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4 Ways that Traveling Improves Mental Health
One of the first things you learn about the team at Her First $100K™ is that we are travel fanatics.
We take advantage of our fully-remote structure and at any given time can be clocking in to work from anywhere in the world. Two of our team members are currently living their best lives in London (keep up with Liv and Jack’s adventures here) and the rest of team HFK is dropping links to flights, hotels, and our dream luggage sets in our “travel” Slack channel.
While we all love to experience new cultures, see new places, take Instagram-worthy photos, and, of course, eat plenty of delicious food, we also love the benefits that traveling has on our mental health.
It is no surprise that as we navigate a post-pandemic world that is experiencing new heights of political division, economic uncertainty, and societal pressures, we are reporting higher levels of stress than ever before. These sustained levels of high stress can take a toll on our physical and mental wellbeing, our careers, our relationships, and beyond – in other words, our stress can have a lasting impact on our overall satisfaction with our lives.
Read more about how our mental health impacts our financial well-being, here.
Needless to say, our mental health is more important now than ever, and with traveling offering unique benefits to promote our mental health, we want to make sure that our community can make the most of it.
Today, we are diving into how traveling can improve our mental health and sharing our favorite resources for making your travel as easy, accessible, and sustainable as possible!
How Travel Improves Mental Health
Traveling relieves stress
Ya know how we all like to joke about the “Sunday Scaries” AKA the feelings of stress and anxiety we feel before we start a new work week? Well, for many of us, the Sunday Scaries don’t stop on Sunday – they follow us throughout the week and haunt us on the weekends so that we end up starting each day feeling exhausted, drained, and overwhelmed.
This constant state of stress can ultimately contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety as well as a decreased immune system. YIKES.
Fortunately, according to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, traveling has been shown to reduce the “stress hormone” cortisol and perceived levels of stress by removing people from the environments that they associate with stress and anxiety. Traveling has such a significant impact on stress relief that studies have shown even a quick three-day getaway resulted in reduced levels of stress.
This intentional time away from stressful environments also gives you the time to fully unplug from everyday stressors so that you can return to your daily routine feeling recharged and refreshed.
Travel forces us to set boundaries
Not-so-fun-fact: Millennials have become known as the “burnout generation”.
Why? Well, millennials kinda suck at setting professional boundaries.
On average, we are working harder and longer than generations before, and thanks in part to “hustle culture”, as well as financial factors such as excessive student loan debt, many of us maintain “side gigs” in addition to our full-time jobs. Despite this rigorous workload though, we also are less likely to reach certain financial milestones than generations past, such as buying homes.
Millennials are also less likely to take vacations from work due to financial strain or the fear of how “taking a break” may be perceived in their workplace.
These factors all contribute to a rapid rate of burnout – a form of mental and physical exhaustion that results from being constantly overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to keep up with the demands of day-to-day life.
In a world of remote work and constant availability, taking a vacation and traveling is a great way to fight burnout and practice setting a professional boundary between your work and personal life. This practice can then translate to other areas in your career — such as not exceeding your designated work hours or asking for help when you are overwhelmed –- so that you can begin to break the cycle of burnout.
Traveling improves productivity
A telltale symptom of burnout in the workplace is a reduced sense of productivity. The mental strain and exhaustion of trying to meet everyday demands can make even the most menial task seem daunting or altogether impossible to accomplish.
As a result, our productivity suffers, our to-do list grows, and the pressure we put on ourselves to “catch up” only exacerbates our symptoms of burnout. Ugh.
Fortunately, a study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group found that employees who were required to take time off had much higher levels of productivity than those who opted to continue working through their vacation time. That’s right – by taking time away from work, professionals accomplished MORE than those who put in more time at work.
Additionally, the same study reported that the employees who returned from traveling expended less effort completing their professional responsibilities than compared before they traveled.
Traveling can improve your sense of self
Between working 40+ hours a week, making time to socialize, trying to hit the gym, being a good dog mom, and staying on top of the latest denim trends (skinny jeans are back in now, right??), it is easy to put our needs and goals on the backburner.
Add dealing with mental health concerns, such as depression and anxiety, into the mix and it is a recipe for losing touch with ourselves entirely.
Solo travel in particular can be particularly impactful on your sense of self as it often requires you to get out of your comfort zone, try new things, and challenge yourself in new ways. This can be especially beneficial if you are going through a season of transition such as a job change, moving across the country, experiencing a personal loss, or going through a breakup (go and live your best Eat, Pray, Love adventure, girlfriend).
Resources for Planning Your Next Trip
So you’re ready to put your phone on Do Not Disturb, add your Out of Office message to your work email, and book that vacation. Good, you deserve it, and we are here to help.
We know that traveling is an immense privilege that requires flexibility from work and responsibilities as well as the financial means to travel, so we are sharing our favorite resources to make traveling as accessible and responsible as possible.
Use a travel credit card
It is no secret that our team lives and dies by our travel credit cards. By using our cards on our everyday purchases, we can rack up amazing points and perks that allow us to earn free flights, hotel room upgrades, free meals, and so much more.
Now, it is important to note that the key here is to use your travel credit card RESPONSIBLY. That means paying off the balance in full every single month so you can avoid hefty interest rates and damaging your credit score.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is a personal favorite among the HFK team and is held by our founder, Tori, herself. A great card for people who already have an established credit history, the Reserve lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening. PLUS you can earn 5x total points on air travel and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals. If you are a frequent traveler, this card is a no-brainer.
We have several other credit cards that are Team HFK approved – click here to view the full list and find the card that is the best fit for you!
We recently hosted world traveler, polyglot, and host of the Netflix show “World’s Most Amazing Vacation Rentals,” Jo Franco on the Financial Feminist Podcast, and she shared how to engage with different cultures without being a basic bitch while traveling, budgeting tips, how to travel safely as a woman of color, and her philosophy on why well-traveled doesn’t always mean having the most pins on the map.
If you are ready to book your next solo adventure or if you have weeks of PTO stockpiled, this is the perfect podcast episode for you.
Stick to a travel budget
We know that in the hustle and bustle of planning a trip, sticking to a strict travel budget sounds like a bit of a buzzkill.
But trust us when we say that nothing will kill your vacation mood faster than a “card declined” notification – especially in a foreign country.
Fortunately for you, we have created a FREE Travel Budget Spreadsheet to help you plan your travel in a way that is easy, accessible, and organized AF!
This travel budget spreadsheet will help you visually see how much you are spending as you plan your travel, keep track of tricky-to-plan expenses like food and Uber rides, and view a summary of your budgeted vs. actual spending to help you with future travel planning!
Find affordable flights
Air travel can be one of the most expensive parts of traveling. Our team loves using Scott’s Cheap Flights to sign up for flight notifications and book our air travel at the most affordable rates – sometimes up to 90% off normal rates!
Get great car rental deals on Booking.com
Booking.com now offers car rentals from the world’s leading suppliers. They have a wide range of cars to suit all budgets and offer free cancellation on most bookings, 24/7 customer support and verified customer reviews.