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Research shows travel changes you for the better — here's how

Travel changes your life. We hear it all the time, but what does research show us? We look at 11 studies to see how travel shapes your perspective and changes you for the better.


May 04, 2023


travel changes you

Traveling can be one of the most meaningful and transformative experiences in life, but how can we know if travel has actually changed us or if it's just a lingering vacation hangover?

We listen to the scientists, of course.

There are dozens of studies that tell us exactly how travel makes you more open-minded, changes your perspective on life and make us better. 

First and foremost, travel changes your life by improving your overall health and well-being.

One study found that people who travel regularly are at less of a risk of heart disease, siting that men who didn't take an annual vacation were shown to have a 30% higher risk of death from heart disease. 

This study even researched how travel changes your brain. It found that exposing your brain to new languages, smells, tastes and sights by living abroad improves creativity. 

Solo female traveler

There are a variety of studies that have looked into a link between travel and mental health.

This one found that travel might change your life by making you less likely to suffer from depression. They studied 1500 women in a rural area to see if the frequency of their travel affected if they were more likely to suffer from depression, stress, or hardships in their relationships. 

Spoiler alert: traveling made it less likely for the women to suffer from those negative experiences.

Of course, travel changes your perspective by lowering stress levels too.

This article sites that most people feel less stress after just two days of vacation. Another one suggests that just four days of travel improves stress levels for the next 45 days of life. 

Female traveler looking out of airplane window

A few other studies have specifically looked into the anticipation of travel. Does the simple act of planning a trip start to boost our happiness?

A study by the University of Surrey says yes. They found that people are happiest, and more positive about their health and financial life, when they have a vacation planned for the future. 

Another study by Cornell University found that anticipating an experience, like travel, was more satisfying than anticipating the purchase of a possession. Yet another reason to save your pennies for travel. If you need tips to help you spend less and save more, check out these 19 ways to trick yourself into saving money for travel.

If you're already on the road and need a few ideas on how to budget your travel expenses more effectively, Worldpackers has some incredible articles to help you out.

Planning and budgeting a trip

So, we know that travel is good for our mental, physical, and emotional health, but how does it change our social life? Travel changes your perspective by improving your relationships with others.

This article also suggests that vacationing, particularly near the water, helps to reset our emotions and be more compassionate towards others. 

Another study found that traveling with a romantic partner has positive effects on both new relationships and long-term relationships.

Traveling as a couple

There are also a few studies that investigate specifically how international travel changes you.

We've all heard our friends who studied abroad rant and rave about how that type of travel has changed their lives, but this study found that students returned more tolerant and less fearful of other cultures and countries. 

One study found that living abroad fosters a more clear sense of self by encouraging self-reflection. It particularly encouraged slow travel, stating that the depth of travel (length of time lived abroad) mattered more to self-clarity than the breadth of travel (number of foreign countries lived in) mattered more.

So, there's clearly research to back me and my fellow world-packers when we say that travel has changed our lives.

Long term travel has changed my life, and the Worldpackers travel experience I wrote about here attests to that. 

Adam has written about how travel changed his life.

Janaina has written about how travel is a pure form of education.

Sinead has written about why taking a sabbatical was the best decision of her life, and how she found her passion while traveling abroad.

Rachael has written about how traveling breaks you out of your comfort zone

Christelle has written about how teaching abroad changed her life.

Julie has written about why you should travel to gain global competence for today's job market.

Kimberli has even written about how Worldpackers allowed her to make a huge career move to live as a full-time traveler.

We're living proof that the studies have gotten something right. Travel really does change your life.

Ready for take-off

Tell us, how has travel changed your life for the better? Keep reading: TOP 5 Reasons why you should volunteer abroad

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