With everything that has been going on in the world—particularly COVID-19—it might be a little while before the public returns to its usual levels of traveling. However, many people might return sooner than others because their job or other personal matters might demand it or because they find that traveling to different parts of the world satiates their curiosity and brings them excitement and joy.
Traveling has long been recorded as having a positive effect on mental health and the benefits of traveling begin before you arrive at the airport. When one is anticipating an upcoming trip, most people are usually in a happier mood—even more so than buying a new possession, according to a study done by Cornell University. I can personally attest that every time I have planned a trip, I have been in a better mood a couple of weeks before the trip.
Traveling can also provide stress relief, allowing us to get out of our daily routine and reset our minds. The hustle and bustle of our daily lives can build up a lot of tension and stress in our bodies and so it is important that we allow ourselves to release that. I can tell you that won’t happen suddenly by continuing to go through the same routine you always do. It will take some novelty and change in our lives to allow us to break away from the mental rut that we may be in.
While being happier and having less stress are certainly an excellent benefit, there are a couple of other benefits to traveling. Traveling to new places may force us to try new dishes and explore new places, which helps us push out of our comfort zone. Going out of our comfort zone will contribute to tremendous personal and professional growth. Trying new foods, seeing new people, seeing new places, and hearing new languages allows us to return home with a broadened view of the rest of the world.
So now that we know a little bit more about the positive mental benefits of traveling, I’d like to share a bit about my trip earlier this year. In early March, I traveled to Puerto Rico for the first time. Given the recent world events, I know what some of you are thinking—and you’re right, in hindsight, it was a risky trip to take considering many flights began getting grounded and ships were left out at sea with no ability to port soon after! COVID-19 confirmed positive cases were beginning to pop up in Seattle and California. At this point, I was deeply invested and decided to make the trip regardless and had no idea of the magnitude of impact that COVID-19 would eventually have on the world.
On this trip, I was able to visit El Yunque, which is a national rainforest. I saw plants and wildlife that I had never seen. I visited a famous waterfall in the park and was able to enjoy a very relaxing day surrounded by nature. While taking a stroll around the neighborhood was nothing new to the locals, everything was a unique experience for me.
Locals would have banana trees growing in their backyards (those pictured are not quite ripe yet). I was also able to try new foods. Not surprisingly, many dishes in Puerto Rico integrated plantains and other tropical fruit. The streets were decorated with buildings that were designed in the Spanish colonial style. I saw many new things and discover many new places.
This trip allowed me to come back in a more positive, relaxed mental state, and of course, motivates me to continue to work hard so that I can continue to travel! All in all, it was a great trip and I am glad that I was able to go when I did, as the public will be cautious about traveling for some time to come.
P.S. If you ever do decide to travel to Puerto Rico, I highly recommend purchasing the most comprehensive car insurance option on your car rental as defensive drivers are almost nonexistent throughout the island.