Whether you’re sunbathing on the golden shores of the Hawaiin Islands, posing in front of the Parthenon, or hiking through the Peruvian jungle, everyone needs to blow off steam somehow. From my own experience, traveling is an excellent way of calming my mind and body, allowing me to restock for the day-to-day grind. In this article, we’re going to explore the benefits of consistent travel and how it can affect your health and mental clarity.
How Often Should You Travel?
First of all, in my opinion, you should be traveling at least once per year at a minimum. If you don’t use your vacation days to blow off steam in healthy ways, you could risk getting burned out.
Not only that, but a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine even suggests that lack of travel may actually shorten your life expectancy. According to this nine-year-old study, traveling less than once per year may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, which in turn shortens your lifespan. Take care of your mental health, and you’ll live longer.
Now that’s the minimum, but what’s the recommended amount that you should spend on a vacation?
Ideally, you should take at least two longer trips per year, in addition to a few other smaller trips. The total amount that you should spend on vacation is 30-45 days per year. I know getting one month off per year can seem hard for some, but it’s a very effective way to stay healthy, live happier, and longer.
So how should you space out these 30-45 days? Take at least two longer trips of 7-14 days and fill in some three to four-day trips across the year. Also, make sure to book your vacations mostly in Autumn and Winter, to escape the cold and depressing routine.
Here’s How Frequently I Travel
Personally, I would like to travel much more than I currently do. During 2017, I was abroad for about sixty days. The year before that – Only about a week, because I was working on a new company (which eventually failed).
When I compare the last two years, it becomes clear that 2016 was a very stressful time for me. I account for most of it due to burning out. In contrast, I’m pleased that I’ve improved the time spent abroad during 2017 because now I feel much happier and relaxed. P.S. I’m not the only one, most of you will feel much happier if you take some time off!
When I was trying to think of any happy moments in my life, I came to the conclusion that almost all of them were while traveling. That’s why I plan on finishing off 2018 with at least three months abroad. A goal of mine is to spend at least half a year abroad in the near future.
As I’m traveling more and more, I’m in a need of a carry-on that I can depend on. I’ve owned the Travelpro Maxlite 5 carry-on for a few years now, and I’m absolutely thrilled by it. If you’re looking for a carry-on yourself, make sure to check it out! (full review here)
How Long Should Your Vacation Be?
According to a study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, your vacations should be at least 8-14 days long, with the ideal length being eight days.
The study looked at many respondent’s experiences while on their vacations. The results were nothing short of interesting.
In the first four days, the ‘health and wellbeing of most participants improved dramatically. By the eighth day, health and wellbeing had peaked and then stalled for the remainder of the vacation. Once the vacation had ended, it returned to normal within the first week.
So what’s the takeaway? To get the most out of your vacation, it’s recommended to travel for a minimum of eight days.
From my personal experience, I’ve felt best on really long three-week trips. On trips that take this long, you really get to experience everything that you want to see and immerse yourself in their culture fully. Even two weeks feel a little short-handed for me.
Are Vacations Worth It?
I would answer this question with a resounding YES! As mentioned above, a good vacation is shown to lower stress, raise happiness, and ultimately contribute to improved health and wellbeing for the average holiday goer. Taking a break from the daily grind every now and then is essential, and a nice day at the beach or a night out with friends won’t always cut it.
The truth is that we don’t always realize how deeply stress affects us. Even outside of the workplace we may still feel the pressure of our workload and boss/colleague expectations weighing down on us.
That’s one of the great beauties of travel. It’s very hard to think about current projects when you’re sipping Mai Tai’s or hiking up mountains thousands of miles from your office. The further away you are, and the more radically different your new environment is, the easier it will be to mentally distance yourself from stress and give your mind a well-deserved break.
But that’s not the only reason you should take a vacation. Exploring new countries, cultures, and experiences will do wonders in changing your perspective and deepening your understanding of yourself and the world around you. Diverse travel, when done right, will go far in improving your life and making you a better world citizen.
