James and I just got back home from a week-long RV trip. We didn’t go far, just took our Ekko Number One to a state park we had never been to that’s only a few hours away. It’s funny, we’ve been RVing for a dozen or so years now, all over North America, and it’s the close-to-home destinations we’ve yet to visit.
We met some RV friends there for our typical RV shenanigans; biking, hiking, exploring the area. So now that we’ve wrapped up the trip, I’m currently experiencing the post-trip glow. If you’re an RVer, you know the glow. It’s those feelings of contentment and satisfaction that settle in after any good trip—where your mind is happily at work filing away the trip memories and polishing the experience.
According to research, there’s actually something to the post-trip glow. There are many research-backed mental health benefits to traveling, research that supports my current healthy frame of mind. Those benefits go way beyond your typical expectations of traveling, like having a chance to relax.
Sure, relaxing tends to be a major draw for wanting to hit the road. Ironically though, if you take an RV trip and all you do is kick back and relax, you’re doing exactly the opposite thing you need to boost your mental health. To reap the health benefits of travel, forgo rest and instead do things that get you out of your comfort zone. Find opportunities where you can experience and learn new things. Because it’s when our RV trips challenge us that the real health-boosting magic happens.
With that in mind, here are 5 ways RV traveling benefits our mental health.
1. RVing Lowers Stress
Too much chronic stress makes us irritable, anxious, bad at making decisions and even affects our memory. RVing distracts you from your ‘real life’ stresses by getting you both out of your normal environment and out of your own head. Visiting new places lets you “switch off” from your daily stresses. It allows you to focus on your new travel experiences and the challenges that go with traveling— instead of the things in your life stressing you out. There’s nothing sweeter than an RV trip for taking a break from the daily grind.
2. RVing Boosts Confidence
Despite the pretty pictures you see on Instagram, RVing isn’t easy. You’re taking a rolling home on wheels to places unknown— hopeful that weather, campground neighbors, and the RV itself cooperates. The prize for triumphing over the obstacles the road throws your way—because trust me, it will— is boosted confidence and a greater belief in yourself and what you’re capable of. The more trips you take, the more your confidence grows. That extra confidence you build from RVing carries over to all aspects of your life, making you better able to tackle any challenges that come your way with a stronger, more confident frame of mind.
3. RVing Inspires Self-Discovery
Our capacity for learning more about ourselves is limitless. You can glean lessons from everywhere in life, especially when you’re on the road and outside your familiar territory or routines. Traveling immerses you in all sorts of new experiences. You’ll discover things you never knew you liked—and things you didn’t know you disliked. Being exposed to so many new and unfamiliar situations teaches you more about your strengths and weaknesses, too. When you’re on an RV trip, you’re opened up to situations that might highlight your fears and insecurities or perhaps even bring about a sense of joy and gratefulness. No matter what, your travels will shape you, shift your perspective, and help you get a little closer to the real you.
4. RVing Combats Depression
People with depression often avoid things that can bring pleasure, which only makes depression worse. RVing is a form of behavioral activation— a behavior therapy strategy where you increase your engagement in rewarding activities, especially when you are feeling depressed. Travel offers a change of pace and place that can leave positive long-lasting effect on your psyche. While curing severe depression is no easy road, getting out there and having RV adventures can play a transformative role in helping ease depression.
5. RVing Builds Resiliency
Research tells us that people who are resilient—or have a high capacity to recover quickly from difficulties—are more protected from various mental health issues. The good news is that even if your own resiliency skills are lacking, you can nurture and grow them. One of the best ways to build resiliency is to do things outside your comfort zone, like RVing. So much is out of your control when you’re traveling: your RV could break down, you might take a wrong turn… But, every challenge you face on the road makes you a little tougher. The more trips you take, the better you get at rolling with the punches and being resourceful when challenges do arise.
So, there you go–5 ways RVing helps your mental health. If you’ve been RVing for a while, you can probably attest to many of these. Because part of the beauty of the RVing adventure is that uncertainty is certain. That’s not a bad thing; it’s where we get tested and have the potential to grow. We have to let go of trying to control the journey too tightly, and instead be ready for however it unfolds. When you can do that, you’ll be rewarded with a successful adventure, a healthier mindset, and the soundest lessons along the way.
Have you ever had a trip cause you to have that desired glow afterward? Tell us how RVing feels healthy to you in the comments below!
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Stef & James hail from thefitrv.com, where they work to promote healthy RVing… for both you and your RV! Stef is an RVing health/fitness pro, and James is a former aerospace engineer known for doing over-the-top RV mods to their Winnebago EKKO “Number One”. You can find Stef’s fitRVing tips and James’ RV tech tips either in RV Magazine or over at thefitrv.com.