Gustave Flaubert said: “Travel makes one modest. You may see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

Anthony Bourdain said: “If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.”

Pico Iyer said: “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves.”

What is this obsession with travel? Why is it than everywhere we look, people want to go – far or close – but go?

We all have a travel bucket list of sorts, be it to see famous buildings, theme parks, national parks, animals or cultures and celebrations. It’s in our nature to be curious and want to explore the unknown, but there seems to be more to it.

Fact is: Travel is good for your mental health. To understand why, we need to look at two different situations.

First, how travelling affects you in general, and second how it can help when you are already stressed and need relief.

Feeling better through travel

Regular travel, or taking a break to travel, is a way to make sure you take care of your mental health, because it makes you more aware and mindful.

What is travel? It’s arriving in new places, experiencing new cultures, coming across festivals and celebrations you never know existed and seeing what you hadn’t even imagined. It’s living lots of lives in one.

“Traveling allows you to become so many different versions of yourself”

Imagine the hormones and especially the adrenaline as you see miles and miles of sand dunes – redder than you thought naturally possible, feel warm rain or wind on your skin for the first time, stand in awe in front of the highest building, marvelling at how it is possible to construct such an impressive piece of architecture. If you like particularly active holidays, these are the times all your training at home finally pays off and you climb your summit.

Travel is full of extremes and highlights, which lift your serotonin levels.

But it’s not all peachy, of course there are issues. And they too, are good for you. Travelling makes you more resilient and creative. You constantly adapt to new situations and learn coping mechanisms for yourself: from figuring out a new public transport system to navigating cultural situations. Knowing you can handle what’s out there in the world makes you feel more capable and calm dealing with what arises in your life when you are home as well.

Travel as a boost

What about those of us who don’t travel as much, who are mostly in our work and home life routine?

It’s not just the around the world trips that improve your mental health. Any holiday – long or short – is a way to relieve stress. Simply, because it takes you away from the ordinary and gives your body and mind a chance to clear themselves from stress and start from scratch.

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware”
Martin Buber

Trying new things breaks the monotony that often comes with our daily routine. As a bonus, we are often more active on holidays than we are in our work life: Whether it is because of a walking city tour or an excursion or swimming in the see, you usually get more exercise on holiday than when you are at work 8 hours a day and according to the Mental Health Foundation, physical exercise means “less tension, stress and mental fatigue, a natural energy boost [and] a sense of achievement, [therefore] more focus and motivation, feeling less angry or frustrated”.

While travelling does not replace getting professional help if you are struggling, getting away does make your life feel more fulfilled. Even after a trip, your sleep is usually better as getting away from your routine can help with sleep problems and your home and home life will be filled with small pieces of your travels; from the people you met and are in touch with to the food you cook and habits you have picked up.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”
Marcel Proust

Picking the right kind of travel

To make sure your holidays have a positive effect on your mental health, make sure you know what you need. Not every holiday is for everyone.

If you love the outdoors, pick something active that will push you to your limits in ways your everyday routine doesn’t allow.

If you have a lot of responsibility at work, you may choose a spa or simply a fully organised trip to allow yourself a break from managing schedules and simply enjoying the new experiences, without any of the pressure.

If your job has you stuck in a routine, choose a trip that will let you get a bit creative and get you into tricky (not dangerous!) situations. Let yourself get lost in a city without a plan or travel alone to see who you meet on your travels.

Looking for inspiration on where to go? Check out our further reads below.

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