From the age of 16, I’ve always loved to travel after a life-changing experience as an AFS exchange student to Brazil. With my newly issued passport, I clearly remember sitting in SFO waiting for a flight to New York City and then on to Rio De Janeiro. Looking back at my parents as they waved good-bye at the gate (obviously back in the pre-TSA days), I still remember the excitement, fear, and heightened sense of anticipation as I boarded on my very first flight. Since then, I seem to always be planning the “next trip”. I thrive on travel. Not only the trip itself, but the planning, anticipation and the pre-trip excitement. I just don’t understand people when they say they rarely ever go on vacation!
With all its frustration, too small seats in crowded planes, extra fees, and petty inconveniences, travel continues to fully engage me and during trips I really stay in present. Studies show that travel improves our physical and mental well-being. I’m sure its partly due to the heightened awareness we have when we are out of our routines. Also, I always walk more when I’m on a trip than I ever seem to at home and it feels so effortless. (A real bonus is regardless of what I eat, I never gain weight while traveling.) I remember a recent trip to Paris and all the walking we did. Who hasn’t walked from dawn to dusk all over a new city, exploring streets, aware of architecture, people watching, and the variety of sights, smells and sounds? I have been keenly aware of the sensory feast in a Greek spice market, the sounds of waves crashing as we walked along on a Hawaiian beach, and the stunning vibrant autumn leaves along the Blue Ridge Highway in Virginia— all remain vivid reminders of travel. I was fully engaged in those experiences, my level of everyday stress was reduced, and I felt much more in the flow of life.
In an excellent article published by the Global Coalition on Aging , the authors discuss the physical, mental and emotional benefits of travel. Perhaps it’s not that healthy people travel, rather people who travel and remain active are healthier! In one study, women who travel twice a year are statistically less likely to have a heart attack than those who travel once every 4 years! So, for your heart’s sake, plan a trip!
There are many, many wonderful travel blogs and one I suggest is The World According to Barbara, a delightful travel log by a woman in mid-life…well written and inspiring.
More later as I share some of my travels and insights, and of course the health benefits! And if you have a favorite blog or a comment about how travel has made you healthier, let us know in the comments below.
“On the road again!” was my October theme song. (thanks Willie Nelson). We just got back from a wonderful 2 week vacation–“Americana Road Trip 2013”!. Along the way I learned several things I felt would be great tips on life’s journey, especially at this time of our lives.
1. Identify several “must’s” in your life and decide when you want to do them. (Hint: The sooner the better.) For me, I love our National Parks and road trips. Fortunately my husband does too. I have wanted to visit the Smoky Mountains and drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall. It was everything I’d hoped for and more. We hit the fall colors perfectly, visited fascinating historic sights, enjoyed delicious regional food, wines and beers, and shared some memories with family and friends along the way.
2. Get something scheduled. I almost always have some kind of trip on my calendar. It can be a big vacation, but often they are day trips or weekend getaways. They keeps me focused forward and excited about something new. Planning something is invigorating, opens our minds to new possibilities, discoveries, and stretches us to learn about new regions and enjoy different experiences. I have a close friend and when she’s a bit down, she’ll call and say, “let’s get something on the calendar”. We do and it cheers us both up. Anticipation and planning are great antidotes to the “blahs”.
3. Embrace the unexpected. One morning, after we’d spent a night in a relatively unknown small town along the Hudson River, we realized we were 1/2 hour from Hyde Park (Roosevelt’s home and Presidential library) so we drove up and spent several hours. What a fascinating look into history at that time…one of the highlights of our trip.
4. Get off the freeway of life. Side roads offer a slower pace and many more interesting sights. We stopped at a local fruit stand with over a dozen varieties of apples; found a local bbq dive with the best pulled pork sandwich we’ve ever had; and toured an interesting craft brewery.
Give one or all of these a try soon, you’ll find your life’s journey much more interesting.