The Travel and Wellness industries are Goliaths within the world’s economic market.
But how do they coincide on a deeper and more personal level?
For the long term traveler – including those who had never really considered its meaning – wellness becomes increasingly prevalent in daily life. We know from first hand experience.
“Wellness impacts the way a person travels and likewise, travel impacts the wellness of a person as they explore”.
How does long term travel affect your wellness?
An emerging trend in the travel world is ‘wellness tourism’ – which we believe will blow up over the next decade.
However, for the purpose of this article we will be focusing on the pillars of wellness, how they are all affected by long term travel and how they in turn affect travelers’ experiences.
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Our Passion for Travel and Wellness
Our passion for both travel and leading a healthy lifestyle are our major drivers. They get us out of bed in the morning – planning our next adventure, being mindful of our physical and mental states, and working on our blog.
Travel and wellness promote healthy living in their respective fields.
As we collectively move towards embracing healthy lifestyles more as a race, we believe wellness will become more relevant than ever before.
Millions of us are traveling, constantly on the move, always searching for new experiences.
To the average person traveling the world for long periods, wellness is often overlooked or underestimated. Before we traveled, we can admit that we didn’t truly understand our own personal state of wellness.
It is our goal to inspire everyone to travel with wellness in mind from the first day to the last.
‘Travel Wellness’ is not just Retreats & Spa’s
What is the first thing you think of when you read the word ‘Wellness’?
Is it a spa? A Massage? A Green Smoothie? Relaxation?
You’d be right. In one aspect of the term. Wellness is relaxation, recovery, rest & recuperation. But there is a whole other side to wellness that is often overlooked by long term travelers, including ourselves.
As we mentioned, ‘wellness tourism’ is going to be a world beater in the next decade and watching these titanic sectors collide is an exciting time for us. Anticipation surrounding the future of wellness tourism is exploding and potential for a new ‘merged-sector’ is being realized.
But ‘travel wellness’ is whole different ballgame. We’re talking about the wellbeing – both physically and mentally – of an individual as they travel for long periods.
What happens to the body and mind under the conditions a long term traveler faces?
First, let’s take a deeper look at what Wellness means, then we will assess the impact of each aspect when long term travel is added to the equation.
We all know what travel is. It’s been around for centuries. But so has wellness, from India and China to the Greeks and Romans. The evolution of wellness is changing as 21st century trends open up the industry to a global audience.
So, how do we define wellness? Well, you can take your pick between hundreds of definitions but our favorite is from the global wellness institute:
“The active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health”
Ok. What exactly does that mean? And what is holistic health?
Our interpretation of defining wellness and transitioning this meaning to our daily lives is to understand that wellness is a balanced pursuit. It doesn’t just happen with the click of our fingers. Wellness is a mindset. A continuous conscious approach as we endeavor to improve our complete health by making the right choices.
Holistic health – and wellness – can be interpreted in a number of ways. It is up to the individual to deem which aspects of mind, body and soul they determine as important to their own health.
You will find multiple sources explaining the 5 aspects of holistic health, or 6 components of wellness, or 12 dimensions of wellness.
Our personal preference is the 8 pillars of wellness.
The 8 Pillars of Wellness
Physical Wellness – Physical exercise, proper nutrition, strength / stamina, BMI, organ and circulatory system functions along with blood pressure. Physical elements of the human body all contribute to longevity. These are all affected by lifestyle choices such as alcohol, smoking, diet, exercise and stress.
Financial Wellness – Being financially stable to provide for yourself and your dependents. This encompasses how consistent (or inconsistent) income and expenses tend to be. Debt can unconsciously contribute to negative financial health. Paying off outstanding debts can go a long way to improving financial wellness.
Emotional Wellness – Identification and regulation of emotions in situations, including ability to react appropriately. Can you compartmentalize and regulate emotions such as happiness, anger and jealousy? Awareness of emotions allows us to conduct ourselves as we see fit.
Spiritual Wellness – Defining our purpose and finding meaning in life. Spiritual wellness is a system of beliefs, values, morals, ethics and principles. A positive attitude towards life and/or faith. Harmony towards yourself and others. A desire to contribute positively to community.
