In February 2022 Adam Sawyer lost the whole world. A devastating fire destroyed his home near Mount Rainier, Oregon and claimed the life of his partner.Since then, Sawyer has frequently traveled into nature and walked with his deceased partner. Follow trails and journeys.
“I intentionally went to places I’d traveled with her. It seemed like self-harm, but it was also a way to be with the grieving process,” Sawyer, who writes about travel and the outdoors, said. say. “I went as far as I could on the trail and cried as much as I needed to. It was also a way to get to a place full of fun.”
For Sawyer, in addition to other “road trips to nowhere” and treks into nature, trips to places that were meaningful to him and his late partner (he traveled up and down the Oregon coast). “A drive through a beautiful country and its zen”) was an integral part of the healing voyage.
“When you travel to these places and try to process those memories, when I do, when you have crying sessions, when you deal with the guilt in those places, it gets over it like vomiting. I cried it out, I processed it, I realized what that memory meant to me now and why I came here, and I actually felt better says Sawyer.
Sawyer isn’t alone in feeling hope and relief as he travels through the aftermath of trauma and tragedy. In July 2022, Haramadelich was widowed after 40 years of marriage.
Maderich, an AFAR reader in Costa Rica, says: “I stared at a lonely Christmas months ago, lost the New Year, and decided to return to my solace, the sea.”She booked herself and her best friend in the Southern Caribbean celebrity equinox holiday cruise.
“New Year’s Eve was both spectacular and heartbreaking,” says Maderich. But she added, “It’s not like sitting at home crying because I find myself on a ship in the middle of the ocean, listening to live music, drinking champagne, watching lasers and fireworks.” It was much better than crying alone.
Maderich literally started 2023 with a new outlook. It is a rainbow breakfast view over Martinique, “a glimmer of hope that life alone can be a new adventure in a still unexplored port.”
For many people, including Sawyer and Maderich, travel is an escape to new and familiar places, and how to manage grief, loss, tragedy, trauma, mental health challenges, or physical health setbacks. play an important role in
We’ve all been through a lot — travel can help
During the pandemic, when many were experiencing collective trauma and isolation in their lives through a deadly global public health crisis, travel became one of the tools in the traditional coping toolbox temporarily unavailable. was one.
“Studies have shown links between social isolation and loneliness and worsening mental and physical health, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic,” says a certified professional counselor. and Pyx Healthis a women’s and LGBTQ+ led telemedicine service dedicated to helping those struggling with loneliness and isolation. “Pandemic [people] People feel trapped and isolated in order to physically escape from their daily lives and responsibilities. This ultimately affected their mental health. “
For some, just thinking about how to escape in the future provided an emotional boost. , reveals that 97% of people feel happy just by planning their future trips.
And a small but growing body of research shows that travel offers very real health benefits, both mentally and physically. His 2018 study, in which a team of Austrian researchers analyzed his group of 40 “middle managers,” found that stress decreased and overall health improved for 15 to 45 days after vacation or holidays. I found it improved. A year later, the study published in the journal psychology and health They concluded that more frequent vacations were associated with a lower likelihood of metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
“Travel contributes to a happier, more fulfilling life and does more to our minds than just give us a break,” says Randolph.
health benefits of travel
According to Randolph, “There are many lasting benefits travel can have on your mental state.” They include:
- Reduce stress and anxiety: Traveling provides a mental reset and reduces overall stress and anxiety levels.
- Better relationships and connections: For the loner, travel is a great way to connect and bond with fellow travelers and new people you meet along the way.
- More Creativity: Exposure to new cultures, foods, and arts will broaden your horizons and give rise to new ideas and ways of thinking that you can apply to your work and home life.
- Improving physical health: People often go outdoors more when they roam new places to travel and explore. This will improve your overall physical health.
In fact, the results are so remarkable that in January 2022, Canada’s National Park Service Parks Canada developed a program called PaRx. This allows doctors to actually prescribe trips to patients who might benefit from the time spent there via free annual passes to Canada’s national parks. initially.
Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, who oversees Parks Canada, said in a press release about the naturopathic program that the program “is a breakthrough in how we deal with mental and physical health problems.” . “Medical research clearly shows that connecting with nature is good for your health.”
learn from new people and new environments
As Randolph said, it’s not just the beautiful places you visit during your travels that calm and inspire your mind and body. Social psychologist Michael Blaine, who specializes in travel, has interviewed thousands of people about travel and its effects. He observes some key points regarding the social connections we make while traveling.
When you travel, “you can get out of the morbid surroundings and surroundings. [where] You are completely immersed in your problem,” Blaine said, adding: . . it’s not satisfying and doesn’t offer new ideas. “
According to Brein, one of the main benefits of travel is that it provides valuable learning opportunities. When you travel, “you become more curious and more open to new experiences. You learn to have better relationships with people because you need to interact with new people. Ways flow in.”
A January 2023 study published in Journal of Transport and Health We identified the important role travel plays in accessing ‘social participation’ and the relationship between that social participation and our overall health. The study found that people who did not have the opportunity to travel more than 15 miles from home were more likely to self-report their health than those who did.
For Sawyer of Oregon, while he often embarks on solo missions, travel is a key way to distract him from his grief and to meet and interact with new people who provide him with a new perspective on life. I admit that it is also a good exit.
“I definitely need others too. Wherever you are, go to a local dive bar, hang out and chat with the locals, and get engrossed in them and their stories and what they’re doing.” , it’s a great change of pace,” says Sawyer. He adds: you are traveling for fun. And it was also a huge relief.It’s okay to take your time and really enjoy the place with other people. “
This past fall, while going through the stress and trauma of losing a dear friend’s mother to rapid-onset dementia, we decided to escape to southern Utah for a few days. Enjoying a land-filled hiking trip, it provided her with a small but meaningful break from the day-to-day worries that were eating up her life. But even if she finds joy, awe, relief and laughter amidst the stunning desert landscape, the retreat is temporary and no matter what problems she faces, she will find herself at home. I knew that he was waiting for me to return to Japan.
While some may view travel simply as a way to escape problems, experts believe there is a notable difference between escapism and embracing a healthy attitude towards escapism.
“Escapism is defined as ‘a desire or action to ignore or avoid reality’. During traumatic experiences, many people mentally ‘escape’ the situation to avoid further stress.” explains Pyx Health’s Randolph.
Traveling itself is not the solution to our problems, and for many people it can bring additional stress, fear, and anxiety. There is some evidence to suggest that it may have more lasting effects depending on how it is applied. There are also ways to integrate ideas like escaping into your daily life. New activities and experiences similar to those you would have while traveling (for example, learning how to play tennis or joining a local hiking group) — help recreate those benefits even if you can’t or don’t want to travel. increase. .
“To move travel from a temporary solution to something more impactful, we need to be proactive in adopting lifestyle changes that reduce stress and anxiety,” says Randolph. “Performing daily activities that replicate the escapism effects of travel can make lasting improvements to your mental and physical health.”