Where Should You Go on a Vacation To?
An ideal vacation spot depends entirely on you: your personal taste, interests, and financial/personal means. While I can’t tell you exactly where to go, I can say that your best bet is finding a destination that fits somewhere between all of these criteria. A good way of figuring this out could be through a process of elimination, through questioning what your idea of a “dream” vacation might be.
Can you afford a luxury vacation to Switzerland, or will backpacking through Thailand be more faithful to your budget?
Are you looking for excitement or leisure?
Do you like a fast-paced or high adrenaline environment? Do you prefer cities or the countryside?
Asking yourself a series of realistic questions like these will quickly narrow down your options.
At the end of the day, knowing what is accessible and desirable to you, as well as doing A LOT of research is going to be your best bet. While it’s hard to go wrong if you head off on any holiday with a positive mindset, finding a place that you know you are likely to enjoy and take interest in is the first step to the vacation of a lifetime.
When Is the Best Time to Take a Vacation?
Again, the answer to this question depends on your unique situation. The first variable to keep in mind will be your work schedule, and whatever time you can get off. There are other considerations to make, but they should really revolve around this.
If you’re not flush with cash flying in the off-season (when tourist numbers are at their lowest) may be the best choice for you, as flight costs will be at their cheapest during these periods. If you like having the choice of meeting like-minded travelers, or ideal weather conditions are important to you, shoulder season may be a good compromise.
Just like choosing your destination, finding the best time for a vacation will require research more than anything. Every location’s premium visiting period will change according to the seasons, public holidays, local customs, etc. Read up through Google and Lonely Planet, and even consider posting your queries on travel forums to gain the perspective of more experienced travelers.
Why Is Traveling Good for Your Health
There are many things that are good for you, like eating healthy, sleeping, and regular exercise. But when it comes to taking care of ourselves, most of us overwhelmingly prioritize our bodies over our minds.
I’ve found that traveling is the best way to lower stress and improve overall happiness. And I’m not the only one; many studies have actually proven this.
Here are some of the benefits you can get from traveling:
- Creativity: Some studies have seen a link between creativity and traveling. This comes from experiencing different cultures and traditions, which in return trains your ability to adapt to new and unfamiliar situations.
- Stress relief: Traveling is basically mindfulness on steroids. Meditation teaches you to forget all about the past and future and experience only the current moment. Have you ever noticed that on your longer trips, after the first day or two you start to feel more relaxed? That’s the time it usually takes to forget about your everyday troubles and focus on the current experiences.
- Improved heart health: Let’s be real here, on average you’re probably not exercising that much. While traveling, you often walk for miles, climb steep mountains, and push through crowded tourist masses, all of which contribute to your physical fitness and improves cardiovascular health. Not only that, but the Framingham Heart Study concluded that women who take vacations once every six years or less are eight times more likely to develop heart disease, compared to those who travel twice per year.
How to Travel More Often
During the last year, I’ve been abroad for about two months. In the future, I plan on traveling at least six months per year. How have I managed to achieve this? By leaving my position in banking and gradually moving to something that allows working remotely, like blogging.
Now I know not all of you can just change your career at the drop of a hat just to travel more often. But it’s possible to travel one to two months per year if you’re smart about your decisions.
Here’s how you do it:
- Cheap destinations. When looking for your destination, look for less developed countries that are cheaper to travel in.
- Book your vacation early. Like, half a year early. Be on the lookout for cheap deals and flash sales. You can easily save at least half the cost of your flight and reservations by booking early.
- Travel in the off-season. Not only will the reservations be cheaper, but sometimes your airline tickets, costs of living, and entrance fees will be as well.
- Live minimalistic. I’ve managed to save around forty percent of my everyday costs by avoiding unneeded stuff. Also, I use public transport over cars, to save some money on transportation costs. Actually, by using public transport alone, you could save up for one additional vacation per year!
