“Travel more” is a consistently popular New Year’s resolution for a reason—travel is good for you! Apart from being a fun and exciting thing to do, taking a trip can help you relax, re-energize, and refocus.
Travel promotes physical activity, stimulates the brain, and enhances creativity. Exploring a new destination engages the mind, body, and soul in a multitude of beneficial ways, and leads to better overall health. It also increases your feelings of connection to others and to the self, strengthening your personal identity and boosting your confidence.
All in all, traveling more is one of the best (and healthiest) decisions you can make in 2017. Here are 5 simple resolutions to help you get the most out of your next trip.
START LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE:
Being bi- or multilingual has obvious uses when traveling abroad, but there are other reasons you should consider picking up a new language. Forcing the brain to process a new linguistic system can sharpen your reading, negotiating, and problem-solving skills, as well as boost your ability to multi-task. The more the brain is used, the better its functions work, and studying a second (or third, or fourth) language is the ultimate mental workout.
Language apps are a great way to practice a new language before trying out your budding skills on a real native speaker. Duolingo and Memrise are excellent self-study options on both mobile and PC. And if a tricky phrase ever escapes you while traveling, Google Translate is always there to help you out.
Still not convinced? In addition to all the health benefits mentioned above, studies suggest that knowing another language can actually make you more attractive to others.
EAT LIKE A LOCAL:
Eating delicious, authentic food is one of the best things about traveling to a new country. Food is so intrinsically tied to culture that you can get a sense of a country’s people simply by sampling its dishes.
Not only is international fare tasty, but it also might be healthier for you. Studies show that certain diets (specifically Mediterranean, Japanese, Nordic, and even French) are linked to better overall health and reductions in chronic conditions when compared with their North American and UK counterparts. These super-diets are linked by a combination of fresh local produce, healthy fats, and smaller portion size.
Eating like a local when you travel can both give your body a nutritious boost and lead you to some fantastic meals you might not have otherwise tried. If you’re not sure which restaurants to visit or which dishes to order, ask! Hotel staff, local guides, and even friendly passers-by will often be more than happy to help you out with a recommendation.
PRIORITIZE EXPERIENCES OVER THINGS:
It can be easy to get caught up in the cycle of constant product consumption, but there’s a reason that cycle never seems to end. Material possessions make us happy at first, but we quickly adapt to their presence in our lives and thus our enjoyment fades. Instead, new research has found that the key to lasting happiness lies in experiences, not things.
Although we can believe that our possessions are linked to our identities in some way, they nonetheless remain separate from us. In contrast, our experiences truly become a part of us, and their value appreciates with time.
Travel is all about the experience, and is therefore an excellent way to boost and maintain happiness. Don’t worry so much about souvenirs or shopping, and instead focus on the journey itself. Visit someplace new, try an activity you’ve never done before, soak up every experience you can—these are the adventures that will be recalled often and fondly in years to come.
STAY HEALTHIER WHILE TRAVELING:
Although travel does wonders for our mind and spirit, time constraints and easy access to amazing food can sometimes have us neglecting our physical health while away from home.
Looking after your body does not necessarily mean sacrificing precious travel time or experiences, however. Packing your own nutritious airplane snacks, sightseeing on foot or by bicycle, downloading a fitness app for your phone, and using online exercise videos for a quick workout in your hotel room are all easy ways to stay health-conscious when traveling.
There is also often a wide array of fitness-related activities available to travelers anywhere in the world, including trekking, yoga, scuba diving, and martial arts. Try asking the staff at your hotel for recommendations, or check out sites like Meetup and Viator for local activities and inspiration.
STEP OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE:
Stepping outside your comfort zone can be as simple as sampling a new food or as extreme as trying skydiving for the first time. The intensity is entirely up to you, but there is no doubt that adding a little adventure to your trip is a great way to keep the mind, body, and soul from getting complacent.
New experiences interrupt our everyday flow in the best possible way. They energize the brain, evoke excitement and happiness, and engage our interest. They can even change the way we perceive time, shifting our bodies from autopilot to manual and commanding our full attention. This kind of mental workout is key in keeping memory loss at bay and boosting creative thinking.
New experiences—specifically those had while traveling in a foreign country—also benefit us spiritually, as they foster feelings of connectedness and unity. When we interact with different people and cultures, a realization of the underlying similarities all humans share produces an increase in “generalized trust,” and a subsequent decrease in negative emotions such as fear and anxiety.
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