Recent research is showing just how big the toll of travel can be on business executives. Beyond the physiological, the long-term effects of travel are psychological and social.

Researchers Scott A. Cohen and Stefan Gossling, from the University of Surrey and Lund University (Sweden) respectively, investigated how frequent, long-distance travel is represented in mass and social media. They found that the images portrayed do not take into account the damaging side effects of frequent travel such as jet-lag, deep vein thrombosis, radiation exposure, stress, loneliness and distance from community and family networks – Ouch!

What the study reveals is how we are lured into thinking travel, especially international travel, is glamorous. The travel industry folks are masters at seduction and inflation of your ego. The idea of travel is wonderful, it’s doing it that’s painful. If you feel important or glamorous because you travel, really study the TSA staff and the security area – there is nothing glamorous here

Instead, the study found that those with “hypermobile” lifestyles were often seen as having a higher social status. By assessing how first-class flights, “must-see” destinations, and frequent-flyer programs are represented, glamorizing hypermobility as exciting, appealing, and exclusive, the study shows how the “dark side” of travel is ignored.

“The level of physiological, physical and societal stress that frequent travels places upon individuals has potentially serious and long-term negative effects that range from the breaking down of family relationships, to changes in our genes due to lack of sleep,” said Dr. Cohen.

If you travel more than 30% of the time, get to know the term “hypermobility”. Check out this reasonably short research paper on the subject, A Darker Side of Hypermobility.

3 Ways to Make Travel Work for You

  1. Get organized – Nothing makes the stress of traveling worse than battling your own confusion as you try to cope with ticket agents, baggage handlers, and TSA security. To help you with this, make a travel folder that’ll fit in your carry-on bag or handbag. Print out EVERYTHING you’re going to need. Put them in the folder, along with your passport if needed.
  2. Do some research – On all of the locations you’ll be visiting. It doesn’t really take much work to get a better understanding of the airports and ground transport available at your intended locations. Knowing these things in advance will go a very long way toward reducing the stress of travel.
  3. Be ready for security – There’s really no reason to be overwhelmed by airport security these days. You know what’s coming – so be ready for them. Don’t add to the hassle at security check points by wearing a belt, jewelry, or anything that’s going to hold you up when going through the metal detector. Pack your electronics and your liquids so they’re ready to whip out of your carry-on as soon as you can grab a tray.

All three of these tips will help to reduce the stress of travel but, the real question is, do you NEED to travel? Do you have a vision for how much you will travel? Do you set and enforce boundaries around how much you will travel?