Hands up if you love vacations. Silly question, right? I mean, who doesn’t love a vacation? While it’s great to have a break from work and be able to sleep in, what many of us look forward to the most is traveling. Whether it’s local travel, around the world travel, or even a business trip, travel can be relaxing, fun, interesting, and formative – all of which can make you happier.
Here are 5 reasons why travel makes you happy:
1. Experience vs. Material Possessions
“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a plane ticket, and that’s kind of the same thing.”
If you’re a fan of cheesy motivational quotes, then you’ve probably come across this one before. It may be cute and funny, but recent research has shown that it’s pretty much true.
Travel is all about new experiences and studies have shown that people who spend their money on experiences rather than material possessions (yes, even those pretty new sneakers) are happier. This might sound counter-intuitive—after all, a new iPhone can last for at least a few years, while travel experiences are fleeting—but that’s the whole point. Once you are used to your new iPhone or new sneakers they won’t be special anymore and you’ll move on to the next thing you simply must have.
Memories of incredible experiences last forever and will make you happy whenever you think about them.
Fun fact: even negative travel experiences, once you’ve had time to process them, can improve your happiness. That terrible chicken bus that broke down three times in Guatemala and made you miss your flight can turn into a funny anecdote that you’ll share and cherish for years to come.
2. Routine is the Enemy of Happiness
Routine can kill happiness. Working at the same office, eating the same food, taking the same commute—it’s boring and can make you unhappy.
Breaking out of your routine and trying new things, even if it’s hard, makes you happier. By default, traveling removes most of the routine of normal life. You won’t have to commute, can try new dishes every day and be surrounded by new smells, sights, and people.
However, if you’ve got a system that works, you don’t need to get rid of your whole routine. Instead, try adding something new every day to mix it up a bit. For example, if you love running, bring your shoes on the trip and jog around a completely new neighborhood. The novelty will be exciting and fulfilling.
3. Meet New People
If you’ve ever stayed in a hostel, taken a group tour or gone to summer camp, you will know that making new friends is so much easier when you’re away from your everyday life.
At home, you probably wouldn’t just strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger at the post office. However, when traveling, you’ll find yourself chatting to the girl next to you on the bus or making new friends over breakfast in the hostel. Once you’ve hiked up an Indonesian volcano for three days together, you’ll have shared happy memories that will last a lifetime. Making new friends from different backgrounds and cultures can also teach you more about the world. It’s a win-win.
4. Comfort Zones
You know that old saying about happiness starting outside your comfort zone? As annoying as it might be, it’s true, and takes breaking out of a routine to the next level. Trying new things is great, but trying new things that are daunting or even downright scary can boost your happiness.
Travel, especially foreign travel, is packed with situations that force you out of your comfort zone. Having to barter for a taxi fare in Italian, order from a menu you can’t read or encounter new customs and traditions, are all travel situations that lie outside of our comfort zone. However, once you’ve managed to haggle your way to the train station, eaten a delicious dish that you’d never even heard of or joined a local holiday celebration, you will feel an undoubted sense of achievement, and with that comes happiness.
5. Appreciate What You Have
As awesome as it is to hike through jungles with interesting people every day, after a while, you will start to miss home.
You’ll miss your friends and family, favorite restaurants and maybe even colleagues and work (well, maybe). The distance you create through traveling gives you a sense of perspective and makes you appreciate your life at home more. Nobody will be happier to listen to your endless travel tales than your family and friends. Sharing those special memories with others makes the happiness they bring last long after your trip has ended.
These are just a few of the many reasons why travel makes us happier. You don’t have to fly to a different continent to feel these benefits; a family camping holiday or a weekend city break can improve your happiness just as much. Now, pack that bag, book that ticket and go on an adventure. You won’t regret it.
About the Author
Jennifer Lachs is a writer for Open Colleges, one of Australia’s leading online education providers. She is a globetrotting writer, blogger, and former scientist. Originally from Munich, Germany, she has lived and worked in 5 countries across the world. After finishing her PhD in chemistry in 2013 she went on a round-the-world trip that took her to over 15 countries, including Australia, where she lived for a year. She writes about her travels and her quest to become a digital nomad on her blog Square Hippie.