Magazine 2017
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
*Neha Bhansali,  
This paper attempts a review of what could be the psychological, social and spiritual benefits of travel.  
The psychological benefits, which include cognitive and affective benefits, have been discussed in the  
paper. The social benefits at both an individual and larger societal level are explored. Lastly, this paper  
attempts to discuss how travelling could contribute to personal and spiritual growth and well being.  
Keywords : travel , benefits, psychological, social, affective, spiritual, well-being  
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.  
Saint Augustine  
Stress is a part of everyday life. So much so that the term stress has become part of our colloquial speech. It is  
a noun (We have stress). It is an adjective (He has a stressful job). It is an adverb (She acts stressed). And it is  
a verb (Writing a paper stresses me). Indeed, a recent poll by the American Psychological Association (2007)  
shows that, for many of us, stress levels are high and are on the rise.  
Most guess that minor stressors would produce minor effects, but that isn’t necessarily true. Research shows  
that routine hassles may have significant negative effects on a person’s mental and physical health (Delongis,  
Folkman, & Lazarus, 1988; Klumb & Baltes, 2004; Sher, 2003). In fact, researchers found that scores on a scale  
measuring daily hassles were more strongly related to participants’ mental health than the scores on a scale  
measuring major life events were (Kanner et al., 1981).  
In a technologically connected world even a day off is laden with email, messages and phone calls. People  
today have all the more need to get away from these cumulative pressures even if it is for a while.  
What does travel bring to the table then ? People travel not only for a vacation but for also for work. At times  
work related travel is a source of stress. In spite of this it has it’s merits.  
Tourism related individuals as well as their families always look forward to travel. At times people travel also to  
get over a crisis or get in touch with their own self.  
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An interesting way to look at what travel could provide could by drawing from Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of  
needs(1943). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has often been represented in a hierarchical pyramid with five levels.  
The four levels (lower-order needs) are considered physiological needs, while the top level of the pyramid is  
considered growth needs. The lower level needs must be satisfied before higher-order needs can influence  
behavior. The levels are as follows  
Self-actualization – includes morality, creativity, problem solving, etc.  
Esteem – includes confidence, self-esteem, achievement, respect, etc.  
Belongingness – includes love, friendship, intimacy, family, etc.  
Safety – includes security of environment, employment, resources, health, property, etc.  
Physiological – includes air, food, water, sex, sleep, other factors towards homeostasis, etc.  
Further researches have identified cognitive, aesthetic and self transcendence needs. Depending upon the kind  
and purpose of the trip , tourism can satisfy needs of belonginess and affiliation, aesthetic needs, cognitive  
needs and even self-actualization and transcendental needs.  
Some Significant Researches  
In tourism, a number of scholars (Neal et al., 1999; Neal et al., 2007; Sirgy et al., 2011) 19 have examined the  
benefits of tourism based on bottom-up spillover theory .This theory suggests that overall life satisfaction is  
influenced by evaluations of various life domains, such as personal health, work, leisure, and family, while the  
positive and negative affects accompanied by a life event are assumed to have an influence on how individuals  
evaluate various life domains (Neal et al., 1999).  
A series of studies have been conducted to empirically test the bottom-up spillover model in tourism. Neal et  
al. (1999) were among the first to examine the effects of vacationing as a life event on individuals’ life satisfaction.  
Their research indicated that life satisfaction was directly influenced by trip satisfaction(p<0.05), while the  
proposed mediating role of leisure life satisfaction was found to not be significant (p > .05)  
Sirgy et al. (2011) developed a scale to measure the positive and negative affects accompanied by taking a  
vacation couched within various life domains, including: social life, family life, leisure life, cultural life, health  
and safety, financial life, work life, love life, arts and culture, spiritual life, intellectual life, self, culinary life, and  
travel life. Sirgy et al., (2011) also tested whether the positive and negative affects of vacation experiences on  
these 13 life domains influenced overall life satisfaction through satisfaction with the 13 life domains. They found  
that positive affects associated with taking a vacation had direct and indirect effects on overall life satisfaction.  
Westman et al have employed a series of studies to investigate the impacts of vacations on burnout (Westman  
Eden, 1997; Westman & Etzion, 2001; Westman & Etzion, 2002;Westman et al., 2008), and their results have  
indicated that vacations decreased respondents’ job stress and burnout. In a similar vein, Sonnentag and Frtiz  
subsequently demonstrated that vacation recovery experiences (such as psychological detachment from work,  
relaxation experience, master experience, and perceived control during vacation) can contribute to employees’  
mental and physical health by providing internal and external resources (Fritz & Sonnentag, 2006; Sonnentag  
Fritz, 2007).  
Individuals with health problems and/or disabilities have also drawn attention from scholars in health science.  
For example, Gump & Matthews (2000) examined the association between frequency of vacationing and health  
risks among 12,388 men at high risk for heart disease in the United States. They found that individuals who  
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traveled more frequently had fewer nonfatal cardiovascular events and lower risk factors for coronary heart  
disease. Furthermore, based on their interviews with 11 individuals with mental health problems in the Netherlands,  
Pols & Kroon (2007) also found that mental health patients might benefit from taking a vacation in terms of new  
perceptions of self-identity, skill development, and social relations.  
Psychological Benefits  
When we speak of psychological benefits it becomes imperative to discuss both psychological and cognitive  
benefits of tourism .  
At a cognitive level people report learning about various geographical phenomena, cultural aspects, historical  
events and linguistic aspects through travel. They not only get informed but also learn to appreciate individual  
and cultural differences. Travelling also develops individual’s planning skills along with a slow gradual acceptance  
of uncertainty.  
