How Travel Affects Mental Health

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on February 25, 2024
4 min read

When life and work start to feel like each day is repeating itself, you may start thinking about traveling. Maybe you have a place you like to go to once a year, or maybe you enjoy exploring new places. It doesn't have to be a big trip or to someplace far away. 

Getting out and traveling can have many benefits for both your mental and your physical health. Exploring new places and immersing yourself in new cultures or new environments is mentally stimulating. Doing this regularly can have great effects on your mental health. 

Traveling to new places is good for everyone. If you’re feeling stressed at work, a vacation can be the best solution. Traveling can improve your mental health by: 

Helping you feel calm. Taking time from work to see new places releases the stress you’ve been holding onto. Relieving the tension and stress of your work life lets your mind relax and heal. Being under pressure at work not only stresses your mind and body, but also hurts your physical health. 

Allowing for regular resets. Making time for regular travel can have a better impact on your mental health. Going to different places regularly can improve the benefits you get from vacations. Some people can feel the positive impacts of their vacation for up to five weeks after their return. 

Improving your mental power. If you have chronic stress, your memory and goal-setting abilities are negatively affected. Taking time to go somewhere and get away from work can help you feel more productive and focused when you get back. This is because your brain needs time to rest. 

Increasing your creativity. Getting out and exploring the world can boost your creativity. People who travel more can come up with diverse ideas. Exposure to new cultures, making international friends, studying new languages, and taking in different types of food and music have been linked to better problem-solving skills. Travel helps you see the world in a new way.

Having new experiences is beneficial for improving brain function and boosting your mental health. Travel has been linked to stress reduction and can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Whether you’re going to another country or escaping for a long weekend in a nearby town, traveling can have a strong impact on your mental health.

Preparing and looking forward to traveling are also helpful to your mental health.  If you want to plan an international trip, try practicing the language beforehand.

Plan a vacation. Having something to look forward to when you make a plan creates happiness and excitement. When you take a vacation, pressure and stress are alleviated and your mental health is boosted.  

Make a tradition out of it. There are lasting effects of a vacation. People who travel regularly experience those effects for longer. After traveling, you’re more likely to feel clearheaded and ready to take on whatever’s waiting for you at home. This is why people are more productive after a break. Try to visit a new place every once in a while to help your mental health. 

Explore new places. Learning new languages and going new places opens your mind. This might feel counterproductive, but getting out of your comfort zone can be good for your mental health. Your empathy increases when you go to places you've never been before and experience other cultures. This helps you feel more appreciative of your surroundings when you return home. 

Make it personal. When traveling, go where you want to go. Traveling for pleasure, not work, has greater benefits. When you visit somewhere you want to go, you’re more excited and your cortisol levels will decrease. ‌

You can make your travel plans big or small. They don’t have to be expensive or exotic for you to get the most mental health benefits from them.

While frequent travel can boost your mood and positively impact your mental health, there are limits. You may look back on your travels with fond feelings, but the reduced stress and increased feelings of happiness after a vacation typically last less than one month. 

This can look differently for people who travel for pleasure more frequently. Taking vacations and traveling to new places multiple times a year will result in more mental health benefits. Travel provides a healthier, more satisfying life. But it doesn’t guarantee it. 

You shouldn’t rely on travel as a form of therapy. If you are feeling anxious or depressed and need help, you should talk to a mental health professional. They can help you find the right treatment.