The case for adventurous vacations

6 science-based reasons to be bold on your next trip

There’s no better time to challenge yourself than when you’re on vacation since you’ll be in a more relaxed-yet-adventurous headspace. Whether it’s swimming with sharks or skydiving, you’ll reap physical and mental benefits from the adrenaline rush. But you don’t necessarily have to get so extreme: Anything that pushes you outside of your comfort zone could be considered an adventure, says Jaime L. Kurtz, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at James Madison University and the author of the new book The Happy Traveler. “It could mean summiting Mount Kilimanjaro for one person, wandering a new city without a map for another, or even trying an ingredient you’ve never heard of,” she adds.

Here, six ways adventure travel can revamp your routine.

1. You’ll boost your happiness.

“When you do similar things over and over again, you adapt and your wellbeing and happiness is maintained or even eroded over time,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., professor in the department of psychology at the University of California at Riverside and the author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. Instead of just going for a hike, for example, challenge yourself to try something new like cliff jumping. “It resets your adaptation point and it might make you feel more accomplished and more content with yourself,” she says.

2. You’ll sleep better.
Staying physically challenged on vacation (by ski touring or splitboarding instead of taking the lift) might help you sleep better. Studies have shown that people who took active vacations averaged a nightly increase of an hour or more of quality sleep when they returned home. (The researchers monitored them for three days.)

3. You’ll increase productivity.
People who conquer a challenge on vacation have more energy when they go back to work and perform their roles more efficiently, says research from Bowling Green State University. That’s because the high of checking off a bucket list item (like rock climbing or scuba diving) increases confidence and helps you better navigate stressors at home.

4. You'll strengthen bonds.
A Purdue University study found that doing group activities while on vacation encourages bonding between family members. These sorts of shared adventurous activities foster communication, encourage solidarity, and create a stronger sense of shared memories, all of which help cement better dynamics among family, friends, or between partners.

5. You’ll stress less.
Canadian researchers studied high-performers who are prone to burnout (in this case lawyers) and discovered that those who regularly took vacations where they stayed active by playing golf, jogging, or cycling displayed lower levels of stress, even after their trips were over. This suggests that exercise allowed the participants to recuperate better and worry less about work. Active vacations also correlated with less depression in the long-term.

6. You’ll build resilience.
Mental toughness is a trait that many adventurous travelers share. In a study published in the Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, groups were sent on a sailing voyage that included tough working conditions designed to teach the skills needed to complete the task. Their skills were tested at the beginning and end of the voyage, as well as five months post-trip. The researchers discovered that at the end of the five months, the sailors’ self-esteem, sense of belonging, and belief that they can succeed in accomplishing tasks on and off the water had also remained strengthened.

Travel is a lens through which we see the world—but it’s also paramount to health and wellness. Furthermore partnered with TUMI to bring you a series of articles helping you maximize experiences in intriguing destinations and reap both physical and mental benefits. Get ready to find adventure in exciting new ways.

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