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The Benefits of Travel

I have always believed travel is a great education. You're not stuck in a classroom trying to imagine what it would be like, how people live etc. Books are great but there is nothing like experiencing the real thing. To have a fully emerged experience, tasting local cuisine, walking the local streets, seeing how people live, enjoying visits to local monuments and museums. There is also benefits to one's wellbeing, "a change is as good as a rest" as they say. On holiday you get both:) Here is more from Mark Bibby Jackson at Travel Begins at 40 on The Benefits of Travel.

Sunrise from the cabin window, over the wing.
Sunrise at 36,000 feet onboard Qatar Airlines ©MDHarding

The Benefits of Travel

Travel Again When You Can

By Mark Bibby Jackson,

The rush for people to book holidays abroad as soon as rules allowed, and the explosion in staycations—a word found in few folks’ lexicon in 2019—demonstrates just how important a role going on holiday plays in our well-being. Regardless of how long the break or how far you travel, simply getting away from your daily routine (especially work) allows us to slow down a bit. Suddenly all those concerns that have been bugging us over the past months seem pretty inconsequential, as we recharge our perspective as well as our batteries.

Travelling Gives You a Fresh Perspective

The colonial grey building with red domed roof and vintage red and yellow bus.
The quiet streets of Trinidad, Cuba ©MDHarding

I count myself fortunate to have travelled so much. My first major trip—to Asia and beyond—was in 1994. Travelling has literally changed my life and given me a fresh perspective.

Now, while I don’t necessarily advocate you give up your job to go off travelling and even live in another country (as I did), I do recommend you do start travelling again when rules allow.

Southeast Asia is a region I know well having lived there for the best part of a decade, developing many good friends along the way. It has changed the way I view life and given me a greater perspective on how people live their lives around the world. I truly believe that if more people travelled further, many of the world’s problems would disappear as we gain a greater understanding of other communities and realise how much we share.

Naturally, there is travelling and travelling. On my only trip to Cuba at the end of the 1990s, I went on a package trip with a group of fellow travellers from the UK. They stayed in the not-so-luxury resort while my partner and I went exploring both the capital Havana and other parts of the country. When we met up back at our hotel at the end of the week, the other passengers were complaining of the service, the beach, the food, etc, while we talked of our wonderful experiences.

Travel Is Vital for Local Communities

Onboard Car Ferry In India.
Get out and meet the wonderful people around the world - friends you just haven't met yet ©MDHarding

The closer you get to your host community and the more time you get to spend with them, the more you will gain from your travel. I am a strong advocate of slow travel. The benefits from immersing yourself in the culture and food of your host community are enormous. By going on a whistle-stop tour of a country or region, or even worse never leaving your luxury all-inclusive resort, you are denying yourself great opportunities to enrich your experience. It is a bit like going on a cruise and never leaving the ship.

And it is not just you who will benefit from your travel.

While the latter half of the last decade saw many people complain about the effects of over-tourism and point out the genuine environmental consequences of travel and its contribution to climate change, Covid has shown us how the absence of travel can have calamitous consequences on both economies and communities.

When a friend of mine posted on LinkedIn to mark the 500th day of travel restrictions in Cambodia, I stopped to think about that for a moment. That is 500 days cut off from your market. Another friend who runs an ethical travel company in Southeast Asia informed me that they fully expect to go two years without income by the time travel restrictions are fully lifted.

These are not major tour operators and international hotel chains. They are relatively small-scale entrepreneurs who employ many local staff who in turn feed their families. The economic consequences of Covid will be around for many years to come. I recently received a post on Facebook from a tuk tuk driver I use in Cambodia who was complaining about his lack of income due to the absence of tourism. It simply said, “What can I do?”

Travel Back Better

Looking up from the gardens at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, illuminated purple, while some of the room windows are bathed in light.
Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore ©MDHarding

At the moment, travel rules are still … flexible. Please do check how safe it is to visit the destination you have in mind. Cambodia for instance has the second most advanced vaccination programme in Southeast Asia, after Singapore, with all the adult population in the capital Phnom Penh now fully vaccinated. More than 70% of the adult population nationwide have had their first jab and nearly 50% of the adult population have had the second jab.

When it is safe to travel, I urge you to consider doing so in a better way than before Covid.

Various surveys have indicated people want their travel to be more sustainable, and to have a greater benefit for the local community. Although there is little alternative to flying for long haul destinations, we can at least offset our carbon footprint through schemes such as Trees4Travel, which is investing travellers’ money in reforestation and conservation projects.

We can also ensure that our travel has a greater benefit for our host community through choosing ethical travel companies, such as Intrepid or Khiri, that have sustainability wired into the DNA of their business models.

By slowing down our travel and spending more time with communities, we will benefit from a far more enriching experience, and the local communities will benefit from us. Don’t be like my fellow travellers to Cuba two decades ago and limit your travel experience. Instead, go out and explore. You never know it might change your perception of life.


Mark Bibby Jackson ©Life Begins At 40

Mark Bibby Jackson is passionate about travel and sharing the joys of visiting new places and people. He is the founder and group editor of websites Travel Begins at 40 and London Begins at 40, as well as the award-winning author of three thrillers set in Cambodia. He is the former editor of AsiaLIFE Cambodia, ASEAN Forum and Horizon Thailand magazines.

Twitter: @TravelBegins40

Facebook / Instagram: @TravelBeginsat40


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