Intellectual Wellness – Engagement in creative, mentally stimulating, self progressing activities through academic, skill based, cultural or artistic learning. A commitment to expanding knowledge by opening your mind to new challenges. Stimulation through feeding curiosities.
Social Wellness – Relationships and interactions with others. Living in harmony with others while building trusting and supportive relationships with family, friends and partners. Communicating effectively and cultivating a shared sense of belonging aid social wellness.
Environmental Wellness – Being respectful of surroundings and taking action to protect the environment where possible. Interaction with nature, understanding of dangers, consideration for Earth’s natural resources and nurturing development of green sustainability.
Occupational Wellness – Achieving a work / life equilibrium. Job happiness, satisfaction and enjoyment. Reducing or preventing stress by utilizing your skills and interests in a job role. Attitude and approach to working and colleagues. Overall contentment and purpose in the workplace.
How Do The Pillars Of Wellness Affect Long Term Travelers?
Now you’re familiar with our interpretation of wellness, we can explain how each aspect translates to long term travel.
It wouldn’t be unfair of us to assume that most people would consider exercise and nutrition as encompassing wellness. Look after your fitness and watch what you eat – you’ve cracked the wellness game.
We can admit that is exactly what we used to think. However, we have since then realized there is much more to wellness than squats and salads. We are more aware and open minded about each of the pillars of wellness.
Consider the 8 pillars of wellness are columns within a huge house. Each pillar is pivotal to the integrity of the structure. When one pillar falls, the house collapses.
Let’s dive right into how each of the 8 pillars affect long term travelers:
Physical Wellness and Travel
We can break up physical wellness into two actionable components in terms of how you can monitor, maintain and be mindful of pursuing this aspect of wellness while traveling – Exercise & Nutrition. The major players of physical wellness.
It is almost impossible to implement a strict workout and diet plan when traveling.
There are long journeys, late flights, overnight buses, sleep cycle interruptions, exploring new places, climate considerations and unsafe environments to take into account.
Hotel room workouts are the most efficient solutions to lack of exercise but motivation is a struggle. Eating healthily is difficult in many countries due to food availability, cost and quality.
After months and months of travel without consistently eating a balanced diet or exercising as you are accustomed to, the body begins to change compositionally. In addition to the aesthetic alteration, sluggishness, fatigue and lethargy set in.
Cravings for ‘junk’ foods full of sugar become the norm and there’s an underlying ‘I’ll sort this out when I’m done with this trip’ attitude, which exacerbates the whole problem.
Each pillar of wellness affects the others but this one is gigantic. When physical wellness is suffering, it is like a plague to the rest.
The impact poor physical wellness can have on overall wellbeing is astonishing. Any long term traveler will tell you about the effects a lack of exercise and nutrition had on their overall experience.
And we speak directly from experience. After 6 months of travel through Europe and Asia, we had packed on body fat and felt awful. Our diets had spiraled out of control and we were barely exercising. The initial excitement of our world trip had finally started to take its toll.
We now fully appreciate the importance of being mindful about physical wellness when traveling long term. We make huge efforts to make the right choices, exercise more – in particular hiking, and eat a healthier balanced diet.
Check out our article explaining what makes it difficult to eat well and exercise when traveling long term.
Financial Wellness and Travel
Have you ever thought about traveling the world for a year but couldn’t bring yourself to quit your job? Why didn’t you? Did it have anything to do with money?
Well, you know that feeling you get when you think about not having a guaranteed salary being paid into your bank account once or twice a month? Times that by infinity because when it actually happens and the feeling becomes a reality – it is scary. Liberating, but scary as hell!
Quitting our jobs to travel the world was HARD. The financial safety blanket was burned to a crisp. We had X amount of money in the bank but every day that number would slowly dwindle until nothing remained.
Traveling is not all rainbows and butterflies!
The final few months of our year and a half long trip, the anxiety began to set in. We were running out of money. It would play on our minds every day and slowly take over so much that it became hard to enjoy the last few weeks of the adventure.
Is that enough to make your stomach turn?!
Our financial wellness certainly was not in a good state at that time. It is easy to overlook the impact this aspect of wellness has on the long term traveler.
Emotional Wellness and Travel
Compartmentalizing emotions can be difficult under a myriad of situations. Travel brings out the best and worst in people, with emotions to match.
