Would you believe that Aussies need to holiday more?

We may have a reputation (amongst ourselves mainly) that we are a nation mad for time off work and have turned public holidays into an artform, but guess what? It’s not true!

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Better Life Index, one in five Australians work more than 50 hours each week and overall, we rank among the hardest working nations in the developed world. In fact, Australians ranked fourth for long hours worked among 34 OECD nations.

Furthermore, Expedia’s 2015 “vacation deprivation” study shows that Aussies are among the least likely in the entire world to take their full amount of annual leave and relax away from work. Of the 20 days (4 weeks) of paid leave we can take under FairWork legislation, workers who did the Expedia survey took just 18, leaving 2 days unused. More shockingly, 11% of Australians take absolutely no annual leave.

6 reasons to travel

The saying goes that a change is as good as a holiday.

But, really? Is it?

Doubtful. (Change a tyre vs a trip to Tuscany? No contest. Change a hairstyle vs a holiday in Cape Town? Bring me my passport).

What’s better than getting away from it all to discover new places, different food and wine and new people? More than that, travelling isn’t just fun and excitement, there’s plenty of official, sciency-type evidence that proves travel is great for you in other ways too.

Behold the facts!

Travel makes you physically healthier

According to a recent US-based study, travelling actually keeps you healthier. Turns out that women who holiday at least twice a year show a significantly lower risk of suffering a heart attack than those who only travel every six years or so. The same is true for men. Men who do not take an annual holiday show a 20 percent higher risk of death and 30 percent greater risk of heart disease.

Beyond, the research, let’s just consider it logically. If you work in an office, sitting at a desk for more than eight hours a day, a holiday will naturally improve your physicality by getting you temporarily out of your sedentary lifestyle. You’re out, you’re about and you’re moving around more.

Travel relieves stress

While, undeniably, the packing and commuting parts of travel can coincide with the odd breakdown, travelling has been proven to lower stress levels in a big way. According to a 2013 survey by the American Psychological Association, holidays can help manage stress and negative emotions by taking us away from environments and activities that are stressing us the hell out. Cue: perspective and a new, refreshed attitude.

It’s good for your brain

Famous neuroscientist and University of California professor, ­Michael Merzenich speaks regularly about how we need to keep doing and learning new things — breaking out of our comfort zone for our brains to grow new synapses and regulate our bodies to stay healthy. Since travel is the epitomy of leaving the comfort zone, it makes sense that it keeps the brain agile and learning makes us fitter inside and out. Memory is put to the test – finding destinations, learning new words and pronunciations, problem-solving, adapting. Travelling also releases many stimulatory hormones and chemicals because we experience high-voltage emotions, which is why we often come home from a jaunt with a new approach to work or our career or feel compelled to start that book or rediscover painting. Which brings us to …

Travel enhances creativity

Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School confirms in an intellectually impressive (and slightly confusing) way that by presenting us with new challenges and exposing us to different ways of life, our capacity to be creative expands. “Foreign experiences [in particular] increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms.” In other words: New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain have the potential to revitalise the mind.

Travel makes you happier

Most people tend to be happier when they’re travelling and don’t have to worry about work, of course. However, one of the more interesting takeaways from a Cornell University study is that people also experience a direct increase in happiness from just planning a trip. The study found that the anticipation of going on a holiday is far greater than the anticipation of acquiring a physical possession. The great news is the benefits of travelling begin well before the trip does.

Travel improves your relationships

When you are on a holiday there is time to actually talk and communicate with your partner without the interruptions of social media or other external factors.  You actually get to spend quality time together. The benefits of holidays extend to family relationships, too. Xinran Lehto, a professor at Purdue University discovered, through a group research project, that family holidays contribute positively to family bonding, communication and solidarity by promoting what is called the “crescive bond”. (Note to self: a reminder for Christmas time, a week into visiting relatives).

Hands up who’s ready to plan their next trip?

Where will your travels take you this year? You know full well you need a holiday. What are you waiting for? Get planning. Doctor’s orders! Start here.

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