By Sonia Duggan
In addition to eating healthier, exercising more and getting more sleep, many people resolve to travel more at the dawn of a new year.
Travel is much more than leaving one’s home. It’s about setting habits aside, escaping comfort zones and trying something different — and doing so in a different location.
The National Travel and Tourism office reported U.S. travel to overseas markets totaled 35.1 million, up 7 percent for the year. Travel to North American markets received 56 percent of all international outbound U.S. travel while travel to overseas locations accounted for 44 percent of outbound U.S travel, down slightly from 2015.
The U.S. Travel Association says that direct spending by resident and international travelers in America averaged $2.7 billion a day.
Millennials may be leading the travel-enamored pack. The United Nations estimates that 20 percent of all international tourists, or nearly 200 million travelers, are young people, and that the millennial demographic generates more than $180 billion in annual tourism revenue. The U.N. also reports that millennials are more interested than older generations in traveling abroad as much as possible.
Infrequent travelers, or those who have never traveled, may not understand why heading to parts unknown is so appealing to so many people. The following are just a handful of reasons why travel is so enticing.
1. Engage the mind.
Staying mentally active over the course of a lifetime promotes long-term health. Navigating unfamiliar places or reading a foreign language
while sitting in an international country can engage the brain and get synapses firing. The Mayo Clinic reports that higher cognitive activity endows the brain with a greater ability to fend off brain pathologies, such as disease and dementia.
For a trip that will stimulate the mind check out Road Scholar. As a self-proclaimed University of the World, this company offers “inspiring instructors, spirited conversations, new friends and new experiences – being a Road Scholar encompasses the best of the university experience.”
Because it is a nonprofit organization, they are dedicated to making the learning adventures accessible to a broad range of travelers. The trips include most meals, lodging, tips & taxes, lectures, expeditions, listening devices and emergency assistance. Though most travelers are over 50, the company offers multi-generational trips for those who want to travel with grandchildren.
The trip offerings are extensive, ranging from cruises through New England, travel to National Parks, or learning the basics of horsemanship in the Ozarks. For the adventurous person(s) who want to travel abroad, opportunities include Chile, Cambodia, Costa Rica and so much more. Check out their website and you’ll find yourself having a hard time deciding where you want to venture to first! Visit roadscholar.org
2. Connect with new people.
Travel opens a person up to not only new experiences, but also new people. English poet John Donne penned the famous line, “No man is an island,” which underscores the importance of having friends and making new acquaintances. Research conducted by the University of Michigan found the act of talking with people in a friendly way can improve a person’s memory, suppress external and internal distractions, and encourage people to see things from another person’s perspective. It doesn’t hurt to broaden one’s social network, either.
A great way to get social is to attend Mardi Gras Galveston Feb. 2-13. Considered one of Texas’ largest Mardi Gras celebrations, after a few days celebrating at this event most likely you’ll make new friends, and probably come home with a few stories to share about your experience! Held the two weeks preceding Lent, the 2018 celebration kicks off February 2-13. Festivities are held on both weekends and Fat Tuesday. The event officially kicks off February 2 with parades, and entertainment continues throughout the event. Bringing children? Family-themed parades are scheduled for February 11, starting at noon. There are daily concerts on the Main Stage kicking off with the Band Everclear February 3. General admission is less than $15 making it a bargain for a full day of fun. Need a place to stay? The Hotel Galvez and Spa has a Mardi Gras special for $129 per night. Find all the information about the event and hotels you need at mardigrasgalveston.com.
3. Build confidence.
Leaving one’s comfort zone can be a great way to bolster one’s self-esteem. Navigating cultural boundaries and overcoming those boundaries may be initially intimidating, but doing so can make a person more confident and more adaptable to change.
While some of you might be familiar with Outward Bound, the popular travel expeditions originally geared toward students, the organization continues to lead the way in experiential outdoor education in the U.S., with a nationwide system of courses for youth and adults of all ages. According to outwardbound.org, the nonprofit helps individuals and teams discover strength of character and an aptitude for leadership needed to serve others in their community and care for the world around them.
With more than 1,000 courses year-round, there is a course at an Outward Bound School for everyone. Not only do courses include the classic Outward Bound expeditions, gap year and semester courses, plus courses for struggling teens, grieving teens, veterans, families and other groups and professionals. Primary course activities include backpacking, canyoneering, canoeing, dog sledding, mountaineering, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, sailing, sea kayaking, skiing and snowboarding.
Destinations include Alaska, Boundary Waters, California, Colorado Rockies, Florida, Mid Atlantic, Maine, North Carolina, Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Texas, Wyoming, Caribbean, Central America or India. If you choose Texas, you can try canoeing or desert backpacking in Big Bend.
If you’re a woman and want to travel solo there is a San Juan Islands Sea Kayaking expedition just for women. Not only will you enjoy the special camaraderie of women, you will learn to navigate and paddle from island to island and set up camp!
Want to take a family course? An expedition in the boundary waters of the St. Croix Riverway (located in eastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin) offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to bond with those you love (age 12 and up). Families will learn how to master paddling skills, cook together and set up camp. Instructors are on hand to teach you everything you need to know.
To learn more about Outward Bound travel opportunities, visit outwardbound.org and click on the course finder to find your ultimate vacation experience.
4. Develop opinions.
Until a person visits a place in person, he or she only has third-party information to form opinions. Visiting a city or country for the first time can offer a more complete perspective.
Travel gives people the chance to rest, explore, meet new friends, and make lasting memories.
This New Year put your excuses and reservations aside. Take a chance and take a trip. You’ll be glad you did.