Because travel is constantly being out of your comfort zone.
We often find ourselves staggered by acts of kindness or ignorance, unnecessary outbursts of violence or displeasure, sheer joy and laughter.
You witness an enormous amount of emotion in an enormous amount of people when you travel the world for a long time.
Some have more control and composure, while others can be reactive and compulsive. Moods and other circumstances can cause people to behave in an uncharacteristic fashion.
Any of the other 7 pillars of wellness being neglected can cause emotion to explode. They all have a knock on effect to the rest.
Personally, we encountered scenarios in which we learned a huge amount about ourselves and each other in regard to displaying emotions.
When one of us would struggle with a situation, the other would take command to resolve any issues. When one of us needed a time out, the other knew without asking.
By pursuing an improved state of emotional wellness, we were able to avoid conflict. Absolutely critical to a couple traveling the world!
Spiritual Wellness and Travel
Long term travel can have an immeasurable impact on spiritual wellness. The perspective gained about life in general is astronomical – one of the greatest gifts travel can give a person.
The liberating feeling of knowing deep down that you are free to travel wherever you want and whenever you want is incomparable.
By traveling to rich and poor countries, urban and rural environments, meeting amazing and awful people, hearing stories, learning about history and suffering – that is how you find the meaning in life. And that is how you cultivate perspective in your own life.
Without reference points, what do you have to compare to?
In our opinion, this is the most coveted insight from travel and we feel like we can justify opinions more than we could before travel.
By believing in what you are doing as you travel, you set yourself up to maximize every single experience along the way. Embracing the harder times makes you a stronger person afterwards spiritually, mentally and physically.
Having a solid base of purpose, a belief about what you are doing each day is crucial to holistic wellness.
Intellectual Wellness and Travel
Admittedly, it should be a rare occasion that a long term traveler is challenged by being bored or having a lack of intellectual stimulation.
Travel is about planning the next city, the next hotel, the next train, the next sightseeing opportunity and meeting the next person. It is about learning history, culture and cuisine of a country!
But there are long journeys and some travelers prefer to spend longer in each place they visit, often without much of an agenda. During these times it is vitally important to immerse the brain into challenges, puzzles, research or learning.
Travel without intellectual wellness can lead to anxiety, worry and regret.
For instance, you might find yourself on a long easy hike, a few hours in your mind starts wandering … ‘Did I make the right decision quitting my job?’. Without stimulation, the mind will play tricks on you.
In our case, we have FOMO and can’t cope with missing any points of interest when we visit a place. But we also hate spending too much time in a place without doing anything.
We try to be as efficient as possible with time management and never find ourselves feeling bored when we travel.
Even if we had a day spare, it would be dedicated to creativity and ideas for this website. Our intellectual wellness was never a concern!
Social Wellness and Travel
Social wellness and travel are inherently intertwined.
If you travel in a big group of friends, with your sibling or with your partner for example – you are unlikely to experience social wellness degradation compared to if you were traveling solo.
However, there are thousands of solo travelers in the world and social wellness can play a big role along the way.
It’s not a one rule fits all, but human beings are social creatures. We crave interactions and belonging. Solo travelers often go for periods of time without having someone there for comfort, support or security. It can be a lonely existence.
That’s not to say it will be a negative experience, far from it because we met tons of solo travelers who would have it no other way. We also met couples who said they felt lonely when traveling long term.
Friendships or acquaintances can sometimes be superficial or be built on little substance when traveling, but they can also be true friendships that last a lifetime.
The perfect remedy to loneliness when traveling is to use technological advancements in your favor! Video call family and friends regularly to catch up. Familiarity helps, even if it can be difficult to relate to life back home and vice versa.
For us, social wellness was rarely an issue. We enjoy each others company (we’d be screwed if not!) and we love meeting other travelers on the road. This pillar really played to our strengths!
Environmental Wellness and Travel
The environment is in a precarious situation in this era. It is a vogue topic for world leaders and millions of people who care for the world we live in. Climate change and global warming are never far from the top news headlines.
Travel plays its role in our environment for both good and bad. We tried to do our part by cleaning up beaches in the Thai islands, but as we looked up to the sky, we could see planes causing an alarming amount of carbon emissions.
