Far, wide and close to home.

Travel soothes and expands the mind. And you don’t need to go far to enjoy the benefits of holiday mode.

In light of the Covid-19 situation, the recommendations and activities mentioned in this article are for the purpose of possible future cruise holidays. Please always refer to local government health advisories for travel.

Whether lounging on a tropical beach, dancing until dawn or strolling the streets of a new city, the psychological benefits of travel are well known. Studies have shown that going on holiday can improve life satisfaction, reduce stress and create a sense of better health and wellbeing. And, experts note, you don’t have to travel halfway across the globe to reap the psychological benefits of a break.

Whether lounging on a tropical beach, dancing until dawn or strolling the streets of a new city, the psychological benefits of travel are well known. Studies have shown that going on holiday can improve life satisfaction, reduce stress and create a sense of better health and wellbeing. And, experts note, you don’t have to travel halfway across the globe to reap the psychological benefits of a break.

One essential feature of holiday mode Brein identifies is the sense of liberation. “It’s the feeling of freedom and expectation, anticipation of all kinds of good and wonderful things,” he says. “It’s that moment when you walk up to the patio or deck or balcony, you look out over the landscape and you take a deep breath and say, ‘This morning is the first morning of the rest of my life.’”

A floating holiday.

With a new vista visible from your balcony almost every day, a cruise is one easy way to kick the brain into holiday mode — and unwind as you do so.

Cruise ships, notes Dan Russell of cruise agency Clean Cruising, are expert at establishing cues that set the holiday feel. “With Cunard, it starts right from the whole embarkation process,” he says. “Guests are transported to a very different environment that takes them away from the everyday very quickly.” From uniformed bellboys to live musicians to the visual theatre of a four-storey atrium, carefully choreographed rituals set a tone that’s a world away from the hubbub of urban life.

There’s a flexibility to life on board that adds to the sense of relaxation, Russell says. “The beauty of having a lovely ship like Queen Elizabeth or Queen Mary 2 is that they’re very spacious and you’ve got a lot of space to explore,” he explains.

“You’re not going to feel crowded at any time. Often you can get out on the promenade deck and go for a wander and there might be very few people out there that you see.”

And beyond the ship itself, the prospect of new experiences — the signature reward of travel — awaits. “From your balcony, you look out and you experience,” Brein says. “But there’s the added possibility of going out on shore leaves when the ship lands in different ports.” He notes that cruise ships offer the opportunity to explore independently or to choose a more structured excursion, perfect for less confident travelers or those with mobility issues.

And, Brein argues, a cruise delivers perhaps the most important benefit of travelling — meeting new people in an era when so many lives are spent staring at screens.

“We’re always seeking more genuine connections with people. A cruise is safe and secure but still allows you to accomplish the main benefit of traveling — making connections with people.” - Dan Russell

A staycation at sea.

Even before the pandemic, Russell notes, Australian travellers enjoyed cruises close to home. “We get very high customer feedback scores from coastal cruising,” he says. “And cruising close to home is certainly going to be popular for the next couple of seasons as we come out of Covid.”

And, Brein observes, travellers can generate holiday mode in their own country just as easily as they can overseas. “You don’t have to go to the ends of the earth to achieve those exciting benefits of going to a faraway mysterious place,” he says. From street markets and art galleries to wine tastings and museums, Brein recommends exploring cities and towns close to home with the same mindset you’d bring to a destination overseas.

Local travel doesn’t have to mean missing out on cultural discovery, either. Besides classes in everything from ballroom dancing to fencing or mixology, Cunard ships offer a wealth of educational experiences. “On a New Zealand cruise, they’ll have guest speakers doing talks on Maori culture as you’re cruising,” Russell says. “Tasmania is a cruise destination that’s becoming more and more popular — and it’s got so much interesting history.”

And, like all the best holidays, a cruise can help open up weary minds. “It’s so easy to live your ordinary lives, and get locked in, where everything is very predictable and you’re basically shutting yourself down,” Brein says. “There’s a lot more to life that we can be privy to, if we give ourselves the space and opportunity to expand our boundaries and go beyond our normal selves.”

This article was produced for Cunard by BBC StoryWorks, the commercial content division of BBC Global News.

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