When the travel bug bites, where do you want to go? Do you long to hike the misty Inca Trail to Machu Picchu? Visit one of Europe’s many castles, like the elegant Le Château de Pierrefonds in France, where “Merlin” was filmed? Gaze over your perfectly manicured toes at the clear aqua waters of a Barbados shoreline? Sounds blissful, but if your pockets are like mine, the ball of lint, quarter found in the kids’ laundry and handful of Legos picked up off the living room rug are just not going to get you there.
Not to worry, however. There are plenty of amazing places to visit within your budget while you save for your dreamy bucket-list vacations. The key is to shake off the old routine of going to the same place every year, and find somewhere new to visit.
Go new or go home
Americans tend to be creatures of habit when it comes to vacations, with 85% of United States vacation travelers visiting the same place every year.(1) Nine out of ten of Florida’s 80 million visitors are repeat vacation offenders. (2)
David Eagleman, a neuroscience professor at Baylor College of Medicine, believes that travelling to new places keeps our brains from deteriorating. When we go to an old, familiar place, the brain does not have to record much information, but when we are in a new place, the brain scribbles furiously to get down every last detail. This not only helps charge up some new neurons, but it also makes time seem to go slower. Eagleman says, “The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.” (1)
William Maddux, a social psychologist at French business school INSEAD, suggests that when we “go new,” we try to immerse ourselves in the new culture and language as much as possible. (2) This way, the brain picks up a great deal more understanding and knowledge about the places your visit.
Travel and wellness
New experiences while traveling not only generate new brain cells and neural pathways, (3) but also promote both physical and mental health. Data from the Framingham Heart Study, a longitudinal study that began in 1948, show that women vacationing every six years or less had a higher risk of coronary death and heart attack than women vacationing twice per year or more. (4, 5) Women who did not take vacations were more than two times as likely to suffer from depression. Men showed similar results, as those who took no annual vacation had twice the risk of dying and 30% greater risk for heart disease than those who took regular vacations. This was true even when wealth and poor health were controlled for. (5)
Travel reduces stress. Stress weakens the immune system, increases adrenal dysfunction, causes headaches and increases risk of irritable bowel syndrome. Surveys given to American travellers showed that 93% are happier after their vacation, and 77% report that their health is improved. Those who take a break from their busy routines for leisure activities are healthier and report greater life satisfaction than those who do not. (5)
Ideas for new places to visit
You don’t have to get on a plane or drive for 15 hours to find a great new place. Try some of these options:
- a local museum or nearby tourist spot that you have never visited
- a hiking trail not yet explored
- a destination in a neighboring city
- a farmer’s market you haven’t shopped before
- a restaurant with a kind of food you have never tried
- a new vacation spot within your budget
25 best places to visit in the world, U.S. News & World Report
Little-known but awesome U.S. tourist attractions
- Riordan l. Traveling to a new destination can grow your brain. Laura Riordan: Coacing healthy transitions. June 9, 2016. Accessed Jan 23, 2017.
- Landau E. Why your brain needs vacations. CNN May 24, 2014. Accessed Jan 19, 2017.
- Beck M. ‘Neurobics’ and other brain boosters. The Wall Street Journal. Updated June 3, 2018. Accessed Jan 2, 2017.
- Erskine C. Travel is the best medicine, study finds. Los Angeles Times. Dec 17, 2013. Accessed Jan 23, 2017.
- Destination healthy aging: The physical, cognitive and social benefits of travel. Global Coalition