Umm Muhammed Umar
A South African residing in Turkey for the past 9 years, sister Nasreen Variawa, spoke to Radio Islam about ‘travel therapy’. A new cross disciplinary paper from Edith Cowan University proposes we change the way we view tourism, seeing it not just as a recreational experience but as an industry that can provide real health benefits. This research is among the first to address how tourism experiences can serve as therapy.
Sister Nasreen said firstly, if one was a physical or occupational therapist, one could apply for jobs internationally, because the medical tourism industry is rapidly growing. Secondly, anyone can use travel to heal from medical or mental health challenges, and other lifestyle, financial and relationship stresses. She said, “what this entails is taking yourself off, either locally to places in your country, or internationally, if you can, to actually just take a brief reprieve from the normal day to day and try to self-heal.”
Sister Nasreen said that for some people, international travel, and doing a bit of retail therapy is considered a good enough lift from their stress. Others, she said, would need to retreat into nature or hiking across cities, and consider that enough therapy. She explained, “the point is that we want to take ourselves off to a place to get clarity, and we want to be able to convert that clarity into decision making.” She added, “when we finally get back home, what we want to do is convert that decision making into actions that help us to overcome our challenges and get to a place of beneficial health.” According to sister Nasreen, it doesn’t matter where you go, “I mean you could take a walk across to the park from your house and walk barefoot on the grass, or you could take yourself to the local beach and walk bare feet in the sand, and considered that therapy enough.” She explained that it varied from person to person.
Travel helps in shifting the way we think. Sister Nasreen said that if we, for example, choose a week in the wilderness, that can help us shift our mind space into gratitude for the kind of luxuries that we have at home. She said, “A person with the financial ability may to come away to a place like Antalya, for example, where they may seek medical treatment, could be opened up to the idea of taking regular breaks when they are back home, so that they don’t get to a space in which they need major medical intervention.” She added, “So regular big breaks back home might entail taking a break every three months, so that it helps them to get away from the challenging stresses back at home.”
According to sister Nasreen, modern medical tourism was really about developing the self. She said it was about growth. She elaborated, “It’s about wanting to experience something different, because when we’re back home, we get the innate idea that we’re missing out on something bigger that the world has to offer; it changes the way we think; it changes the way we feel about others; it gives us higher tolerance levels; it helps us to bridge cultural gaps, and it helps us to change our perception both about ourselves and others.” Perhaps the deepest part of travel is that travellers “see the world that Allah has made, and it makes them grow them spiritually, and closer to Allah.”