“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca

A variety of studies have demonstrated that engaging in new and challenging adventures keeps our mind and body healthier. Traveling, it turns out, is at the very top of this list. And while the subject is on the minds of people looking forward to retirement, it turns out that travel can have multiple benefits for people of any age.

Travel is one of the best things we can do for our health

The problem is, we also have a created a culture of busyness in our country that values hard work and devalues the concept most often referred to as “free time.” People with “too much time on their hands” are scoffed at by those who perceive that their time is more valuable. This is creating multiple problems for working adults as stress levels continue to rise, which both causes and exacerbates chronic health issues.

Taking time for travel can open an entire world of possibilities. Even if you think that travel is beyond your scope as a person who deals with the effects of chronic pain, there are plenty of ideas that can change your mind.

The benefits of vacation time can’t be overstated. And those benefits are magnified when time off from work is also spent in a different place where the traveler is immersed in new cultural experiences.

The top five benefits of traveling

  1. Self-discovery: When you travel with an open mind to new experiences you will be quickly surprised by the things you learn not about other cultures but about yourself as a person. You learn the things you like and dislike on a deeper level than just architecture and food. This journey of self-discovery can lead to you lifelong changes for the better.
  2. Cultural perspective: Whether you travel to another state or another country one of the most exciting parts of the journey is to experience the culture the same way a local would. Rather than plan your journey around tourist attractions, determine the things that residents do to have a good time and explore the areas they actually live in.
  3. Enjoyment: While there are stressful aspects of travel, such as airport security, the primary goal is to enjoy yourself. Plan your adventure around the things you love the most. Do you like meditation? Book a retreat to a Buddhist sanctuary. Do you like the ocean? Travel to the beach for a week of relaxation. Architecture, wine, sports, adventure, and any other aspect you can think of can be the focus of your experience.
  4. Culinary delights: Don’t be afraid to try things you may never try at home. A glimpse into the local food culture of the place you’re visiting can be a great way to learn more about the people and the culture of the town or country you’re in. If you travel to Japan, don’t skip the sushi. If you’re in Italy, you could practically eat your way around the country. Portland, Oregon is known for its beer culture. Get outside your box and try some new things.
  5. Memories: Of course, the best parts of traveling are the joy of making new memories. Maybe you’re visiting friends in another part of the country. Maybe you’re experiencing Ireland or South Africa for the first time. Wherever you go, anywhere on earth, you’ll make memories that are better than any material object you could own.

How to travel with chronic pain

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” – Anonymous

Chronic pain conditions don’t have to be a barrier to amazing travel adventures. While you might have to modify some of the aspects of a trip to better accommodate your needs, you can still have rich and invigorating experiences that will last a lifetime. Here are some practical tips that can make traveling more comfortable and accessible.

  • Budget for extra comfort: Don’t be afraid to upgrade your hotel to have a larger bathroom, more comfortable bed, or first floor access. Keep some extra money in your budget for cabs so you don’t get tired from walking around the local attractions. Even if this means changing the length of your trip or not buying souvenirs it can make all the difference.
  • Allow yourself to recover from jetlag: Conventional travel wisdom encourages travelers to acclimate to the new time zone and recover from the flight as quickly as possible. If you are dealing with chronic pain this is probably the worst advice. Plan to take the first day easy. Go ahead and take a nap.
  • Plan your adventures accordingly: If your pain is exacerbated by activity don’t try to push yourself to seeing everything in one day. Review the things you want to do most while you’re traveling and plan one activity or attraction per day.
  • Listen to your body: If you’re feeling pain, stop. Travel is about self-care and self-discovery as much as it is about sight-seeing. If you’re feeling the limitations that your chronic pain has placed on your body, take a step back. If you’re feeling great, go ahead and get out there.
  • Plan for carrying heavy items: Shopping is fun, but it can also be a strain on a bad back or hip when coupled with walking or taking public transportation. Rather than stocking up on souvenirs spend your vacation making other memories. Buy one or two small things that will help you remember your visit.
  • Don’t forget the joys of sitting: You don’t have to walk all over every city or town just because you’re in it. There are plenty of relaxing things you can do, such as enjoying ice cream on a park bench in Asheville, North Carolina or sitting at a trattoria on an Italian piazza for the happy hour tradition known as “Aperitivo.”
  • Remember your medications: Finally, make sure that you’ve packed enough of your regular medications and some additional pain relieving recommendations. Talk to your doctor before you go and see what they suggest regarding your own limitations and extra things you can do while traveling to increase your enjoyment.

If you could go one place in the world, where would it be?

Image by Stacie DaPonte via Flickr

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