As a teacher, your own mind, body, and soul are often set aside or even buried under taking care of everyone else’s. You are often told to “remember self-care,” and it’s easy to roll your eyes when it comes from people who just don’t get it. It’s not that easy for teachers to take time away to travel…until summer, that is.
They can’t comprehend the amount of time, the all-encompassing mental dedication it takes to be a teacher. The way a school year seems to swallow you whole, depositing you into summer feeling washed up and wondering whether you can take another year of this. Sinking gratefully into your time of summer rest while trying to squeeze in everything you couldn’t get done in the last 10 months. And desperately trying to ignore that ceaseless countdown to fall ticking in the back of your mind.
The summer struggle is real. But it is important to make yourself a priority to make up for the months where you simply couldn’t.
One of the best ways to do this is to escape–to take a trip somewhere. While budgets and travel personalities will vary, every single one of you deserves to step away from reality for a bit.
Traveling has countless benefits; here are just a few:
Scientifically-Proven Health Benefits
I recently read an article that lays out the many health benefits of travel. You can read the full article here, but below is a recap.
- Travel makes you healthier – One study found that women who vacation twice a year have a significantly lower chance of suffering a heart attack than those who vacation every six years or so. And for men? No vacation can bring a 20% higher chance of death and a 30% higher chance of heart disease. That is wild.
- Traveling can relieve stress – A change of scenery is the ultimate live version of “out of sight, out of mind” – when you step into a new location, your brain can escape from the day-to-day stressors of the education world. This phenomenon obviously is strongest while on vacation, but it can actually linger in the weeks after returning home.
- Traveling can enhance your creativity – Experiencing new cultures, foods, and even landforms will inspire and enhance your own creativity. You’ll have learning experiences that you can tie to the classroom. You’ll gain new metaphors for concepts or even see the things you teach about directly in your classroom.
- Traveling can boost your happiness/satisfaction – Stepping out of your bubble will obviously give you a break from the day-to-day stress of work. But did you know that the planning and anticipation of a trip can also provide some stress relief? The little glimpses of what’s to come will give your brain a mini-break and hold you over a bit until the trip.
- Traveling can lower the risk of depression – We all know mental health is in the foreground these days. For women, there is an inverse relationship between frequency of travel and likelihood of suffering from depression and chronic stress.
- Get out of your bubble – It’s refreshing and eye-opening to experience different cultures. Europeans, for example, live life with a little less hurry and a lot more walking. A trip to Europe may be a stretch, but the beach carries a similar laid-back lifestyle that is a stark contrast to the frantic pace of a school year.
- Find inspiration – Perhaps you’ll learn something in your travels that you can use to improve your everyday life. The sweet memories with your family, for instance, can snap you back into the reality that family should come first. If your workplace is not supportive of that concept, you might come home ready to fight for it–or find a place that is more understanding.
- Enhance your teaching – Visit a location that relates to your content. I worked with a teacher who visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, and she brought back a virtual tour of the Franks’ hiding place on a DVD. As she taught Anne’s story, she was able to walk students through her living quarters and provide personal experience. Her students came away more connected to the literature.
- Model lifelong learning – Travel is an experience, and as teachers, you know that experience can be the best learning opportunities. We can learn a great deal about ourselves and the world around us as we go. This is a great way to model lifelong learning for your students.
Stretch Your Budget
Your travel budget may be tight. However, there are options and ways to stretch your wallet a bit and still have the opportunity to get away.
- Apply for a grant – NEA offers grants for teachers to take educational/enrichment trips. Click here to explore the many programs they have available.
- Travel with others – invite family members and/or friends to go with you. Renting a house from VRBO or AirBnB can drastically reduce the per-person cost of lodging. Additionally, you can choose a place with a full kitchen, saving you tons of money by avoiding restaurants.
- Go camping – Camping is another affordable lodging option. And many campgrounds are surrounded with beautiful natural areas to explore.
- Explore your own state – With the current cost of gas, sticking close to home can save you hundreds of dollars in gas money or plane tickets. Research areas of your own state that you’ve never visited.
- “Take more pictures, buy less stuff” – I can’t remember where I read this recently, but it’s so true. Many souvenirs inevitably end up collecting dust on a shelf or filling space in the kitchen junk drawer. Today’s smartphones have excellent cameras; find your inner photographer!
- Take a staycation – Find the hidden gems of your own town (or those nearby). Make a bucket list, and hit something every week.
- Do some research – You are research and planning pros. Ask friends and family for recommendations on saving money. Check out books from the library that give tips on traveling light.
- Use credit card perks (carefully) – Many credit cards come with some pretty awesome perks these days, like cash back or travel points. When used responsibly, this is a great way to add to your travel savings.
So don’t let the fear of the unknown hold you back this summer – get out there and take the break so you very much deserve!
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