Since July of 2009, when my American Nomad blog initially appeared on Moon.com, I've primarily focused on U.S. travel issues, itineraries, and destinations. I guess that's not surprising, given the blog's name.
Still, several posts could apply to travel anywhere in the world. More than two years ago, for instance, I posited that even close-to-home travel is good for the soul . As I wrote then, travel “helps all of us to step away from our routines for a time, cease the daily grind, and embrace a change of scenery. That's why travel is so essential to our well-being, providing a kind of medicine that our bodies, minds, and souls utterly crave and absolutely require. Travel enables us to embrace other cultures, experience other places, and, in turn, learn to appreciate home again. Travel recharges the mind, rejuvenates the spirit, and releases the unseen tensions that can plague us on a daily basis.”
Even contemplating travel  can do much to heal our bodies, minds, and spirits. Of course, the actual act of traveling – whether to a favorite getaway spot or a country never before seen – is a more preferable option.
And I'm certainly not the only one who feels that way.
Two months ago, world traveler Christine Garvin  contributed an article to the Tripbase blog  that highlights six ways that travel has improved her overall health and well-being  – specifically following a chronic illness in her early 20s. Though I have yet to face such a health crisis, I have to agree with the six benefits that Christine has outlined in her article:
ᴥ Reducing stress: “Travel is a natural stress reducer because it gets you out of your everyday worries,” Christine explains. “Traveling often forces us to disconnect and to be in the moment. This naturally calms our mind and, as an extension, our adrenals, which are extremely important for proper immune function.”
ᴥ Escaping a bad job: “Sometimes,” according to Christine, “we need something big in order to get us out of a place we feel stuck, mistreated, or just plain bored... Travel isn't just about seeing new places. Sometimes, it's about escaping old ones.”
ᴥ Increasing one's nutrient intake: After a rather unhealthy stint in Florence, Italy, Christine learned to take better care of herself. “I know,” she admits, “that the constant moving around, not always getting the best sleep, and consuming all kinds of different foods means I better be taking my supplements and probiotics to stay on track.”
ᴥ Learning about better ways to live: “It's always so interesting,” Christine remarks, “to note the discrepancies or oddities, that I find I learn about better ways to take care of myself when I study other cultures.” She points out, for example, how “massage is an integral part of many Asian cultures” and praises the way that Africans follow their bodies' natural rhythms, as they sleep and rise with the sun. “While many Americans think that working toward a high-paying job and a big house are the most important things in life, you'll find a completely opposite take on life's purpose throughout the world.”
ᴥ Becoming smarter: Christine notes that, while she's forgotten much of what she learned about foreign lands during her school days, “climbing the Duomo in Florence or white-water rafting on the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe gave me experiences that will never leave my mind as well as my heart.”
ᴥ Gaining a deeper appreciation for intuition: According to Christine, traveling compels you to connect with your intuition, “the guiding force that tells us which direction we should go in any given situation.” She laments the way that intuition is often ignored in America's work-focused society. When traveling, though, you're often “forced to rely completely on your inner voice as you are thrown into new situations where you don't know the people or the language. Intuition might be all you have.”
In my own experience, I've found all of the above to be true. I've learned to relieve tension in every available hammock in the Florida Keys. I once fled a terrible job in Chicago to experience life in southern England. I've often countered poor sleep and decadent meals with a handful of vitamins and minerals. Even in America, I've embraced better ways of living, such as the laid-back “island time” of South Padre Island. Throughout my life, I've found that touring places like the White House, the Alamo, the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite National Park have taught me more about history, geology, and biology than I ever gleaned in school. And yes, I've even gotten better at trusting my intuition while traveling, especially when it comes to my own personal safety.
Of course, I'd add another benefit to the list: inspiring a desire to exercise. Don't get me wrong – on a semi-regular basis, I've been known to take long walks through the neighborhood and relax with an hourlong yoga routine inside or outside (depending on the weather). When traveling, though, I'm often able to explore other, more interesting forms of exercise, such as hiking in Yosemite, ice-skating in Chicago, or snorkeling in Key Largo.
So, what do you consider the most notable benefit of travel, and how has venturing elsewhere improved your health and well-being?
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below, contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com, or connect with me on Facebook  and Twitter .
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo of a Florida Keys resort / Text © 2012 Laura Martone