The science behind why traveling makes us happier.

More vacations mean more happiness, according to a recent study by the University of British Columbia. The research team found that taking regular vacations significantly increases one’s overall satisfaction with life. Those who do not take regular time off are 25 percent less likely to feel satisfied with their lives, regardless of income or marital status. The benefit of getting away from our normal surroundings is well known among psychologists, but this is the first study to find concrete evidence linking travel and happiness on a global scale.

“Vacations make the difference between feeling exhilarated versus exhausted, both upon return home as well as 14 days later,” said lead author Dr. Katherine White, associate professor in UBC’s Department of Psychology. “People often don’t realize how important vacations are to improving their well-being.”

Each year, 3.6 billion vacation days go unused in the United States alone. The researchers examined data on 1,972 employed individuals who answered questions about their work and life satisfaction on two occasions approximately four months apart. On average, participants had 2.4 children at home and took one week of vacation annually. As part of the study, participants completed a survey that asked them to describe the last time they traveled away from home for more than 24 hours. They were also asked how much they liked their job and if they felt valued by management, whether or not they considered themselves to be an important or central person within their organization, and how frequently on the job they felt pleased by their accomplishments.

PEOPLE WHO DON’T TAKE VACATIONS ARE 25 PERCENT LESS LIKELY TO FEEL SATISFIED WITH THEIR LIVES, REGARDLESS OF INCOME OR MARITAL STATUS.

Participants who traveled were more likely to feel satisfied with life overall and at work than those who did not travel, even when controlling for occupation, income, marital status, and other factors that contribute to happiness. The effect of travel was also found to be similar across age groups under 35 or over 55 years old but had no significant impact on people older than 55 due to limited vacation time during this stage in life. “Workplaces need to allow employees time to relax and fully recharge. This means it’s a good idea for companies not to expect their employees to check-in outside of work hours,” said White, who is also a senior research fellow with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

We often hear that money can’t buy happiness, but maybe travel can. In business school, I learned about what social scientists call “the hedonic treadmill.” No matter how much we consume – even if we become rich – after a while, we get used to it and want more material stuff. But a new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia suggests that people don’t need to accumulate a lot of expensive toys like fancy cars or luxury homes to make themselves happy. The key is traveling – getting out of our daily routines and experiencing different cultures.

The idea isn’t revolutionary; many distinguished social scientists have said similar things in recent decades. It made sense when John Lennon sang “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” However, I figured that if traveling were that important, then my business school buddies who had jet-setting jobs would be among the happiest people I knew — but they weren’t. Sure enough, they complained about long hours, office politics, and the frustrations of business travel.

What’s striking is that while traveling made my classmates happier than they otherwise would have been, it didn’t make them tremendously happy. The study looked at the effect of an activity on happiness rather than its overall level — which was why high-income earners were only slightly more satisfied with life after taking expensive vacations. To quote an old saying about money: “There are many things that money can’t buy; for everything else there’s MasterCard.”

“[…] People often don’t realize how important vacations are to improving their well-being,” says Dr. Katherine White, lead researcher on the study.”

THE STUDY FOUND THAT TRAVELING INCREASED JOB SATISFACTION AND AFFECTED OVERALL HAPPINESS MORE THAN ANY OTHER AMOUNT OF MONEY COULD.

“This suggests that our results are not merely a reflection of wealth,” she added, noting that previous studies have found no such link between higher levels of income and increased satisfaction with life.”

How our mind is affected while traveling

1. Memory is improved

Memories are not in the past. Memory has a long shelf life. So if you travel, your experiences become truly lasting memories. By changing your perspective and exposing yourself to different cultures you can prevent memory decay. Traveling also improves the ability of children to focus for longer periods of time, which helps them in school.

2. You develop a sense of belonging to a place

New experiences and new memories make you feel like you belong somewhere. They give a frail human being the strength to keep going through tough times, which is an important part of everyone’s life at some point or another. When you travel, your mind gets used to new places and people with ease after a while. 

3. Creativity is boosted

Creativity means something different for everyone but it definitely involves thinking outside the box – which travels allow us to do every single day in every possible way, guaranteed! Traveling opens up our minds and allows us to experience things that we never thought were possible before. We gain knowledge about other cultures and societies, which makes us more open-minded even when we are back home.

4. You get to know yourself better

Traveling makes you understand your own feelings and convictions much better. It’s easy to lose touch with who you are while living in the same place, so why not take a trip? When you travel, you learn about yourself while experiencing new things. You become more self-aware and conscious of life decisions that need to be made – which is never bad for someone’s well-being!

5. Your social skills improve

It takes time for getting used to other cultures’ habits but it pays off in the end. Traveling teaches us patience, helps us communicate with people from other countries easier, eases shyness, boosts empathy levels for others no matter their background or nationality, and broadens our horizons. We learn how to work around cultural differences and see the bigger picture – we might not agree with others’ views, but we respect them for what they are.

6. You become more open-minded

Traveling opens your mind as it was already mentioned before. When you meet new people from different cultures, you realize that there is so much out there yet to be discovered. By traveling you broaden your thinking about various things such as lifestyles, religions, traditions etc., which makes truly understanding those who think differently from us a lot easier in the future. You start seeing life from a different perspective and allow yourself to be taught by it every single day! 

7. Your creativity blooms

Creativity is a part of all of us. We were born creative, but as time goes by we start forgetting about our artistic side. When you travel your mind becomes more open to new adventures and ideas that can turn into real masterpieces! You start seeing things from a new perspective and subconsciously release the artist inside you!

8. Anxiety reduces in general

A study has shown that people who travel for at least two months in a year have lower levels of anxiety in their everyday lives. It’s due to the fact that traveling gives them a newfound sense of courage and adventure – it boosts self-confidence which benefits every aspect of life in the future. Whether it’s going on an epic journey around Europe or just making new friends from other countries – it can change your life in a positive way! 

9. You make new friends and keep them forever

Traveling is the best way to make amazing memories and befriend people from other places and cultures. If you want to know who someone truly is, take them with you on a trip. The time spent together makes friendship much stronger because you understand each other better. People that travel tend to be more open-minded as well, making it easier for their foreign friends to adapt to their lifestyle as well as the opposite. Living in another place for at least a couple of days will help those friendships last much longer – not only because they were made abroad but also because the traveler remembers every moment shared with his/her buddy(s)!

10. You become more conscientious

When traveling, you meet so many people from different backgrounds that it leaves a big impact on your life in general. Your home country starts to look much better when you compare it with the lives of people who live in other countries, which is an eye-opening experience for sure. Traveling makes us want to be better at everything we do in our everyday lives – no matter if it’s studying or working 8 hours a day! It just connects us to others in a way that further encourages everyone around the world to improve their thoughts and behaviors in order not to miss out on whatever life has got planned for them!

What are your experiences while traveling? What did traveling make possible for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading and have a nice day in advance! 🙂