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New Horizons: Mental Health Benefits of Travel

Posted November 13, 2017

Tags: self-care

(photography by Will D'Epagnier)

"What traveling requires is an open mind for letting perspective come through and shine." 

 

I felt like I was trapped in a surreal nightmare. A painful memory kept replaying in my head. Drifting from a daze, it was like my soul left my body. I didn’t even feel like I existed. 

“Who am I?” I thought, “Am I nothing, going nowhere?

When I told my mom that I was dissociating–the state of disconnecting from reality and self, often after experiencing overwhelming stress–she suggested I go visit my sister in New York.

I was hesitant to go. I thought about all the things I had to do. Work on Friday and Monday. The plans I made with friends... I felt like I wasn’t stable enough to go away from my current home in Boston. And the NYC visit could only be two days, given my schedule. What difference would two days make? Nevermind the fact that New York is a buzzing, busy city...Would it stress me out? 

Let’s just say that two days can do a lot. 

I took a bus from Boston to New York to stay from Saturday at noon to Sunday afternoon. Even just one day of travel can be transformative and healing. But what did I do in New York that caused me to feel so restored? 

To be honest, it may not seem like a whole lot. What I mainly did in New York City was walk around with my sister in the energetic city that never sleeps and eat good food. This is perhaps, the staple of a true New York experience, city walking and good food. We saw a fashion exhibit at the Met. I also met up with a close friend for a quick ice cream trip in Greenwich Village. Perhaps the most memorable part of the trip was when I saw a man do a handstand in a convertible Volkswagen Bug. 

A reason I love New York is that the culture is wild, alive, and free-spirited. The New Yorker spirit is to be fearlessly yourself. This is inspiring to me, because it makes me want to me more of the unique individual that I am.

Traveling to lift your spirits doesn’t require a great list of sights to see, though you could argue the handstand man was more entertaining than a Broadway show… What traveling requires is an open mind for letting perspective come through and shine. 

Perspective is the number one benefit of travel.

When you are in the same place for a long period of time, it can reach the point where it can feel isolating, lonesome, suffocating, tiring, or just plain boring. Traveling helps fight those cognitive distortions by giving you a new environment to realize this awesome, yet amazingly simple truth: as small, enclosed, and difficult as life might seem, there is more out there in the world--both literally and figuratively. There are new places for you to explore, more horizons to see, more ice cream shops to try, more mountains to climb, more people to meet, more sunsets to watch, more moments that await you. There is more to life and the world than whatever situation and whatever place you might feel stuck in. Life changes every second. The only constant in life is change.

And thus, travel is a reminder of perspective and the wonders of change. You changed your geographic location. The new energy of the city or land you’re in now is different than where you were before. When I went to New York, it was nice to be surrounded by a buzzing, fast-paced environment, for the simple fact that it was a change.

And this change of pace strengthened my perspective that life evolves and doesn’t stay the same. 

Even if you’re in a mentally stable place, travel can still strengthen your spirits and help increase your gratitude for life. Earlier this summer, I traveled two hours to Ojai, California with my mom: a spiritual oasis. I felt super present and connected to nature. The change of scenery from the suburbs in Orange County, California to the simple, serene town of Ojai was a refreshing change. Being surrounded by the mountains and the giant oak trees–something I’m not used to–helped me to appreciate nature and remember that the world holds so much breathtaking beauty that I still have yet to see.

Traveling doesn’t have to be a different state or country, or a five-hour drive. It can be as simple as traveling to somewhere thirty minutes away.

Travel to somewhere that has a different vibe from what you’re used to, so you can experience a change that will ignite your perspective and raise your spirits. 


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