I am fortunate enough to have spent four summers in France. The first three stays were informal French-exchanges with a neighbor’s friend. My most recent experience in France was this past summer with the Abbey Road immersion program in Nice. In Nice, I stayed for a month in a dorm with other students and fully immersed myself in the learning and cultural experiences there. A typical day consisted of French class in the morning, an elective in the afternoon (e.g. studio art, photography), and a fun activity in the late afternoon/evening such as going to the beach. The experience was not only educationally stimulating; it was also the perfect opportunity to make some great friends with whom I still stay in close touch. While many of the experiences were organized through the program, we loved the opportunities for independent explorations in Nice. We had to use what we learned “in vivo” and had fun in the process. Leisurely coffee breaks at local cafes, socializing with friends in the “Old Town” of Nice, and shopping were just a few of the things that we did.
It turns out that research on travel corroborates what many of us already know to be true: Travel has a profoundly positive effect on physical and mental health. Studies show that women who vacation twice a year have a much lower risk of heart attack and coronary death than those who vacation every six years. Similarly, men who did not take an annual vacation were more 30% more likely to die from heart disease. In addition, travel is associated with lower blood pressure and helps improve quality of sleep after vacation. The Wisconsin Medical Journal conducted a study in which they found that women who took frequent vacations were less likely to become depressed, tense, or tired. Those women who took infrequent vacations were more at risk for higher levels of stress and less sleep.
We often get so overwhelmed by the stresses and obligatory tasks in our lives that we fail to develop our creativity and allow for new perspectives. Travelers are shown to have a 25% increase in cognitive vigilance tasks after vacationing. There is an increase in cognitive flexibility and depth of thought, allowing a “break from routine” and new creative thinking to surface. According to The Atlantic, creativity is related to neuroplasticity, and “Neural pathways are influenced by environment and habit, meaning they’re also sensitive to change: New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain and may have the potential to revitalize the mind.”
Travel boosts happiness and satisfaction, no surprise there. It broadens our horizons, increases confidence, and enhances tolerance for uncertainty. Travel is restorative and invigorating. It allows us to experience different cultures, resulting in a new appreciation for different ways of life. This broadens our perspective of the world. And the people you meet along the way can become friends and/or connections in our work and school lives.
Sometimes, these friendships can even pave the way for new networking opportunities. In fact, my experience in Nice with Abbey Road allowed me to make the connections that ultimately provided me the opportunity to write for this blog!