a health benefit from traveling?
LMP: Take deep breaths, get bodywork when you’re gone, exercise. Learn that you need LESS stuff. This all carries onto your return home.
2TD: Any tips to enjoying a destination and getting the most from being in a new place?
LMP: Learn the history, myths and legends of an area. Invigorate your mind and understanding of our connection to the past, present and future. You’ll start to find a connection to our humanity. Immersing yourself in another culture can really bring new ideas about how to live your own life.
2TD: What activities have been most beneficial to you in your own travels?
LMP: Oh gosh. Going to art galleries and museums. I love to hear a new language and try it out! We all do it: you drive by a museum “you’ll get to someday,” or you talk about how much you wish you understood Spanish better. On vacation, you get to make yourself experience those fresh bites of culture!
2TD: What do you see is the take-away from traveling? How has somebody’s mental/physical health changed with being away?
LMP: A person comes home, invigorated. Maybe they’ve been crazy active while they’ve been gone instead of sedentary like when they’re home. I always return with a new appreciation for my day to day life. When you’re gone, it’s good to miss your home, your friends, family, quirky roomies and neighbors, pets, and sights and sounds. Seeing your life again for the first time, you’re new and can ride that high for a long while.
It was fantastic to talk to Kelly about how travel is so beneficial. Not that we ever need to justify spending a week on a beach, but hearing a health professional say that getting sand in your shorts is good for life, well, it makes it easier to buy that next plane ticket.
Other ways that we as a family benefit from traveling go beyond the physical and mental health. With one parent working five days a week and the other always being home with the boys, we don’t get a ton of family time. When we’re on the road together, we learn so much about each other, including what buttons not to push. When vacation is done, we miss each other. As cheesy as it sounds, family travel builds bonds that time at home cannot.
We are always thinking about new ways to teach our kids through travel, and even though they might not feel the stress of life, teaching them now how to step out and relax, leaving behind the everyday, that’s going to be beneficial for years to come.
Rob Taylor is the founder of 2TravelDads, the original LGBT Family Travel blog. Focusing on ecotourism and education, 2TravelDads inspires LGBT families (and traditional families also) to go beyond their usual getaways and use travel to learn about and be part of a bigger world. “Traveling the globe and giving the kids a broad worldview.”