Generally speaking, mental health is a state of being in which one is free of stress, depressive tendencies or any psychological issues that may stop one from feeling light and happy. Monotonous life due to work routine, family obligations or other daily rituals can lead to boredom, dullness or a general lack of interest in things. Therefore, travel can be a necessary pause or break in the routine which can lead to one’s well being that is necessary for maintaining mental health or preventing it from deteriorating. Needless to say, travel is a physical activity primarily but it is also an emotional journey. Together, the physical and emotional aspects of travel combine to produce changes within our body systems that are essential for our welfare. The anticipation of travel excites us, which allows our brain to release hormones that are important for reducing stress level while adding to the feeling of happiness. As we leave home or work or daily routine to explore places, people, nature and everything in between, we witness and encounter moments, situations and relationships that expand our ways of seeing and understanding this world. Something like this has important benefits.
For instance, knowing about new people and their culture and social environment may help us realize that our own problems and affairs that permanently occupy our mental space may not be the center of the universe or they may not be as big of a problem as we initially thought. So it helps us become less self-centered and more open-minded and extroverted in the way we understand ourselves in relation to the world that surrounds us but that we had never met before a particular trip. It goes without saying that adding new people to our list of friends always adds to the emotional depth that we call life.
Travel is also a journey with self depending on how you travel. It is a process in which you are on your own. This means it is up to you to deal with situations that you come across that may be unexpected and/ or challenging physically, emotionally or mentally. In this type of situation you have no choice but to dig within you to take care of yourself in whatever way you can. Doing so may enable you to come up with new ways of taking care of yourself and new ways of feeling independent. Together, such feelings are crucial to one’s personal growth.
Travel is not only good but also necessary for our mental health because it allows us to appreciate not just the human world but also the world inhabited by non-humans like: trees, rivers, mountains, butterflies, and animals of all kinds. Encountering the non-human world makes us see how there are things and beings that exist in nature, in wilderness, without any boundaries, borders, rules, and regulations. Seeing such a world provides our mind a sense of calmness, freedom, and liberty.
In the end, I would like to emphasize that it is necessary to highlight the importance of travel with regard to mental health, more so in the context of south Asian societies such as Nepal. In our society where travel is viewed primarily as having fun. People rarely introspect or reflect on the multiple benefits of travel as I have tried to show in this piece.
As a poet Rumy once stated, “ Don’t wait any longer, dive into the ocean, live, and let the sea be you.” Travel more, stay active and let your mental world be healthy.
– Chunjune Limbu
Vice President, GET-Nepal