Tags: Health COVID19 Achieving in life Real Wellbeing factors

“Travel is a coping mechanism that a lot of people have been without for quite a few years, which is contributing to that burnt-out feeling. It’s a reset time for your brain, and people who travel regularly do see the benefits in their mental health.”—Georgia Maling, Mental Health Coach, MindStep.

Key points

  • Travel has significant benefits for our wellbeing, giving us something to look forward to and a fresh perspective on life.
  • If you’re feeling anxious or stressed about travel, realise this is normal and aim to control the things you can control.
  • Following COVID-safe guidelines is a proactive way to alleviate some of the stress of travelling.

The gently crashing waves. The hustle and bustle of an exotic city. The treks through rice paddies, over mountains and past ancient ruins. 

However you choose to do it and wherever you go, travel is an act of self-care—a chance to unwind, reset and re-centre. At least, it was before the pandemic snapped borders shut, keeping us stuck in our suburbs, states and country. 

Now that travel is back on the cards, it seems many of us are reluctant to take the plunge. So what’s standing in our way? And why is it worth facing our fears to get back out there?

Open suitcase full of clothes and travel items

Where did all our wanderlust go?

After being unable to travel abroad for more than two years, you’d expect people to be very eager to get out and about. But it seems almost the opposite is true, with international tourism down to a mere trickle. 

It makes sense when you think about it, though. After all, many of us have already suffered repeated disappointments caused by the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, while others may be anxious about the chance of contracting COVID or getting stuck overseas. 

“Unfortunately, I think COVID over the past couple of years has made us quite hypervigilant to things that aren’t certain,” says Georgia Maling, a coach for mental health program MindStep, delivered by Australian Unity’s health division Remedy Healthcare.  “So many people have had plans disrupted, particularly if you were living in Victoria, with the various sudden lockdowns that we’ve had and the cancelling of plans over and over and over again. 

“I think people are quite cautious about that and the disappointment that comes along with it, so they’re trying not to expose themselves to the potential for that happening again.” 

But, she adds, if you never expose yourself to the risks associated with travel, you’ll never get to experience the benefits and rewards that come along with it. 

The Real Wellbeing benefits of travel

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of routine, but after a while the endless cycle of “eat, work, sleep, repeat” can be very draining, leading to feelings of numbness, fatigue and even burnout. 

A change of scenery can help shake off stale energy, and planning the trip can give you something to look forward to, Georgia says. In her opinion, “researching accommodation, fantasising about what you’re going to do, eat and see—that’s half the fun!”

The time away can do wonders for your Real Wellbeing too, with travel being shown to reduce stress, improve brain function, increase creativity and boost mental health.

“Travel is a coping mechanism that a lot of people have been without for quite a few years, which is contributing to that burnt-out feeling,” Georgia says. “It’s a reset time for your brain, and people who travel regularly do see the benefits in their mental health.” 

Small child with suitcase at airport

Come home reinvigorated, with a fresh perspective

Another benefit of travel is that it broadens your world view, giving your perspective a much-needed shake-up. 

“It is known that your empathy increases when you see and experience different cultures and different ways of living,” Georgia says. “Seeing that diversity, making international friends, studying languages, different types of food and music—this all helps build your world view and your world perspective.”

You’ll come back refreshed and energised and will likely see your life in a whole new light, because “travel also gives you a greater appreciation for your own surroundings”.

How to manage travel-related stress in the COVID era

It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous about travel post-COVID—whether it’s thinking you might get sick, or just because it’s been a long time since you’ve done it. 

But focusing disproportionately on things we can’t control causes anxiety and actually isn’t going to do you any favours. 

“Anxiety and stress come from predictions about what may or may not happen in the future—and if your brain is working so hard to prepare for everything that may happen, that just sounds exhausting,” Georgia says. “It also means your travel is not going to be as pleasant an experience as it could be, and all those benefits will be overshadowed by the stress.”

Her advice is to instead focus on what you can do to troubleshoot some of your top concerns. For example:

  • If you’re worried about getting stuck overseas, have a chat with your workplace about your capabilities to work remotely or the potential for flexibility to extend your plans if that does happen. 
  • Make sure you have enough funds to cover extended accommodation and other daily costs. 
  • Read over the terms of your travel insurance so you know what you’re covered for. 

Family planning holiday

Following COVID-safe guidelines is another proactive way to focus your energy and attention, according to Steve Hollow, Head of General Insurance at Australian Unity .

“In terms of domestic travel, simply follow the COVID-safe advice—get vaccinated and boosted, wear masks when travelling in crowded spaces, such as public transport and planes,” he says. 

Meanwhile, for international travellers, Steve has these top tips: 

  • Make sure you have travel insurance that protects you if you contract COVID before you travel or while you’re travelling.
  • Check the government’s Smart Traveller website to understand the requirements of the destinations you want to travel to and follow the advice on the site.
  • Take all the precautions you can to avoid contracting COVID in the first place.

There’s such a thing as being overprepared

While it always helps to be prepared, Georgia points out that it is possible to overdo it.

“Some clients tell me that they’ll double- and triple-check that they have everything in their suitcase before flying,” she says. “I think we’d all agree that one to two checks are sensible and reasonable, but once you get up to that third and fourth check it’s probably just adding to your stress and making you doubt yourself more.”

Besides, no matter how hard you try, there’s no getting around the fact that, from time to time, even the best laid plans can and do go awry. But, Georgia really believes that the upsides of travel outweigh the potential risks.

“Overall, just do it,” she says. “Taking some time away from work, seeing new places, it does release the stress that you’ve been holding onto—and releasing that stress and tension relaxes your mind and helps you to heal.”

Disclaimer: Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest. Interviewee titles and employer are cited as at the time of interview and may have changed since publication.

Remedy Healthcare Group Pty Limited and Australian Unity Health Limited are wholly owned subsidiaries of Australian Unity Limited.

An Australian Unity health partner, Remedy Healthcare provides targeted, solution-oriented healthcare that is based on clinically proven techniques. For more than 10 years, Remedy Healthcare has worked with more than 100,000 Australians – helping them to manage their health through caring, coaching, empowerment and support.