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As a nation, we love traveling. An unsurpassed number of Americans traverse the world on vacation, enjoying concomitant scientifically-proven health benefits such as stress relief, heightened creativity, improved mental health, and augmented marital satisfaction.
However, a critical review written by academics Scott Cohen and Stefan Gössling concludes that society’s idealization of fast and frequent travels — the glamorization of hypermobility — takes no account of the personal and social ramifications. The researchers label these health consequences “the darker side” of frequent travels. These overlooked risks include: disruption of the body’s circadian rhythm, deep-vein thrombosis, cancer, gastrointestinal issues, alienation, loneliness, and a potentially higher risk of developing psychological disorders.
Sometimes we cannot avoid it — some jobs and study abroad programs require fast and frequent travels. With the following tips, we can curb the side effects of hypermobility and maximize well-being.
Checklists: simple written guides that help us avoid mistakes. Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto proves this point by examining how experts, whether building skyscrapers or flying a plane, utilize checklists to increase productivity and avoid failure. We can easily forget to take our vitamins when our senses are barraged by novel places — so, use a short checklist to ensure that you have done the minimum actions to maintain your health. Items on your checklist can include taking medicines, going for a short walk, drinking enough water, eating adequate fruits/vegetables, wearing compression socks, and applying sunscreen.
We spend a lot of time sitting in flights, trains, and other modes of transportation. Traveler’s inactivity can cause blood to pool in our leg veins, resulting in foot and leg swelling. To avoid this, stand or take walks while waiting for transportation. When seated during a flight or train, take short walks hourly, and flex your ankles, knees, and calves while seated. Shifting in your seat can help too. At your destination, purposefully choose activities that allow you to be active, such as walking or biking tours. When safe and appropriate, climb stairs instead of riding elevators, walk to destinations rather than taking transportation, and stand instead of sitting.
Keep a water bottle with you at all times to stay hydrated while traveling — drinking plenty of fluids can help relieve swelling, dehydration, constipation, and jet lag. If your travel plans include flying on an airplane, bring an empty reusable water bottle with you through security. After clearing airport security, fill the bottle with bottled water throughout your travels. Bringing your own reusable water bottle provides distinct benefits — they can be multi-purposed to carry goods like snacks or toiletries, they keep water at a preferred temperature (if insulated), and they do not provide the BPA exposure that plastic water bottles do.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, contaminated food and water are the leading causes of traveler’s diarrhea and many other illnesses. Travelers can minimize their risk of developing food-borne diseases by consuming steaming hot foods and beverages, avoiding street vendors, ordering all meat well done, and evading anything cold even if it has previously been cooked. High-risk foods, which are classified due to the relative ease with which food-poisoning bacteria can grow and reproduce on them, include dairy products, salads, eggs, and cold food. Travelers should also avoid tap water and ice, because they could be contaminated and subsequently cause gastrointestinal illnesses, reproductive issues, and neurological disorders.
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