6 Ways Traveling Makes You Happier
Recently, I saved a lot of money. And folks, if you’re like me, saving money is a high. I purchased two bras, they were 50% off. Plus, my loyalty card gave me an extra 10%. Plus, I had a coupon worth $20 off my purchase. To say I was happy was an understatement when my total came to $37!
That feeling was there because I HATE spending money on things. I really do. “Stuff” just rarely interests me. I’m constantly looking out for the cheapest item I can find at the best customer ratings. I just don’t care a lot about material possessions. I use the items I own until I can’t any more. My couch - I waited about a year before committing to buy it and that was only when, upon visiting the website for the 80th time, that I saw it at 55% off and made the leap. I sift through emails, sign up for loyalty programs and eaves drop on conversations about shopping all in the name of a good deal.
But that’s not how I approach my travel.
See, for me, travel isn’t a possession. It isn’t a “thing” to add to my collection. No - travel speaks to the core of my being and who I am. It whispers to me softly from deep within calling me to explore, adventure, connect, learn, grow...it’s a constant yearning to shake off the pressures of everyday life.
No - it’s an experience. Scientific research has proven that experiences make us happier than things. Buying a $1000 couch makes me cringe in my innermost being. But spending a $1000 on an airplane ticket - now that gets me giddy.
So why exactly is it that spending my money on experiences rather than possessions fills me with a sense of excitement and joy that is known as “the travel bug”?
It’s about something bigger than just yourself
I’ve traveled many times, with many different people. I’ve gone solo, with my mom, with a friend, with multiple friends, with strangers, with my choir...and every trip I go on reminds me that there is more to this life than just my needs and my wants.
We are constantly surrounded by a culture and ideology, even if we don’t notice it. From how we treat the little red hand at cross walks to giving folks the right the right of way, we are shaped by the world we live in. How we approach religion, politics, the environment, sick leave...all of it is shaped by our geography.
But when we travel that bubble expands and now we get to learn about how others live life and the culture, ideology and philosophies they hold and learn that the world is so much bigger than just ourselves and friends, that’s just so stinking awesome! I think it makes us kinder and more open minded.
There’s always something new to discover
Every time I’ve visited a place it has never felt long enough. I live by the mantra “next time”, meaning that next time I come back, I’ll get to experience that thing I missed. It’s a fair mix of optimism and denial, because I know I likely won’t go back to everywhere I’ve been.
Even in destinations I’ve been to more than once, like Dublin, Berlin or Paris, I’ve always found new and exciting experiences to engage in that I didn’t even know about the first time.
The ability to live in a constant state of discovery and re-discovery helps us work towards self-empowerment and self-improvement and those are some key contributions to a happy life.
Our culture has been built around stuff. Everywhere you look are ads for the newest and latest insert item here. Items are designed to break so that we will continue to buy or upgrade our purchases from certain companies. Every time a new phone comes out your old one is obsolete. The charger cables you got for the last phone no longer work with the new one and now you have to spend money to update those cables, and your otter box and your...the list goes on.
But travel - it just is. That trip you took 10 years ago is still relevant because those memories are constantly with you.
The ability to document our travels through journals, souvenirs or photography also helps ensure the longevity of our experiences and remind us of how inspiring the world can be and renewing our own joy. We can relive those memories as often as we like.
It allows you to let go.
Being a Travel Professional is not my only gig. I work a full time Monday-Friday job, plus I also hold a part time job, all to pay the bills. I have relationships, hobbies and cats to engage with and maintain. And somewhere in all that is laundry to do and floors to vacuum. If you’re like me, you can feel exhausted. And don’t get me wrong, I have a good life, but that stress can build up and you just need to get away.
Travel means you get to escape and let go of those stresses. It gives you the time and space to just be. We replace the stresses of daily life with ocean view vistas in Santorini or with excursions to castles on our River Cruise or with a cooking class in Rome. By allowing you the space to take a deep breath in and exhale all that negativity, you can process life or take a break from the things at home that you need to step away from.
And as an added bonus, my professional advice is to take the time before you leave for your trip to do a few things that will reduce your stress when you come home. Cleaning out the fridge, changing the bed sheets, vacuuming or doing a load or two of laundry can help you step into an environment that’s a little more calm than when you left.
Travel increases our ability to adapt and change.
There’s a certain amount of resourcefulness needed to be a traveler. Finding your gate at the airport, trying to figure out how to find a chicken dish on a foreign menu that has no pictures, or navigating the subway/metro network...travelers have to learn to be resourceful and adapt to rapid changes and unexpected dilemmas. These skills are fundamental to one’s growth and the ability to bring these enhanced skills home can make your day to day tasks and interactions easier to navigate, reducing stress and increasing your happiness.
It’s not a competition
Social Media can be an amazing tool. Information is at your fingertips, it’s easy to connect with people and you can see real time videos and pictures of your friends and family who live across an Ocean.
But Social Media has created a world that is competitive, even if you don’t know it. A few years ago I noticed a friend of mine getting more comments about their birthday then I had got - and we have a ton of mutual friends. I’ll admit - it made me sad. I wondered why these people hadn’t wished me happy birthday as well. I realized I had placed myself in competition with this other person in an unhealthy way.
When we travel, it’s so much easier to be present and remove ourselves from the comparative rate race that is Social Media. Plus when you’re busy engaging in the world and being present in the moment, you don’t have as much time to be online! We’re less worried about comparing ourselves to others and instead embrace the experiences around us.
Travel is one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve found because it truly connects with my soul and brings me a sense of peace and joy in a way that not even discounted bras can do.