Travel as Therapy

Why do we travel?

Having just come back from a long weekend in the Yorkshire Dales I can directly feel the benefits of ‘getting away’. From where we live it is a two hour drive, and an easy drive at that. For most people ‘getting away’ involves planes, airports, delays and a good deal of stress. I hear people say that they don’t know why they bother, coming back more flustered than when they went. Surely travel should be a joyful experience, if not why do it? It seems that it is all to do with the speed that we now need to do everything, time to slow down I think.

The human body was designed to move at a walking pace or, at a pinch, a jogging pace. Humans moved out of Africa, and the Garden of Eden, to populate the world but they did so at a walking pace, there were no boats, planes or cars. At a walking pace there is time to acclimatise to the new land and the flora and the fauna as our system adjusts. We don’t get Delhi Belly and can leave the Imodium at home.

But we do all seem to need to get away and, we need to get away now. We can’t stop doing it; we call it “going on holiday?” So, why? What does travel do for us?

There are lots of types of travel from the package all inclusive that can ensure that we get all the comforts of home abroad, the same food, same drink, same music and TV programmes, the only difference is that it is in the sunshine, through to cruises, holiday camps and activity holidays, to those where we go native and become a local. What do you do?

At a psychological level several things are taking place. The first is that when we travel we are learning and that may be social, cultural, cuisine and wine and so on, and that is stimulating. The second is that it is different. There are different smells, colours, tastes and sounds that expand the way that we see the world. The third, and perhaps the most important, is that travel is therapeutic.

We hear a lot about stress hormones, first on the list are normally adrenalin, epinephrine and cortisol. While stress hormones are associated with stress related illness they are also the fuel that keep us going in life. When we are working it is these chemicals that help to get us out of bed, give us drive and maintain our motivation levels. They are the high octane fuel that powers our daily life. When we are over worked and stressed the levels of these chemical become to high and we feel their effects as hypertension, raised blood pressure and stress related diseases.

When we take a break, when we travel, or go on holiday the levels of these chemicals begin to drop, though it takes a few days. If we leave on Friday we only feel that we have arrived on the Tuesday, when these chemical levels have dropped. At the other end of the holiday when we go home, the levels are low. We arrive at work on the first day back and we just can’t seem to get going. Over the next couple of weeks the chemical levels rise again to their normal levels and we say ‘I feel like I have never been away’.

The holiday gives our stressed system a rest. More importantly is that it reminds us of what life is like without the stress. This is what we should be aiming for.

As you will know I am a meditation junkie. When you meditate on a daily basis you have a daily holiday when your stress hormones drop to holiday levels. Over all you become calmer, more relaxed and more effective. When we become truly relaxed in life everyday is a holiday, yet at the same time we become more productive than ever before.

I love holidays, I enjoy going away and we try to do so several times each year. I also love the daily holiday in my meditation.

Where could you go today?

Take care and enjoy the trip

Sean x

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