One of the most humorous and widely recognized fictional scenes about travel takes place in the movie, Home Alone. The power goes out the night before the McAllister family is scheduled to leave for their vacation to Paris, which causes their alarm clocks to shut off. Thus, unknowingly they wake up late, throw their clothes on, fling their bags in the car, and rush off to the airport. The next scene shows the entire McAllister clan running through the airport in a mad dash to get to the gate on time. As we all know, they do make it in time, but forget one important thing. Although heightened and exaggerated, this scene is representative of how a lot of us feel when preparing for a trip. We pack our bags and nervously wonder if we forgot anything. With all of the mental and financial preparation and strain, it begs the question if traveling is even worth it. What is the effect of travel on mental health?
Travel and vacationing have a positive impact on mental health, as it tends to rejuvenate and revitalize. It allows us the time and opportunity to disconnect, relax, and to get off of the proverbial hamster wheel. Traveling helps to widen our perspective and takes us out of the minutia of our day to day activities. When taken out of our everyday situations, it allows us to consider what is really important in life.
Traveling can help us to learn new things, to broaden our knowledge of other places, religions, and cultures. It can push us out of our comfort zones and cause us to try something different or uncomfortable. Traveling can help us to learn how to problem-solve and navigate difficult or unique situations. Traveling tends to teach us a lot about ourselves and about our traveling companions. It helps us learn how to communicate better with other people and teaches us how to fortify our relationships.
Vacations can instill a sense of calm, peace, and relaxation that we do not often get in the everyday rat race of life. Individuals generally experience excitement and happiness when looking forward to an upcoming trip. The planning and anticipation of the adventures to come gives our mental health a big boost.
Vacations provide us with stress relief and allow us to forget our day to day responsibilities. We don’t have to think about getting the kids off to school every day, getting ourselves to work, meeting that important deadline, paying the bills, making dinner, and then doing it all again the next day. Instead, we receive an incredible opportunity to practice mindfulness and to experience the present. We do not dwell on the past and we do not fret about the future, we simply enjoy the moment. We tend to see things clearly for a beautiful, brief minute and we do not take things for granted.
Travel affords us new scenery, different interactions, and novel activities. It takes us out of the every day that we get too accustomed to. We receive a valuable opportunity to pause, to remove the stress and responsibilities from our minds, and to focus on what is good. We strengthen our creativity and thrive on new settings and opportunities.
It is no secret that Home Alone exaggerated travel preparations to the highest degree. Crazy rides to the airport and Olympic-like sprints to the airport gate rarely occur. However, there is some truth that the stress and preparation that goes into preparing for a vacation and travel can be mentally taxing. Despite this, keep in mind that it is always worth it. The opportunity, stress relief, and new adventures will more than make up for it. Just make sure that you do not leave a family member home alone.
Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for the Community YMCA, Counseling & Social Services branch. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents. Tracy facilitates groups using art therapy, sand play and psychodrama.