Why Travel is an Elixir for Good Health

Text by Noreen Kompanik

I spent 34 years as a registered nurse before transitioning to my full-time life as a travel writer. So, I know a little about what constitutes good health. We all understand that the balance of eating right, exercising and lowering our stress levels all contribute to better health, right? But….so does travel-in more ways than we even realize.

Travel Improves Brain Health

When you travel, you meet new people and adapt to new situations. Travel makes you more globally and culturally aware. In essence, these experiences expand your mind and increase cognitive flexibility. Here’s an example. On our recent travels to Italy, we had to sharpen our Italian language skills.

This came in very handy when asking for directions, understanding the public transportation system, and even ordering food in some restaurants. Translating English phrases to Italian certainly exercises the brain.

Travel Boosts the Immune System

Believe it or not, having some new bacteria in your life isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When you travel, you’re naturally exposed to different germs causing your body to build up antibodies. Very simply, these antibodies boost and protect the immune system and actually help make the body stronger.

For travelers, this is great news. More travel equals a stronger immune system. It’s why we can venture to foreign lands and do just fine on our journeys. But, it’s always good to remember Mom’s adage of “make sure you wash your hands.” But then, we do this in our own hometown, right?

Travel Helps Lower Blood Pressure

Most people are aware that stress has a direct impact on blood pressure. The body produces a surge of hormones, causing the heart to beat faster and blood vessels to narrow. This in turn elevates blood pressure to levels that can damage the heart. Vacationing can lower stress levels especially when we chose destinations or activities that we love.

For me, beach destinations are my favorite. When I’m lying on a beach in the Virgin Islands for example, tropical drink in hand, surrounded by ocean breezes and the sound of the waves, I’m in heaven. I love sailing, snorkeling crystalline waters, and sunset dinners feet in the sand.

For some, it’s destinations they can ski the slopes of the Rockies, kayak a pristine lake, or hike through the woods.

Travel Increases our Sense of Well-Being

Have you ever been to an awe-inspiring place that makes you feel so good inside? It’s as if you want to hang on to the moment forever. Perhaps it was the perfect sunset or a view that takes your breath away. But at that moment, everything seems in perfect alignment in your universe.

New events and experiences like these travel occurrences stimulate dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for controlling the brain’sr reward and pleasure center. Dopamine also helps regulate emotional responses and rewards us with that warm fuzzy contented feeling. Or it can be exhiliarating.

But, whatever it is, it’s good for the body and for the soul. For example, this happened the first time I witnessed the majesty of Grand Canyon, helicoptered over Kauai’s stunning Na Pali Coast, and saw history come alive in the Roman Coliseum, or felt the magic of Santorini in the Greek Isles.

Travel Helps Us Connect with Friends & Family

Every two years, we get together with 4 other couples who live all over the U.S. and explore a new destination. Two years ago it was Alaska, this year it was the Mediterranean- Croatia, Italy, and the islands of Greece.

Our time spent together is precious. It’s the chance to catch up, share past memorable times, and just enjoy one another’s company. The same holds true for vacations with extended family and even the times it’s just my hubby and me on a getaway.

Traveling to a destination where our only focus is just being there together is an absolute joy. We can tune out the constant barrage of news coverage and business of daily living and rather focus on sharing the experience. It’s surprising how much more we discover about one another when we travel.

It’s a big, beautiful world with so much to see and experience. American romantic poet James Russell Lowell once said “A wise man travels to discover himself.” And that has to be good for our health.

Noreen Kompanik

Noreen Kompanik is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in San Diego, California and a retired nurse. Traveling with her husband, children and grandchildren is her favorite pastime. Her articles include inspirational writing, sustainable healthy living, family travel, history, wine and food. Her favorite place to be is on a beach somewhere. Noreen is a member of the International Travel Writers and Photographer’s Association, International Food and Wine Travel Writers Association, and San Diego Press Club. Her published articles can be found on her website http://whatsinyoursuitcase.com/.

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