Active Travel: Inca Trail Trek

7 Awesome Benefits of Active Travel Adventures

Active Travel: Inca Trail Trek

With mounting scientific evidence that active travel adventures are really good for you, it’s no surprise that adventure travel is on an upward trend. Today’s travelers are increasingly seeking meaningful experiences which not only allow them to explore the world, but also to improve their quality of life and overall sense of well-being.

The physical rewards of active travel are relatively obvious. But these adventurous activities also offer an array of benefits for your mental and emotional health as well. They typically leave you feeling refreshed and recharged, and have emerged as a legitimate therapy for stress thanks to recent scientific studies.

If you’re looking for an excuse to pack your bags and get moving, here are seven awesome benefits of active travel adventures:

Kayaking at Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge

Getting Active Improves Your Physical Health

Many people struggle with the motivation to get fit. Our daily lives are so hectic that we forget to make time for exercise, but the effects of a sedentary lifestyle present a number of worrying health risks. Physical inactivity increases the risk of certain cancers, contributes to anxiety and depression, and is one of the main contributing factors for obesity. In fact, it was recently reported that inactivity is responsible for more annual deaths than smoking.

But active travel adventures make exercising easy, not to mention fun! The University of Essex recently found that exercising in front of the color green (i.e. nature) fools the mind into feeling less exertion. Their study conducted research on nature-based therapies, and found a direct link between the human mind and how the body responds to natural environments. So if you’re looking for an easy solution for getting fit, fool your mind by planning an active adventure in the great outdoors.

Whether it’s trekking to see mountain gorillas, kayaking in Alaska, or an adventure in the Costa Rican rainforest, planning an active dream trip might be the motivation you need to start exercising. Booking a trip gives you a goal to strive towards, and a reason to get active and get in shape before you go. And of course exercising throughout your vacation means you’ll return home healthier and more energized that you have on previous trips. You won’t feel like you need a vacation from your vacation!

Also, research shows that our society’s obsession with cleanliness might be leading to the rise in allergies, asthma, and even inflammatory bowel disease. But getting dirty helps you build a strong immune system, which improves your overall health. A Japanese study published in 2010 found that visiting wilderness areas boosted the immune system for more than 30 days.

Relaxing by the Pacuare River

Active Adventures Reduce Stress

Have you ever wondered why your family and friends return home after an active adventure with a smile on their face? It’s because they’re happier for it! It’s been scientifically proven that active travel adventures help to reduce stress.

Average stress levels throughout western societies have been rising over the past decade. But research suggests that spending time in the outdoors can help. Nature walks have been found to boost attention levels and decrease early signs of anxiety and depression. They help in restoring higher cognitive function, and can increase your creativity and problem solving skills in just three days. Some doctors are now writing “park prescriptions” in order to get their patients outside to enjoy these benefits.

A disconnect from your usual environment allows you to sort through your stress-related issues with a refreshed perspective. This not only reduces your stress levels in the moment, but allows you to handle stress more effectively when you’re back at home. In addition to keeping you mentally sharp, active travel adventures also raise your tolerance for uncertainty. Travel rarely goes exactly to plan, and these trips help you learn how to cope with life’s never-ending challenges.

So if you’re feeling the strain of urban living, the best way to address this could be with an active vacation! A 2006 study also found that people who stayed active on their vacations were able to extend and improve their quality of sleep.

Active Travel: Biking in Galapagos

Activity is Good For the Soul

One of the best reasons to embark on an adventure is to rejuvenate your overall mental state. According to a Stanford University study, the endorphins released when you experience feelings of awe can trigger a huge mental boost.  And with active travel adventures available in some of the most stunning parts of the world (see: Antarctica, East Africa, and the Galapagos), these days it’s very easy to find awe-inspiring experiences.

Have you ever heard someone say that their travels made them feel alive? This is actually true! These experiences encourage a psychological shift towards more positive moods. They boost our overall zest for life, improve our self awareness, and foster a sense of reflectiveness. This is what people refer to when they say that travel allowed them to discover (or rediscover) their inner self.

Another recent study found that physical activities such as biking and hiking help to grow the hippocampus, which is thought to be the brain’s center of emotion and memory. This typically shrinks in late adulthood, which often leads to impaired memory and increased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. But physical activity has been found to reverse natural hippocampal volume loss, leading to improvements in spatial memory.

Active Travel: Climb Kilimanjaro

It Gives You a Sense of Personal Accomplishment

Whether you’ve decided to summit Mt Kilimanjaro or hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, outdoor adventures offer travelers a sense of accomplishment. These feelings of personal achievement ultimately helps boosts your confidence. The more difficult the adventure and the greater the challenge, the more rewarding it feels when you accomplish your personal goals.

You’ve no doubt heard the old saying that, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Sure, it’s become a cliché in the era of social media, but the sentiment is absolutely true. The healthy stress of being outside your comfort zone allows you to challenge yourself and, in the process, find new capabilities. You develop physical, mental, and emotional strength, and can take immense pride in your achievements.

This newfound sense of self-confidence has also been shown to increase your energy and improve your drive once your vacation is over. Researchers at Tel Aviv University found that those who had returned from active travel adventures worked harder once they were back at their job. They found that active vacations improved self-perception and self-esteem, which boosted employee productivity and led to a significant improvement in job performance afterward.

What a convenient thing to tell your boss when you ask for that extra week of vacation!

International Expeditions group in Patagonia

It Helps You Forge Lifelong Friendships

Adventures have a way of bringing people together and creating lifelong friendships.

The memories you share with other travelers will give you something to bond over, and allow you to develop an understanding of each other that you might not have with friends you’ve known for much longer. Sharing the triumphs and trials which often come with active travel forges a deeper sense of connection, and unites people in a unique way.

Looking to develop a closer relationship with your family or friends? Travel as a group on an active vacation! These types of activities foster open communication, encourage solidarity, and create shared memories which help in building a positive family (or workplace) dynamic. Sharing this type of experience is a fantastic way to bring disparate people together.

Costa Rican culture

It Allows You to Learn New Skills

If you’ve ever wanted to learn new life skills, an outdoor adventure is a great place to start. Overseas adventures inherently create new challenges and allow you to expand your skill set in order to meet them.

Whether you’re looking to develop your negotiation skills by haggling over the price of souvenirs, brushing up on your language skills, or learning about mountaineering, the skills you learn on your travels will stay with you long after you return home.

Panama Guide Richard Cahill

It Allows You to Give Back to the Planet

The benefits of active travel go well beyond your individual health. In some cases – especially those afforded by responsible tour operators – these types of trips allow you to contribute to making the world a better place!

International Expeditions' tours visit some of the most remote and untouched parts of the world. There, your money is feeding directly into the local economy and helping to fund conservation efforts that preserve these pristine landscapes for future generations.

Lots of the world’s most untouched travel destinations are also among the world’s most poverty-stricken countries. Ecotourism offers a sustainable economic incentive for indigenous locals to preserve their native land. Natural resources which were once neglected (or even exploited) can become protected environments once the local community realizes its appeal to international travelers.

It also has a positive impact in demanding change on issues such as animal welfare, waste management and human rights, and worker’s right. As active adventurers, choosing where we spend our money wisely helps to incentivize positive change. 

Megan Jerrard is an Australian Journalist and the founder and Senior Editor of Mapping Megan, an award-winning travel blog bringing you the latest in adventure travel from all over the globe.