Sustainable travel is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot but how many travelers are actually mindful of sustainability and making the best choice for the planet?
What we can do for our own environmental wellness is individually make the correct choices, recycle, plant a tree and be considerate towards those who will follow us. If you do your part to help, although microscopic, your individual wellness will benefit as well.
The bigger picture might feel like a losing battle, but you will reap the rewards on a personal level.
Travel gives us a broader understanding of the world we live in because it becomes immediately apparent how much of a negative effect humans are having on nature. It enables us to see the bigger picture about how we can all help to play a role in the future.
Admittedly, we take flights to get to these new destinations and we have purchased water in plastic bottles when we couldn’t refill our reusable bottles with fresh, clean and safe water. But we are constantly mindful and try to make the right choices for the environment wherever possible.
Occupational Wellness and Travel
Linked to financial wellness, occupational wellness is important to overall wellbeing but can play both a positive and negative role in long term travel.
Some are lucky enough to work for progressive companies who see the benefit in allowing an employee to take a sabbatical, but that concept is fairly new.
However, once a person has traveled for 6 months or 9 months, do they actually want to go back to that life? They are changed people forever. Will it be enough?
The weight of knowing you have to go back to that job can play a negative role.
On the other hand, having no job to go home to can be tormenting for many who desire security and financial safety. Do I go back to my old career? Do I want a new challenge? These are tough questions.
Occupational wellness will be impacted throughout travel. Of all the pillars, this is the one there is no escape from. We all need to make money, but how do we make that money?
Long term travel will make you question your career choices, which can lead to surety you love what you do or a revelation that you hate what you do!
For us, we started this travel blog as we traveled and have continued building it since. It is one of the best decisions we made and wouldn’t change it for the world.
This would never have happened if we hadn’t traveled.
Travel Wellness Examples
An individual actively pursuing a state of holistic health when traveling would look something like this:
- Exercising often, eating a balanced healthy diet and being mindful of alcohol consumption.
- Accepting that finances will slowly decrease towards zero over time with travel.
- Taking control of emotions in any travel situations, compartmentalizing for the benefit of all.
- Believing in the purpose of travel, gaining perspective and being positive.
- Being creative, stimulating the mind, constantly learning about people and places.
- Meeting people from all over the world, being brave, communicating and being open minded.
- Looking after the world as it is traveled, making green and sustainable choices.
- Considering employment life after travel or finding a new and more suitable career path during travel.
And here’s an individual traveling who does not pursue a state of holistic health, voluntarily or involuntarily:
- Choosing not to exercise or eat well, drinking excessive alcohol.
- Worrying constantly about finances.
- Being prone to outbursts of emotion or mood swings.
- Questioning the point of travel, not appreciating differences in the world and being negative.
- No attempt to learn or develop creatively, academically and socially in new places.
- Closing off to others, no interest in building and maintaining relationships.
- No thought for the environment, littering, not volunteering to take action where possible.
- Not preparing for life after travel, being reactive as opposed to pro active about future employment.
How Can You Improve Your Holistic Wellness When Traveling?
The examples above are the extremes of the scale and it is unreasonable to imagine that any of us can aspire to be at the perfect state of holistic wellness.
Almost every person traveling long term will be somewhere around the middle of the scale.
What we are challenging you to do is to make small but conscious efforts to improve your holistic wellness by being mindful of one or two of the pillars every day.
Which of the pillars do you think you struggle the most with? Physical or Financial? Social or Spiritual?
Grab a pillar by the horns and decide to make a change – even if it’s a small one – and watch as each of the other pillars improves in unison.
Yoga is one of the most effective activities you can do to improve wellness as it encompasses many of the pillars. Try to include yoga into your weekly travel schedule.
Make time for your mind, body and spirit as you explore.
That applies to business travel, short vacations as well as long term travel.
Running, reading, socializing, eating healthy meals, visiting museums, meditation, writing a diary (or blog!), being open minded and being honest are actionable ways to pursue a complete healthy lifestyle on the road.
Wellness is about a balance. Strike the balance and you will have achieved a state of holistic wellness.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the reciprocal impacts of travel and wellness on the long term traveler.
Let us know if you have experienced any positive or negative effects from any of the pillars of wellness during or after long term travel!
Mark and Kristen
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