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Can travel benefit your mental health?

Travel can lead you to question and challenge the norms of everyday life at home, potentially inspiring you to make positive changes. That’s one piece of advice that Emma Sparks is making in a recent article for Lonely Planet. She says that doing so can shake up the status quo and give you different perspectives, among other health benefits.

The 7 ways travel can benefit mental health:

1. It can help you stay fit and healthy

2. It shakes up the status quo

3. It gives you a different perspective

4. It increases creativity

5. It lowers stress levels

6. It boosts self esteem and confidence

7. It’s an act of self care

I agree that travel gives me a different perspective and allows me to question and challenge my everyday routine, among other things, but I didn’t fully realize how one trip can tap into all seven benefits.

Highlights in Guilin

Last year I traveled to Guilin from Beijing, during Golden Week, one of the busiest national holidays for Chinese people to travel and spend time with their families. Some expats choose to go to Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan, among other places.

I explored Guilin’s Reed Flute Cave, Seven Star Park, Li River, and Elephant Trunk Hill.

Reed Flute Cave is a 240-meter long natural water eroded limestone cave in the Guangxi province of China. That’s two football fields deep! It was both fascinating... and relaxing.

Reed Flute Cave, Guilin (credit: ND McCray)

For nearly two hours I inspected colorful stone pillars (like the one above) and drip patterns as there were many changing corners and water streams and quiet spaces. Even with a crowd of people in the cave at once, everyone is walking at their own pace, so it’s easy to find yourself alone for moments at a time. I recorded video, snapped photos — and smiled at every Chinese person I met, because I was literally the only foreigner in that cave.

The language barrier never bothered me while living, working and traveling in China. Like many parts of the country, it’s quite easy to navigate. Sure I would’ve like to have learned the language efficient enough to hold a conversation, but not knowing it has never discouraged me from seeking new places to visit. Reed Flute Cave is also known as “The Palace of Natural Arts.” Guilin’s natural beauty has this spiritual quality to it.

So, when I’m feeling stressed out in my daily life here in Texas, for example, I like to think back to walking through those caves in Guilin.

I try to apply that same level of self confidence, self esteem and self care at home. I take leisurely walks in the park, explore new food and write poems in coffee shops and literally get lost every chance I get. Because it’s not only healthy and keeps me positive, but it’s exactly what my mind, body and spirit needs.


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