More than a mental vacation; travel provides a boost to our wellbeing.

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As I write this I am flying back home from two memorable weeks trekking through Morocco. Literally. I’m actually on the plane right now; while everyone’s lights are out I am sitting here with my moisturized face glowing in the hue of my laptop screen.

The Euphoria of Travel

I’m on a bit of a high. It’s what I call the vacation afterglow. That last bit of excitement that still stirs in the pit of your stomach as you mentally recall your entire vacation day by day, trying to hold on in every sensory delight via smells, sounds and touch all before the fog of reality sets in and inevitably blurs it all away.

Knowing that I’m headed off to some far off land in the not so distant future excites me to my soul. I’m easily convinced to spend a chunk of money on a Berber rug hand made by the nomads in Marrakech or a Gucci handbag.  But hey, that’s just me.

I’ve always believed that travel, for me, is a form of therapy. My senses are heightened, the adrenaline is in overdrive, and my drive to pack in as much as I can in one day is in full gear. Whether it’s hiking up a sand dune in the middle of the Sahara to catch the sunset, tilt my head back to see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapexl in Vatican City, witness the gravitas of the Colliseum in Rome, absorb the iconic beauty of The Pyramids of Giza or just lose myself in the operatic beauty of Madama Butterfly in Vienna.

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Stepping it Up Physically

One thing, which I do know is that physically speaking, I usually push myself to be more active when I’m on a non-beach vacation. An avid traveler, Dr. Saquib Ansari, M.D. ABIHM, a family doctor from Welland, Ontario notes that we do tend to be more physical when we are in vacation mode. “Physically, we are more active during our trips. Whether its a day-trip to the big city, or a more extensive journey to a distant land, when travelling, we are walking the city streets, climbing those extra few steps to experience those unforgettable vistas.”

Nourishment for Your Mind

Travel also feeds the mind. Dr. Michael Brein a Travel Psychologist from Bainbridge Island outside of Seattle, Washington notes that travel is something that inherently does challenge the brain and the specific psychological perspective that one holds. “Travel psychology is the study and application of knowledge of human behavior in the act of travelling.” Dr. Brein explains, “And its implications for adjustments and implications in human behavior. Whether it’s for work, pleasure or service in a culture others than one’s own.” Whether it’s finding your preconceived stereotype being challenged, or learning a new language or specific social morays, it’s all part of growing and letting yourself evolve psychologically so that you are open to the idea of seeing what could be in some cases a very different world than yours.

Dr. Ansari concurs, “We are more alert; our senses are awakened and stimulated by the new sights and sounds of our new surroundings. We sharpen our senses while deciphering our unfamiliar surroundings.”

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Break Free of Routine and Embrace the Unknown                 
Dr. Brein suggests when prepping for a trip to break out of the “tourist” mode and become a “traveller”. “A ‘traveller’ is a person that is more experienced in all these subtleties by having done it enough. It’s learning and experiencing and surviving, adapting and coping and getting exciting rewards. You have to be open to new patterns.” Dr. Brein emphasizes that we have to break free from our own psychological baggage. “You’re [in] a psychological bubble, which is what you would do normally. You run on automatic. That doesn’t serve very well in a culture that is so different from your own. In order to crack that bubble you have to be open to newer patterns of communicating and understanding.  You have to be more open and consciously make an effort to run less on automatic and have all sensory mechanisms going on all cylinders. You must make every effort to be more aware.  Observe more and understand more and act upon that understanding.”

A Thrill Ride for Your Senses

When travelling you’re being stimulated at a faster pace than you would at home. Thereby being rewarded at a faster pace as well. Don’t panic, take it all in. According to Dr. Brein, it’s about being open to that intense stimulation one would get on a trip.  And it’s a good thing. “The idea that all the stimuli and excitement and the reaping of little rewards such as having that fresh cup of Italian espresso or fresh baked croissant from Paris is the immediate appreciation of the value of all these things that we love. Every time you have a really good travel experience we feel better about ourselves, we are more confident and we have more self-esteem.” He adds that the excitement of being in a new place does wonders as well: “The experience of waking up on a new day and walking into the medina or the downtown center, wide-awake, open and excited. Having the feeling that today is the first day for the rest of my travel life.”

So when you are getting ready to pack for your next trip, keep in mind that not only are you rejuvenating your soul, you are also giving your mind and body a much-needed treat as well.

Keep Your Travel Memories Alive

Here are the ways I continue to thrive off the high of my trip well after my vacation is done.

  1. Print out your digital photos into fridge magnets so you can see them every day.

  2. Record unique sounds on your phone or camera. I have sounds of waves crashing from Cinque Terre, Italy; a song from a rooftop patio in LA; market sounds from Medellin Colombia, sounds of the crowds amongst the drums and snake charmer tunes from Marrakech. Taking a brief listen will transport you back in no time whenever you need a break. 

  3. Buy CDs of local artists especially of popular tunes you heard on the local radio during your vacation. Bringing home parts of the culture means your trip had a lasting impression on you. 

  4. Bring back small trinkets that fit into your everyday life. Whether its key chains or a pen holder, just make sure they work for you. Personally, I love coasters and little jars that I can use on the daily. When I’m using one of them, it immediately takes me back to the sights, sounds and joys of my travels.

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