Last year I had the absolute privilege to spend a year abroad through the go global program at UBC. I studied in Leiden, The Netherlands and spent much of my time exploring and travelling around continental Europe. While travelling, I always thought about what I was doing and how it would compare if I were to stay at home. I always wondered what the real point of travelling or being abroad was. Turns out I’m not the only one who has been thinking about this and there is a wealth of research to suggest the benefits travel can provide.
The first benefit that may surprise most is ones overall health. Many studies have compared those who travel often with those who do not finding that well travelled individuals are in an overall better health condition. For example, a study by Chun-Chun Chen and James Petrick reviewed past literature on the overall health benefits of travel and found there to be a lower risk of diseases such as heart attacks. They also found that stress levels were lower among those who travel which can help reduce many other complications. It is also interesting to note that these health benefits were observed to gradually diminish after returning from a trip.
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The benefits of travel do not stop at ones health and wellbeing it can also extend to peoples work lives and overall career success. This may seem counter intuitive since travel is often viewed as the opposite of work but many studies show that time off results in a more productive work ethic. Lots of evidence points to the need to relax and clear your mind to be able to produce better work. This is applied to many work offices at Google. Other studies also point to a correlation between university degree completion and higher incomes with those who travel more.
The last point I want to make is actually one I realized myself while being abroad. I think it is one of the more important points. Through my experiences in different countries and from simply reading the news its not hard to notice the many conflicts that exist between people around the world. I noticed that those who remain isolated and out of touch from other countries and cultures have more negative thoughts and stereotypes towards others which often results in meaningless conflicts with big consequences. Travel provides people with a real experience to which they can base their beliefs on and the ability to realize that we are all in the world together. This can ultimately overcome many ideological differences and create a better understanding of one another pushing towards a more peaceful and meaningful population.