Mental Benefits of Travel & Vacation

AustraliaDo you ever feel stuck in a rut, feeling that life is monotonous and that you are a robot doing the same thing every day? We are part of a very busy, work-focused society where many people do not even take all of their allowed vacation days. My husband and I lived in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada for one year due to a job transfer in 2004. We observed that the work-life balance in Canada differed from the American work culture. To illustrate, the work days were shorter and people would definitely use all of their vacation time, usually taking the whole month of August off from work for family vacation.

Recently, my husband and three teenage children returned from the long journey from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It was definitely worth every minute of the long 15 hour plane ride (from Los Angeles, California), giving us exactly what we needed as a family. Going on vacation is important for all of us to recharge our mental health for various reasons. First, taking a trip can help decrease stress levels as it gives a break from the monotony and deadlines of regular work routines. Preparing for trips and vacations also boosts our mood as we anticipate the fun-filled journey ahead. Most importantly, we do not have to worry about cooking, cleaning or doing the wash while on vacation!

Other benefits to travel are that it allows us to open our minds to other cultures, societies, groups of people, foods, habits, etc. It reminds us that people are different than we are and there is more than one way of living, guiding us to have different outlooks on life and be respectful of diversity. Adapting to different environments makes us less emotionally reactive to daily changes and stressors in our own lives and improves our emotional stability. For example, in Australia, the traffic patterns are opposite of that in Americana. That is, one drives on the left side of the road rather than on the right side. Consistent with this driving pattern, the steering wheel and driver seat are on the right side of the car (talk about having a different perspective and embracing a quick adaptation to the environment!). Last, traveling with friends and family can strengthen relationships by enhancing closeness, sharing similar interests, encouraging each other to try new things (like hiking or surfing), and letting go and having fun together. If you have not had a vacation in a while, be sure to take the time to plan for one to refresh yourself and energize your family!