I have been traveling for more than ten years now. Travel has made me really happy. From experiencing new cultures and cuisines to exploring natural wonders and historical sites, traveling has filled my soul with great joy. And it’s not just me – scientific research shows the positive impact of travel happiness.
Despite being talked about by many researchers, bloggers, and influencers, travel happiness has no universal definition. Maybe because it’s not something you define but something you experience. Even so, here’s how I define travel happiness:
Travel happiness is the excitement and joy of exploring new places, learning about different cultures, and immersing yourself in unfamiliar experiences. It’s the thrill of stepping outside your comfort zone and discovering something new and unexpected.Gladis Morales
It is more about the journey – the people you meet, the sights you see, the beautiful feelings that emerge, and the memories you make.
Scientific Research on Travel Happiness
Studies have shown that traveling can make us happier and more satisfied. The Journal of Travel Research found that people who traveled more reported higher levels of subjective well-being and life satisfaction.
Travel can also improve our mental health. A 2020 research published in the Nature Journal revealed that individuals who experience daily changes in their environment tend to be happier.
In addition, traveling can boost productivity by reducing exhaustion and stress and inspiring creativity. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Research International found that employees who take regular vacations are more satisfied, engaged, and motivated at work. No wonder more employees are choosing remote work and being digital nomads today!
Finally, traveling can help increase cultural awareness and empathy. According to Professor Adam Galinsky from Columbia Business School in 2010, travel can make us more aware of the connections and associations between different cultures.
5 Ways to Experience Travel Happiness
Looking to experience happiness on your travels? Here are some tips to experience joy on the road:
1. Embrace the adventure and uncertainty of travel
Be open to new experiences and step outside of your comfort zone. Seriously, use travel as a pass to be open and to be free from all the judgment others might have on you or more importantly, your judgment against yourself. Try new things like riding a motorcycle, hiking in the cold, or exploring a busy city on foot. Ask yourself, “If no one would see you, what would you do?” Guess what, in a new place, you’re almost invisible.
Be aware that sometimes things go differently than planned. But, when it does, it can lead to even better experiences. For example, when the country’s borders opened during the pandemic, I planned a trip to Bali. However, I learned about their new 14-day quarantine policy. So I decided to go to a nearby country without quarantine — Sri Lanka — a place I didn’t know much about. As it turned out, it was one of the best travels (and decisions) I’ve made! I went back to solo traveling, backpacked the entire country, and even met my life partner there!
2. Be present in the moment
When did you last notice the sights, sounds, and smells around you during your trip? Or were you constantly on your phone? It’s ironic how we can’t wait to take our next trip, but when we’re on the trip, we can’t wait to return to work.
Appreciate where you are and be fully present. You’ve spent weeks if not months thinking about this travel and it’s finally happening so be here now. When you’re in the moment, you can tap into a flow state, an essential factor in experiencing happiness and fulfillment. Flow is when you’re completely absorbed in an activity, lose track of time, and feel in control. So whether you’re on a boat trip, walking in a park, or exploring a city, embrace the moment and immerse yourself in the experience. Try it and experience pure bliss!
3. Seek out opportunities for cultural exchange
Talk to locals, try new foods, and learn about the history and customs of the places you visit. When I went to Japan for a month-long student exchange program, what I enjoyed most was being a part of their daily lives. I helped them in picking and selling apples in the market. We made mochi together. They helped me wear traditional clothes and write my name in their alphabet. I enjoyed every single bit of these simple things.
Even if you can only travel briefly, immerse yourself in the local culture. This immersion can be as easy as talking to a street vendor or taking a cooking class. Looking back, I remember these moments of cultural exchange more vividly than the tourist spots I spent hours finding the perfect photo spot for.
4. Prioritize experiences over material possessions
Instead of buying souvenirs, focus on experiences. As a Filipino, it’s in our culture to bring home souvenirs or “pasalubongs,” but recently, I realized some souvenirs often end up adding clutter to our homes. So today, I rarely buy souvenirs. This practice saves money and space, not to mention making our homes less cluttered.
If you want to bring souvenirs back, be mindful and thoughtful about who you are buying for and only purchase items with a purpose or meaning. Ask yourself, “Does my friend really want/need this, or am I only buying this just to give something?” Choosing experiences over things helps us save money, avoid clutter, and make travel more meaningful and memorable.
Check out some awesome experiences today.
5. Explore the world with different companions
Traveling with different companions can enhance your travel experience. Solo travel allows freedom and self-discovery. I started my trips with solo travel. It allowed me to experience awe, courage, and spontaneity simultaneously. Meanwhile, traveling with family has strengthened our relationships and created new memories I’ll treasure forever.
Traveling with your partner can help you grow together. For example, traveling for a year with my life partner, Mat, made us grow closer. It allowed us to appreciate each other’s strengths and perspectives. Remember also to experience backpacking with strangers, which can lead to unforgettable experiences.
Each journey you take with different companions brings new insights, challenges, and joys that make travel more memorable. It’s also essential to prioritize safety at all times.
Challenges and Opportunities on the Road
Traveling is fun, but it has its challenges. Often, you will experience stress with the differences in language and culture. Jet lags, long trips, new foods, and getting lost can also irritate you. You also need to deal with homesickness and even misunderstandings with your companions.
Travel challenges can be tricky, but they can also help us grow. Be aware of the triggers and find how you can work with them. For example, my partner and I realized we often argue because we’re tired after our long travels. We decided to take a slow date break every three days. Facing these challenges will help you grow as you travel.
Travel Happiness and “Happiness on the Way”
Travel is a unique opportunity to practice “happiness on the way” by enjoying the present moment rather than solely focusing on future goals or arriving at a destination. So, embrace the journey and stay present. This is why I created this blog – to share my experiences and show how we can find joy in the journey, not just the destination.
In conclusion, travel has been a source of happiness for me for more than ten years. And as the research shows, travel has more tangible benefits than just having fun. We can increase our happiness by embracing adventure, being present in the moment, and growing with the challenges.
So next time you plan a long-term trip or a short weekend getaway, remember to enjoy the journey and find happiness along the way. After all, life is about our experiences, not just the destinations we reach.
How did travel make you happier? What are some of your favorite ways to experience joy while traveling? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments below!