- Squeeze in some weekend trips. If a national holiday falls on Friday or Monday, man am I happy that I’ll get to go on a three-day trip. All while not missing any work.
- Consider changing your career. Before I was working in a bank. Not only was this job really stressful, but I also didn’t get many vacation days, and there weren’t any options for remote work. So I chose a different career, and it’s possible for you as well. Look for a job that allows you to work from home on some days or one that involves lots of business trips.
How to Travel With a Full-Time Job
The simple fact is that most of us are working full-time jobs in fixed locations. This can make traveling more than once a year seem like climbing to the peak of Mount Everest (and not necessarily in the exciting, adventurous way). But there are tips you can use to make it work.
Only a few months ago I was still working a nine-to-five job at a bank. It was extremely stressful, and the desire to travel was growing stronger by the day. So during the last few months of working there, I actually managed to be abroad pretty often.
Here’s how I did it:
- Make use of weekend trips: Nowadays, you can fly to a nearby country in just a few hours. If you book early, you can do it pretty cheaply as well. Look at surrounding countries or states, then go to Pinterest or Google and look for awesome destinations to visit there. If you take a Friday or Monday off you can enjoy your three to four-day trip.
- Don’t sacrifice your paid holidays: Be careful of how you spend your vacations. Try not to spend it watching Netflix on the couch or drinking your money and time away in overpriced bars. If you’re really passionate about seeing the world, you’ll use this valuable time to be abroad.
- Talk with HR about unpaid leave: Be honest and talk to the HR department. Say that you’re getting burned out and you feel that a longer unpaid leave would get you pumped up for further work. I actually managed to get two weeks off this way by talking to my manager.
- Chase opportunities for business trips: Are there any other positions that require more business travel? You could talk to HR about trying out participating in some of the business trips, as this would widen your experience and help you become a better employee.
Read Next: 30 Things to Do Before Traveling Abroad
Jobs That Require Traveling
If you’re serious about making travel a permanent fixture in your life, finding a job where travel is essential could be an excellent choice. Personally, I opted to start blogging in the hope I would eventually earn enough to support my travels. However, switching to a job where you get paid to travel is by far a safer and more reliable option.
To start you off, here are a few jobs that require travel:
- Travel nurse: Nurses are in high demand across the world, especially in third-world countries. Being a nurse will give you the opportunity to travel to different places and see different cultures. Not only will you get to travel; you’ll be making an impact in other countries and communities as well.
- Flight attendant: The good thing about being a flight attendant is that you don’t need a degree. You just need to be good at communicating and customer service. If you choose this path, you eventually get to travel the world for free. (And often get discounted airline tickets as an added travel perk!)
- B2B sales representative: Do you have any experience in sales? Polish your sales skills and apply for a job as a sales representative. Just make sure to look at a position that sells products to other businesses and mostly does exporting or importing. That way you get to travel to many different countries for free.
- Travel writer: If your passion is writing, chances are you could become an excellent travel writer! Many news and media companies have these positions. Your job would be to travel to various countries, eat in restaurants, and visit beautiful destinations. What’s even better: You get paid for doing that!
- Cruise line employee: Do you get seasick? If yes, skip this one. But for those who don’t, this could be the perfect opportunity to travel and get paid for it. In addition to traveling the world, these jobs pay extremely well!
Read Next: 80 Packing Tips For International Travel
How Often Can You Travel With a Green Card?
If you’re a green card holder, traveling less than ninety days per year should be fine. Technically, there’s no limit to the number of times that you can travel per year. The only caveat being that you shouldn’t be away for more than six months at a time. Otherwise, the GCB may come to the conclusion that you’ve abandoned your US residency. This would result in your green card being revoked and your deportation.
Although many shorter flights are acceptable, this may raise questions upon returning to the USA. If you have a valid reason, that’s ok. But all in all, you should try to limit the number of times you are leaving and returning to the USA.