Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved road trips. Whether it be just a day trip, or a few nights stay somewhere, road trips are adventures. My personality needs periodic breaks from the day-to-day and road trips can be an inexpensive way to have lots of short breaks throughout the year. They energize me and give me something to look forward to. Recently I started wondering if taking a road trip had any tangible mental and physical health benefits. So, I started to do some research on the health benefits of a road trip.
For some people, the best part of a road trip is getting to the destination. While others appreciate the journey as much as getting to where they’re going. As it turns out, both types of people benefit greatly from taking a road trip. When I was younger, I suppose that my tendency was to want to get where I’m going. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I enjoy everything about a road trip. From coming up with the idea to planning the journey itself, and getting to the destination.
What are Some of the Health Benefits of a Road Trip?
Yes, road trips are fun. They get us away from the day-to-day grind of life. Driving in a car puts us in a different environment temporarily. All of this is very positive for our mind and therefore our body as well. But can we identify specifically how we benefit?
Planning a Road Trip Can Make Us as Happy as Taking the Trip
As it turns out, the act of planning a trip can provide the most health benefits from the standpoint of creating happiness. By planning a trip, we actually are taking a step away from the day-to-day while doing it. And it gives us something to look forward to before we take the trip. This is something I’ve realized about myself. I need a trip to look forward to. In fact, on our way back from a road trip I am coming up with ideas for the next one.
Taking Shorter Road Trips May Be Healthier Than Taking Long Vacations
A 2010 study by Applied Research of Quality of Life found that the more stressful the trip, the fewer benefits that come of it. Sometimes taking long trips that require hotel reservations and layovers can cause a lot of stress. Especially if the trip is to a different country and unfamiliar culture.
Often times the expense of a long trip can cause stress as well. Let’s face it. Taking a trip to Europe, as an example, can cost thousands of dollars. Perhaps we justify it initially because we’ve never been there and really need to take a trip. But it may take away from the enjoyment by knowing that we are spending a ton of money.
As well, this study also concluded that the health benefits of a road trip or vacation of any kind only last 4 to 5 weeks after the trip. Obviously, we can take more road trips than long vacations. So, why not take a road trip every month to generate constant health benefits?
Driving Can Actually Help Your Brain Power
There is an important part of our brain called the hippocampus. It helps us calculate spatial relationships. Driving to an unknown or relatively unknown destination makes this part of the brain go to work. Driving to a new place is much like solve puzzles in the way it stimulates our minds. Additionally, simply experiencing new sites and meeting new people activates our minds in different ways.
Involving Nature in Your Trip Has Major Benefits
For most people, being in and around nature is very beneficial. It’s one of the most positive health benefits of a road trip. Shirley and I love that we moved to Florida and nature is one of the biggest reasons why. Much like living in a state like Colorado, you can’t go anywhere in Florida without experiencing nature. Even if it’s just driving by the coastline or through one of our beautiful state parks.
Driving Keeps Us Away From our Screens
If you still work, there’s a good chance you’re in front of a computer screen a lot of the time. And/or you’re staring at your cell phone. Even for the passengers on a road trip, there’s a tendency to be more involved in a conversation, looking at the sites, and otherwise less engaged with technology.
Leaving Work Behind
Sometimes if we are taking a mid-week road trip, we have to pay some attention to our business. After all, it’s what pays the bills and allows us to travel as much as we do. Even so, it’s intermittent. We make sure it isn’t dominating our day. And right after we take care of a business issue, we get right back to enjoying each other and our journey.
Most of us do not absorb enough vitamin D on a regular basis. And no, you can’t absorb it through a car window. But by being on a road trip, we are more likely to stop along the way. And when we get to our destination we are typically going to be outdoors. Taking periodic road trips can boost our Vitamin D levels far more than sitting in our office or inside our homes.
Breathing Fresher Air
In our homes or office, we breathe stale, recirculated air all day. By being on the road, whether in or out of the car, we are breathing fresher air. Studies show that by breathing fresh air even after just an hour, our lungs begin to heal.
Time to Reconnect
Shirley and I are not only life partners, but we are business partners. We are literally together 24/7. Even so, by getting away on a road trip, we discuss things and share our thoughts on topics that wouldn’t necessarily come up during a “normal” day. It becomes a time for discussing things like our future. Where do we want to live next? What makes us happy about our present situation? What do we want to improve upon in our lives? And, of course, where should we go on the next trip?