The thrills of discovering another culture or country are countless — tasting new flavors, learning about another nation’s history and meeting people with completely different backgrounds and life experiences can enrich our lives in so many ways. But did you know that traveling abroad is also actually good for you? Believe it or not, traveling to a foreign land can boost your health and overall wellbeing in many ways. Here are eight of them!


1. The food is likely better for you.

If you travel to Europe, it’s very likely that you’ll be eating healthier. Though it was once just the opposite, according to a 2015 Harvard University article, government regulations for genetically modified foods are more relaxed in the United States than in the European Union. Where U.S. regulations are placed on the product, EU regulations focus on the process, thus requiring European food brands to label the mere 0.9 percent of genetically modified foods that make it onto the shelves. There is no such regulation in the U.S. Also, portion sizes in the U.S. are generally a lot bigger than they are in Europe. All this said, you’ll likely eat smaller portions of fresher, less genetically modified food in Europe than you would at home.

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2. It decompresses you.

Vacations do wonders to relieve stress. Simply removing yourself from the responsibilities and the stresses of daily life can reduce anxiety, according to a study from the American Psychological Association (APA). What’s more, the further afield you go, the better. In a survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the APA, 44 percent of people reported checking work messages while on vacation. Seeing as it’s harder to stay connected to work when you’re in another country (and most likely in a different time zone), you’re more apt to disconnect from those pesky emails. And the more disconnected from work you are, the more restorative the vacation.

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3. It can reduce heart disease.

All that walking around you’re bound to do when discovering a foreign land can boost your cardiovascular health. A paper from the Global Coalition on Aging cites findings from the Framingham Heart Study, which followed more than 5,000 residents of the Massachusetts town over 20 years to better understand heart health. Wouldn’t you know it, they found that women who vacationed every six years or less had a significantly higher risk of developing a heart attack or coronary death compared with women who vacationed at least twice a year.

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4. It decreases your risk of depression.

Depression doesn’t only affect your mood, it can also negatively impact your stress hormones, your blood glucose levels, your cardiovascular health and your immune system. Here’s another reason to pack your bags for a distant destination: A study from the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin found that women who vacation at least twice a year are less likely to suffer from depression, are less likely to be stressed or tired and are more satisfied with their marriages.


5. It boosts your creativity and immune system.

Who knew great ideas could also be good for you? A study published in the Academy of Management Journal found that traveling to another country can actually make you more creative. And studies galore, including this one on essay writing and HIV patients, show that self-expression can have a positive impact on your health all the way down to the cellular level. Put simply: The more inspired you are to create, the more you create a possible boost for your immune system.

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6. It’s good for your relationships.

Forging connections with people from foreign countries can have a long-term positive impact on how you get along with others — and that can be a healthful practice that benefits you in the long run. Scientists found that German students who studied abroad were more social and happier around other people than those who didn’t. When you consider that another study connects being social with having a healthier time of it later in life, you’ve got a good argument for keeping your passport up to date!


7. It sharpens your mind.

According to Paul Nussbaum, a clinical neuropsychologist and adjunct professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh who was interviewed about the benefits of travel for older people by the Chicago Tribune, international travel can literally grow your brain and help stave off such diseases as Alzheimer’s. “When you expose your brain to an environment that’s novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts,” he told the newspaper. “Travel, by definition, is dropping your brain into a place that’s novel and complex.” Awesome!

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8. You’re more likely to get exercise.

It seems Americans really needed the fitness-tracker craze to take hold: A report published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise revealed we tend to walk less than many other citizens of the world. A lot less. On average, Americans only walked just over 5,000 steps a day, while Aussies and the Swiss walked almost twice that amount. Traveling to another country — and the desire to explore a new country’s museums, neighborhoods and culture — can push a normally sedentary American to walk more and thus get a fitness boost while abroad. Also, here are the 10 best hotels for staying fit while you travel!


What Do YOU Think?

Has traveling abroad done anything to boost your health in some unexpected way? Have you gotten more of a workout walking all over Paris or used muscles you hadn’t in ages paddleboarding in Costa Rica? Or was your brainstorming at the office on point after a trip to the Australian Outback? Tell us all about your experiences in the comments below!


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About the Author

Vivian Manning-Schaffel

Vivian Manning-Schaffel is a journalist, essayist, senior copywriter and rabblerouser who lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her work has been featured in Science of Us/New York magazine, The Week, DAME, US Weekly, CBS Watch!, Parents, Parenting, The New York Times and The New York Post.