How international travel can actually improve your health
“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, To gain all while you give, To roam the roads of lands remote: To travel is to live.”
- Hans Christian Andersen
Experiencing the diverse cultures, art, music, and cuisines of tiny towns and large cities throughout other countries is a wonderful way to expand your world. Travel allows you to refresh your spirit and your physical wellbeing. As you enjoy various traditions and landscapes across the globe, you’re actually exercising and reducing stress. As a matter of fact, visiting foreign countries, seeing nature’s marvels around the world, and experiencing new cultures are all proven ways to enhance fitness and brainpower. Vacations outside the country are also a great way to introduce new foods, new experiences, and intellectual stimulation into your life.
Visiting different parts of the world puts authentic native foods on your plate—or in some cases, right in your hands. Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas offer an immense range of nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, seafood, chicken, pork, beef, and other meats. These options add fiber, vitamins, iron, protein, amino acids, and fatty-acid chains to your diet
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Cuisine across the world is rich in calcium, potassium, and magnesium, which are critical to the hypothalamus and limbic system: the parts of the brain that regulate metabolism, mood, sleep, and memory.
Furthermore, almost anywhere you go outside the U.S., you’ll do more walking. While exploring Africa, Asia, Australia, Eastern Europe, or the UK, you’ll trek through sacred sites, natural landscapes, and the world’s preeminent architectural marvels. All this walking strengthens the heart, prevents high blood pressure, and trims the waistline—these awesome side-effects help make world travel a bucket list priority.
As well, finding yourself in unfamiliar environments requires mental exercise, which creates new neuropathways and expands the mind. Meeting new people, being exposed to new cultures, and experiencing new sights and sounds are excellent ways to get a cerebral workout. While sightseeing around the world, your brain restores acetylcholine, which aids memory, and GABA, which reduces anxiety. Vacations can help restore normal sleep patterns, too: disruptions to your circadian rhythm at home disappear while you’re traveling, allowing you to reset your internal clock.
There’s real scientific evidence to suggest depression decreases during and following international trips. As mentioned, when you go on abroad, you get daily exercise, eat new foods, and shift your routine. These variations on your schedule and diet increase endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine: the neurotransmitters and hormones that enhance your mood and give you a tremendous sense of wellbeing. Upon returning home, you can expect a “travel high” that lasts for many weeks, which is great for physical and mental health, stress reduction, and stave off depression.
In the end, it's best to travel as much and often as you can because, as Miriam Beard notes, “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”