Over the past year, I’ve taken a number of trips to see my parents in Oklahoma, my daughter in Philadelphia, and my son in Boston. Those visits were wonderful, and I wouldn’t want to give them up for anything. However, they were far from being a vacation. When I visit family, I’m usually there to help in whatever way I can — and there’s always something to do. I come back happy, but exhausted.
So, in June my husband and I went on a much anticipated vacation to Budapest, Vienna, and Prague! I was reminded that traveling is so good for the soul. In short, here are some of the health benefits I recognized as I reflected on our trip:
- It relieves stress to be free of the everyday chores that typically hang over us
- It stimulates the mind to explore and learn about new places
- It broadens our understanding of and compassion for all people, as we learn about new cultures
- It’s good exercise to walk miles every day
- It strengthens (hopefully) our relationship with our fellow traveler(s)
- It increases our appreciation of good food
- It makes us happy to be alive!
Let me illustrate each one of these points with pictures from our trip:
Stress reducer: We stayed in lovely, small hotels in each city, and took the train between cities. Every morning we woke up when we felt like it (not when our dog wanted us to wake up) and got a cup of coffee to sip as we eased into the day. Breakfast always consisted of a delicious buffet replete with fruits, breads, egg dishes, cold cuts, yogurts, and more. But the best part of breakfast was that we had plenty of time to linger. There were no worries, no cleanup, no shopping, no cooking. We weren’t thinking about a list of chores to do, phone calls to make, or work to complete. Our biggest worry was whether to have another cappuccino or not!
Mind stimulator: We spent the first full day in each city with a private guide who filled our heads with so many facts they almost exploded! At the end of the day my husband and I would discuss what we learned, and I would write down as much as we could remember in my journal. It is very different to learn about history when you’re at the location where events took place, rather than just reading about them in a book.
Understanding new cultures: The people of any given country have a set of experiences based on their history, and we talked about the lives of our guides, their families, and their people as we walked around town. Plus, we experienced everyday life by popping into a church during a service (accidentally), resting in a neighborhood park, riding the subway, and shopping at the local markets. And, then of course, there was high culture, including operas, concerts, and art studios.
Exercise: It’s amazing how many calories you can burn just walking everywhere, especially when stairs are involved!
Improves relationships: My husband and I are often doing our own thing, so it was good to spend more time together, all day, every day. This is a selfie we took at the end of the day on our last day of vacation, and we’re still smiling (but not after some major compromising)!
Good food: Food just tastes better in Europe, and it seems that the ingredients are all fresh. Small, family-owned restaurants abounded, and we loved everything we tried.
Good for the soul: All of the above benefits remind you that it’s good to be alive!
Whether you plan a trip to a far away land, or a camping trip in your own state, seek out ways to experience the many health benefits of taking a vacation!