Our new column Travel Well looks at the ways we can enhance our wellbeing through travel, as well as practical tips and guidance for maintaining good mental health when on a journey
Travel is a journey about ourselves as much as it is a physical journey to another destination.
Visiting somewhere new can be both exciting and terrifying. Whether it's travelling somewhere to get out in nature, or a trip to connect with loved ones, travel can be a great boost to our mental health. However, it can also add a few extra worries and distress along the way.
Sometimes our anxieties get in the way of being able to experience the joy of travel. But we can learn how to reframe the situation to see how travel can improve and support our mental health. Even just visiting a different part of your own city or region can help open your eyes to a new experience, new sights and new activities.
Whereas we continue to dream of going further afield, domestic travel can provide a boost to our wellbeing because of the sense of giving back to our own community. We know that visiting attractions and spending money within New Zealand help a sector that is in desperate need of local support. Giving back helps enrich our own lives, heighten our sense of purpose, while supporting communities - especially small towns - that have suffered during Covid.
Travel also helps open our own minds. If you live in a big city, travelling to more remote parts of the country can provide an important insight into the lives of other New Zealanders - and vice versa. It can help us become more open and accepting of others who have different lifestyles and priorities. These sorts of trips can help bridge the divide between rural and urban areas and give us a new perspective that, in turn, can strengthen our sense of connection between communities. Connection and a sense of belonging are key pathways to wellbeing.
And let's not understate the act of planning a holiday, which gives us something to anticipate. Having markers in the year provide hope and excitement, and can help us maintain positivity when thinking about the year ahead and all its challenges.
Some travel can have a more direct impact on our mental health, such as a trip to see friends or family. Whether it's visiting a beloved sister or your best friend from high school, trips that help deepen a connection with someone who cares about us, can help fill up our emotional buckets and give us a break when we need it the most.
It's been well documented that physical exercise has a direct impact on our mental health, boosting energy levels and improving the mood. Active holidays that include activities such as hiking, biking or any other form of physical activity can help keep our bodies mobile and healthy, as well as doing wonders to refresh the mind.
Finally, travel can help us learn to be in the moment and appreciate what is around us at that time. A journey to somewhere new can make us feel more grateful, not just for the experience we have while away but also for what we have back home.
Questions on keeping good mental health when travelling? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter at @j_sivertsen
Five great trips to support your mental health
• Connect: Plan a trip to see friends or family members who help you feel good about yourself and are easy to connect with. Organise a group getaway in a large house, or hire a number of cabins or campsites at a holiday park for a family vacation.
• Community: Choose experiences that give back to the community or to the environment. Look for climate positive tourism providers, companies that donate to and serve their local communities, or at a simpler level, try house sitting or pet sitting to help out a fellow Kiwi.
• Nature: Immerse yourself in nature and set up somewhere remote, such as a backcountry hut or cabin. Soak up the surroundings, breathe in the unpolluted air - and if it's a clear night, gaze up into the starry sky to help really appreciate our sense of the magnitude of the universe.
• Move: Get the body moving and head to one of New Zealand's many stunning national parks for a hike, make a beach holiday a kayaking vacation, hire a bike at your destination to go for a ride each day, go scuba diving, or plan a skiing and snowboarding trip for winter.
• Refresh: Experiences that refresh your mind are unique to each individual and can incorporate any of the above suggestions. It could mean working remotely for a week in a different part of the country, an adrenaline-fuelled adventure getaway, a week relaxing at the beach, or a wellness retreat. Choose experiences you know will help reset and nourish your mind.