I love to travel, and I somehow manage to squeeze in a lot more trips than most people I know. So when I see hard and fast research supporting the health benefits of vacation, it really piques my interest.
I recently read a somewhat unscientific article that talked about why vacation is good for your brain, and it mentioned the work of Adam Galinsky and William Maddux. Digging into Galinsky and Maddux’s research further, I found there is a fascinating body of work about how traveling affects creative thinking. Maddux et al have published research findings showing that multicultural learning experiences enhance creativity, and that living abroad improves creativity measures of insight, association, and generation. Research conducted by Lile Jia shows that merely thinking about faraway lands increases output in a creative task.
Further research shows that vacation can have recuperative health benefits. A study in middle-aged men at high risk for heart disease showed that those who took annual vacations had a significantly lower mortality rate (over a 9 year period) than a non-vacationing cohort. In a Japanese study of white-collar workers, Tarumi et al concluded that leisurely vacations could be beneficial in maintaining health and controlling fatigue in workers. A follow-up study showed that the white-collar workers who took vacations were also less likely to be depressed and less likely to miss work.All of this has me thinking that I had better plan another vacation so I can be even healthier and more creative! Of course, I should take into account the work of Strauss-Blasche et al., who found that how you organize your vacation can affect the health outcomes. For example, participants in that study who experienced enjoyable free time, warmer locations, exercise, good sleep, and meeting new people on vacation reported feeling better afterwards, while people who experienced vacation stressors like health issues, colder climates, and bigger time differences were more exhausted when they came home.
And finally, there’s neuroscientist David Eagleman’s view about why it’s important to travel to new and different places instead of the same place over and over again. He has reported that our perception of time quickens with age, and says “travel[ing] to novel places… essentially puts you — neurally — in the same position as when you were a child.” That makes sense to me, as I’m always looking to visit a new and exciting place.