Traveling requires identification of the purpose, research about places that will satisfy the purpose , planning  
the arrangements, costing-economics as well as planning of events and activities during the stay. It develops  
communication and co-ordination skills as co-travellers are expected to come to an agreement. At times this  
planning process does teach conflict management skills to the involved parties.  
Affective benefits could be understood by the term “Peak Experiences”. Maslow, the term’s inventor, says that  
peak experiences are sudden feelings of intense happiness and well-being, possibly the awareness of an  
ultimate truth” and the unity of all things ... the experience fills the individual with wonder and awe....he feels  
at one with the world, and is pleased with it ....” They are moments when you feel more at one with yourself and  
the world, more integrated. You feel happy, even ecstatic, interconnected and in harmony.  
According to Conway and Rubin (1993), “autobiographical memory is memory for the events of one’s life”  
Autobiographical memory relates to our major life goals, our most powerful emotions, and our personal meanings.  
As Cohen (1989) pointed out, our sense of identity or self-concept depends on being able to recollect our  
personal history. Individuals who cannot recall the events of their lives have effectively lost their identity. The  
vacations and trips people take have a special position in their autobiographical memories. The positive  
emotions generated during their trips contribute to their self-concept and identity formation. Positive life events  
and places they fondly remember are also used in a technique called as Safe Place Imagery which is often used  
with trauma survivors and people suffering from anxiety. Very often this “safe place” is a place that they have  
visited as tourist and had positive life experiences there .  
For children also the benefits are many. Travel gives children a chance to explore the unchartered territory that  
they may have only heard or read about before. It satisfies and fosters their curiosity. With children the fascination  
for the new brings joy as so with the natural child in the adults(Berne,1964).At a family level it gives chances for  
better communication and shared novel experiences make the bond with co-travellers or family stronger.  
Social Benefits  
At a societal level, tourism challenges stereotypes about the tourist as well as the habitants of the destination.  
The Contact Hypothesis states that increased contact among people from different groups can lead to a  
growing recognition of similarities between them—which can change the categorizations that people employ.  
(Pettigrew, 1997). The more we are in contact with the so called “out-group” , the less the chances of us having  
prejudices or stereotypes about them . Exposure to groups that we perceive as different may also bust a  
couple of myths about differences as well as similarities. Observing situations in context provides understanding  
rather than just obtaining information randomly.  
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With the latest trend of AIRBNB and other informal homestay possibilities the contact with the inhabitants is  
genuine and in-depth. The tourist doesn’t just get a superficial upper slice of the experience but has an opportunity  
to experience a lifestyle that may be dramatically different from his/her own along with developing empathy for  
the inhabitants.  
Tourism also gives a boost to the economic welfare of the destination. Better tourism income could lead to  
development of infrastructure and travel facilities. This in turn could open up more economic, occupational  
possibilities for the inhabitants.  
Spiritual Benefits  
Going away from the comfort of familiar settings and pulling away from daily pre-occupations does a very  
positive effect on self-awareness. When faced with new environment, mind tends to be refreshed by necessity  
of being alert. It is instigated by apparent absence of comfort zone held together by configuration of habits. As  
Roman Payne once said “A person does not grow from the ground like a vine or a tree, one is not part of a plot  
of land. Mankind has legs so it can wander.”  
Spiritual tourism and it’s benefits are well known. Spiritual journeys are one type of cultural tourism that is on  
the rise, as people are increasingly looking to develop their own spirituality and to discover that of others. In  
007, spiritual tourism was judged by the UNWTO as the most rapidly growing segment, although it cannot be  
easily framed. In fact, spiritual tourism is based on a variety of motivations, ranging from traditional religious  
tourism to alternative medicine to forms of deep immersion in nature. Pilgrimages have been a favourite for a  
large number of people of various religions. However, in the past few years spiritual tourist retreats and ashrams  
are on the rise. India is one of the leading destinations for this kind of spiritual tourism and we have tourists from  
all over the world coming for such retreats. Meditation, yoga, mindfullness are some of the activities that are  
taught in these retreats .  
When we speak of spiritual benefits we do not necessarily mean only the benefits of spiritual tourism. Discomfort  
and spontaneous circumstances can help awaken conscious intentions to be tolerant and receptive,  
compassionate toward yourself and others. At times , a person facing a crisis or dilemma may do well by  
exploring unknown destinations. Traveling alone or with strangers may also lead to introspection and challenging  
our perspective to life. The lone traveler may obtain a kind of freedom from societal and worldly pressures or  
expectations. The feeling of freedom once savored may grow into a strong desire to abandon superficial  
existence and embrace life of an authentic individual.  
In conclusion, the benefits of travel are many and at various levels. The psychological, social and spiritual  
benefits cut across ages , gender and other demographic backgrounds. Certain kinds of tourism need to be  
explored more as to how they contribute to growth. It would be interesting to study if certain kind of personality  
and cultural characteristics show greater preference to certain kinds of tourism. This kind of information can  
prove beneficial to all the stakeholders.  
References :  
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19(4), 732-751.  
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Maslow, A.H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.  
Maslow, A.H. (1964). Religions, Values and Peak-experiences. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press.  
Milman, A. (1998). The impact of tourism and travel wxperience on senior travelers’  
psychological well-being. Journal of Travel Research, 37(2), 166-170.  
Neal, J. D., Sirggy, M. J., & Uysal, M. (1999). The role of satisfaction with leisure  
travel/tourism services and experience in satisfaction with leisure life and overall  
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Pettigrew, T. F.; Tropp, L. R. (2006). “A meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory”.Journal of Personality  
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Sirgy, M. J. (2010). Toward a quality-of-life theory of leisure travel satisfaction. Journal  
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Organizational Psychology, 81(3), 459-480.  
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Maniben Nanavati Women’s College, Mumbai - 400056.