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with Billie Ruff

Why travel?

Everyone has their own reasons for roaming the globe whether it's to learn about other cultures, because travel is good for your health, or it's just plain fun to discover and explore new things.

Traveling is the best education you'll ever have. It will open your eyes to new ways of life and help you gain a new perspective and wisdom when it comes to looking at your own life. When you stand outside of something looking in, it changes the way you look at everything.

A lot of people believe that traveling is a grass-roots movement toward world peace. OK, it may sound like a stretch at first, but think about it. Most of the fears we have about other cultures are because we don't know them, and they are "foreign" to us. When you meet new cultures, you can't help but realize they have different foods, dress, languages and traditions, but everyone is basically the same in their desire for safety, love, and happiness.

Granted, we can't have the same large impact as governments, but peoples of the world getting to know each other can only help to bring the world community closer together. Maybe that's why at the first Global Summit on Peace through Tourism, more than 450 world leaders recognized travel and tourism as a "global peace industry."

Believe it or not, visiting the world will help you live longer and feel better. It's a proven fact that an annual vacation can cut a person's risk of heart attack by 50 percent and blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of epinephrine (a stress hormone) decline after just one or two days on vacation. Most travelers sleep better on vacation and get three times more deep sleep after returning home. While on a trip, most travelers rate their health one complete point higher (on a scale of 1-5) than normal. Leisure activities improve your physical and mental health. It's one of the few win-win opportunities around!

Just thinking about a trip beforehand increases positive feelings about life in general. And traveling reconnects families. As you explore new places together, you can't help but concentrate on each other and grow closer. In fact, women who take more vacations are more satisfied with their marriages. Forty-two percent of travelers feel more romantic on vacation and one-third admit to making love more often while traveling.

Which leads to the not so surprising fact that spending time away from your everyday world provides numerous benefits to your career and social life. Three out of four executives believe that vacations prevent burnout and increase job performance, and 68 percent of them believe that time away improves personal creativity. The top rated corporations in the country, like PricewaterhouseCoopers, track employees and send them reminders that they should take vacations. And a Cincinnati-based maintenance services company found that after a more liberal vacation policy went into effect, employee turnover dropped and morale and productivity rose.

And then there's the pure fun of it all. Seeing incredible art and history, eating exotic foods, meeting new people and discovering for yourself that with all the bad news the media throws at us, the world is mostly full of warm, accepting people that would love to get to know you.

Enjoy.

Billie J. Ruff is president and owner of Travel Cafe in downtown Billings

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