In recent years, I’ve become minimalist.
I’ve reduced the material possessions I bring into my home, and I consciously eliminate clutter. I do enjoy clothes, home decorations, books, and souvenirs, but I don’t get much satisfaction from them for very long. In short, I get bored with my stuff easily.
But one place I get great happiness returns for my money is through travel.
For every $1 real dollar I sink into travel, I feel like I get $10 happiness dollars back (and often even more).
This isn’t really any surprising news. Research on happiness and spending for a number of years has revealed that we derive more enjoyment from experiences, rather than material things. Acquiring the latest designer purse or gadget may feel good for a little while, but the feeling fades and soon we’re looking for the next fix.
Truthfully, I am always looking for the next travel fix too, but it’s not out of disappointment or any boredom. I know from experience that the joy and education I get from travel is money well spent.
I’ve been traveling for years, but I often consider one of my very first travel experiences to Mexico as a 14 year old. I remember the thrill of getting off the airplane and the altitude sickness I felt given the high elevation. I remember meeting my host family and what their house looked like. I remember my impressions about their gated community and live in servants and my very young realization that different places in the world operate on a different social contracts and economic systems. I recently reunited with them on Facebook! I still taste the food they served at dinner and my introduction to a whole range of new tastes like te de jamaica, cajeta, and sopes with real crema. The Spanish language I learned in that time has continued to serve me in my adult life.
Looking back, that short international experience taught me basics of geography, culture, and language that I still utilize today. That same year, I begged my parents for a pair of GUESS jeans and I’m pretty sure I stopped wearing them after a year.
If experiences in general demonstrate a link to happiness, then I believe that travel experiences show an even greater one.
In fact, travel experiences go further than just our general well-being. Recent research suggests that traveling can actually boost us when we’re feeling down. A recent study of Australians revealed that travel experiences are closely linked to 3 main factors of general happiness:
1)Positive emotions- Sure, bad travel can make us stressed out and angry at times, but good travel gives us feelings of joy, contentment, and even love
2) Meaning- Travel can give our lives a sense of meaning and personal growth
3) Engagement- Travel makes us feel involved in the world and our surroundings
It’s true that sometimes our travel can be disappointing. It certainly isn’t fun getting swindled by a street hawker or coming down with an intestinal bug.
But in my own case returning from a trip- even a frustrating one- I always feel a tremendous boost in energy. I possess renewed perspective, interest in the world, and better awareness of my place in it.
So, where are you going to sink that next $1 dollar? What’s your next happy travel destination?