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What Is Travel Therapy?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Feb 13, 2024
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Travel therapy may refer to either the work of a health care professional traveling with a client or the idea of trips as being personally therapeutic. In either form, it can allow a person to get the most out of taking a vacation or other trip. Travel therapy can allow those who require assistance from a physical therapist or nurse to be able to function well enough to take part in sightseeing activities during the trip. For people wanting to take a physical journey as well as one of self-discovery, travel therapy can be used to achieve this goal.

Personal travel experiences are used to gain insight into one's values, beliefs, desires, needs and/or many other possible qualities. For some people, this may mean journaling or keeping a written diary or blog of their observations, feelings and thoughts. For others, doing extensive research including interviewing people in a certain part of the world, then reflecting on the findings, is more of their style of travel therapy.

While physical travel includes the senses such as seeing the sights or possibly hearing new music or tasting unusual foods, traveling as a type of personal therapy involves concentrating on the inner workings of the mind and/or spirit. Just as some travelers interested in personal discovery focus on the spiritual or emotional elements, for some it is more of an intellectual experience.

For people needing physical therapy or other medical treatment such as those injured or ill, the main intent is to have the necessary therapeutic techniques or procedures in order to function on the trip. There are travel therapists who spend most of their work hours traveling with patients or as part of a mobile medical team. Traveling nurses and physical therapists attend to and supervise the health of patients both on modes of transportation and at the destination. The types of travel therapy given to the patient by the therapist will depend on need and the doctor's orders.

Travel therapists are often given their own room or separate suite, depending on the country and the amount or type of medical insurance coverage, if any. They must typically always be in close proximity to the patient to attend to any problems or changes in his or her condition. A person traveling for the purpose of self-discovery may be alone or part of a group. When traveling in a group focused on travel therapy, personal experience is still highlighted, but the itinerary, accommodations or other features of the trip are usually planned for everyone.

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Discussion Comments
By browncoat — On Sep 17, 2014

@bythewell - There are some really great inspirational books about traveling as a form of therapy actually. Probably one of the more famous modern ones is Eat, Pray, Love, but I would also recommend the classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which is about a man traveling by motorcycle across the country.

It's one of the most popular kinds of travel memoir, actually, since it gives character and purpose to the story rather than just being a list of events and places.

By bythewell — On Sep 16, 2014

@irontoenail - It depends on what kind of therapy you mean. If someone is trying to become a more confident person, I think travel, particularly by themselves, can be a huge confidence boost. You realize that you can rely on yourself and that you're capable of doing amazing things that you might never have thought you could while you stayed at home.

If you are extremely stressed or sad, going somewhere peaceful can be a boon to the soul as well. All travel doesn't have to be excitement and movement around a place. You can pick a cabin on a beach and settle there for a month and the ocean can be your counselor.

By irontoenail — On Sep 16, 2014

I'm not sure I would ever undertake travel as a form of therapy. It always seems like a stressful activity to me. It's very exciting and worthwhile, but I don't think it would do my mental state any good if I was already unhappy.

I've traveled solo and almost always end up feeling very lonely after a while. And I've traveled with close friends and ended up longing for solitude. Time off from work might be good therapy, but I think it's better to stay home.

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