V is for Vacations and travel
“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” Miriam Beard
What is a vacation?
A vacation can be defined as a break from usual activity. It is usually a time spent doing different things, in a different environment. During a vacation there is usually a combination of doing, travelling, exploring, learning, making connections, experiencing different perspectives and cultures, breaking from routine, redressing assumptions and gaining an appreciation of the diversity of the world and reconnecting with ourselves and others.The person who finishes a vacation is different from the one who started it; at the end of it you are usually changed for the better and your knowledge and understanding of yourself and the world has increased.
Can vacations have mental and physical health benefits?
“One of the gladdest moments of human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of habit, the leaden weight of routine, the cloak of many cares and the slavery of home, man feels once more happy.” Richard Burton
Studies have shown that deliberately taking regular time away from our daily jobs and routines can have mental and physical health benefits.
Taking a vacation can improve mental health. Persistent exposure to stress can alter your brain structure and increase anxiety and depression levels. When you take a vacation, your mind and body has a chance to ‘power down’ and as it does, feelings of calm have the chance to come to the surface as stress is relieved and this allows the body and mind to heal in different and more effective ways than if it were still under pressure.
People who take vacations have lower stress levels and are less likely to experience burnout. Stress can contribute to heart disease and high blood pressure. Those who take regular vacations reduce their risk of heart disease and they have a better outlook on life and are more motivated to achieve their goals.
“Travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind.” Seneca
Another benefit of taking time off of work for a vacation or to travel is that it it encourages us to see the world around us through a different lens and increases creativity allowing us to tackle problems ‘ back in the real world’ in unique or innovative ways.
What benefits are there pre-, during and post vacation?
“A vacation is like love, anticipated with pleasure, experienced with discomfort, yet remembered with nostalgia” Anon
“Every man can transform the world from one of monotony and drabness to one of excitement and adventure.” Irving Wallace
Research suggests that planning or even just thinking about a trip can give your brain a positive boost .and increase your levels of happiness through anticipation. An study, published by the University of Surrey in 2002, found that people are at their happiest when they have a holiday planned.
Another study in 2014 by Cornell University study examined how the anticipation of an experience (like a trip) can increase a person’s happiness substantially—much more so than the anticipation of buying material goods. Sometimes people even prefer to delay good experiences like a trip so they can extend the period of anticipation.
“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.” Samuel Johnson
Spending time with friends and loved ones in an unfamiliar environment or breaking from normal routine and responsibilities can create stronger bonds through shared memories and bring forward different characteristics and group dynamics.
When you take a vacation you often spend more time outside; the increased exposure to sunshine (hopefully) can increase our Vitamin D levels which has positive benefits for our bones, teeth, and muscles.
As we let go of our responsibilities and our stress levels decrease and our mind becomes calmer, our ability to, and the quality of, sleep improves. Better sleep quality leads to increased energy levels and an enhanced mood.
Often on vacation we move more and try different activities and this increases our endorphins providing a natural and effective anti-stress treatment.
“Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” Pat Conroy
After a mental and physical break from work or our usual surroundings on vacation, people often feel refreshed and return with a better sense of well-being, increased cognition and mental motivation. This heightened energy state allows us to approach tasks and problems with a different mindset and it is easier to be more focused and productive.
Whilst on vacation we often have the opportunity to experience a plethora of different experiences as we face new and unexpected conditions in unfamiliar environments or circumstances. We can make new connections with others – both those we know and strangers we meet along the way and as we gain new insights it can boost our ability to adapt our thinking and strengthen our connections.
By talking about and sharing memories with others on the return from a vacation it can help us relive those memories and keep them afresh in our minds for longer ,thereby prolonging the positive vibes.
Taking regular vacations with their associated reduction in stress etc can lead to a prolonged lifespan.
Travel opens us up to the many wonders of the world and helps us make more meaningful connections to different peoples – it connects us with both nature and culture.
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” Aldous Huxley
When we travel we gain a better appreciation and understanding of different people and cultures. Rather than continue with assumptions, by paying attention and listening, we can unpick the different societal norms and cultural baggage people carry and this leads to a greater understanding and better communication
“Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel's immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad new sights, smells and sounds, but with experiencing first hand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way.” Ralph Crawshaw
By actively engaging and listening to others whose paths cross ours and maintaining an openness and a sense of humility we can do away with ethnocentricity in which people subconsciously or consciously believe that their own group or culture is better or more important than others.
Rather than fear diversity, when we maintain a growth mindset and celebrate diversity we can learn from the different approaches and perspectives we encounter and then use this knowledge to become a better citizen of the planet
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain