When was the last time you took a fantastic, life-changing trip? Have you ever made one? Or have you only dreamed about it?
Perhaps you go on holiday every year, but the time goes too fast, and you don’t feel much better afterwards.
Did you know that several studies have shown that travel makes us happier than money ever could?
There are many reasons why.
Even if you can’t afford a trip right now, it’s worth understanding the benefits of travel. You may be able to immediately incorporate some new ideas into your life, without ever leaving your front door.
Or they might provide the spur you need to cut back on unnecessary expenses and start saving.
Lots of evidence now suggests travel can make us calmer, happier, better people.
That’s because travelling if done with the right attitude, can make us more humble, content and engaged in the world.
1. Travel Helps You Fight Adaption
One of the main enemies of happiness is our ability to adapt - whatever our circumstances. We get used to our situation and over time, end up no more or less happy than before.
We get used to material possessions and changes in our economic situation. The happiness we derive from an increase in wealth or a new object wears off eventually.
Travel keeps your world fresh and novel, keeping you filled with new sights and sounds and perspectives.
2. Travel Gives You Iron-Clad Memories
Memories fade, but the deepest ones are likely to form when you are absorbed in your surroundings.
You might create lifelong memories when you arrive in a new land and culture or view the scene from limestone peaks. I’ll never forget the surprise after landing in Uganda and realising how green it was. Nor opening a window on to the busy Shanghai street below and realising I was in a foreign land.
Memories become part of us in a way objects never will. They become part of who we are. While we may identify with a house or a car or a watch, they don’t become us in the same way memories do.
3. Travel Puts the Career Ladder in Perspective
Western society places a lot of emphasis on work, career and success.
Those things are essential, or they can be, but they need keeping in perspective. None of them should define your life. Taking time out from climbing the career ladder may mean you don’t get the recognition and money others have, but it may make you a better-rounded human being.
You have many different skills, capabilities or areas that you’re knowledgeable in. The benefit of travelling is that you feel your life is more balanced, and you’re less likely to become bored or disillusioned than you might with only one primary pursuit.
I’ve often said: I don’t have a successful career as such, but I have a successful life.
4. Travel Helps You Eat Kimchi
Too often we can get caught up in our tastes.
We get picky and come to believe there are lots of foods we couldn’t eat.
Of course, part of this is correct--we all have our natural likes and dislikes, and bad experiences may have put us off particular foods.
But travelling with an open mind means being open to different cuisines, expanding our palate and being more flexible than we ordinarily would be.
What you once thought fixed or impossible is open to change, and this can extend to other areas of your life. There may be many things you thought you’d never try in a million years, or that you assumed you would always hate. Only after daring to try them out, do you realise your judgments were wrong.
5. Travel Gets You Out of Holes
Travelling allows you to deal with unexpected situations.
As a traveller, you learn to think on your toes, to not get overwhelmed by unexpected events.
You learn that what can seem disastrous one minute may not turn out to be. You learn how to think creatively and problem-solve on the spot. And you learn patience and tolerance for the unknown.
Not every moment is plannable; many things are out of our control. The same creativity, adaptability and resilience that you use while travelling translates to home. It can help you overcome problems with tolerance, perseverance and inspired thinking.
6. Travel Creates Global Connections
The kindness and generosity of the people you meet when you travel is humbling.
Their contentment is infectious. A brief time amongst them will erode any ideas you have that your country is better than another.
Travel teaches that we are all connected and more similar than we believe.
Moreover, facing the poverty much of the world lives in can make you feel grateful for what you do have – even if it’s often not as much as what you would like.
7. Travel Helps You Downsize
Part of the reason people living in abject poverty still keep such serenity is the fact that they often live simple lives. They live close to nature and involve themselves in their communities.
There are trade-offs. A certain amount of development means electricity, running water, sewerage and proper medical care. But after travelling, you can’t help wonder if we’ve lost something too. Our lives have become dominated by work; we are more sedentary and seldom get out amongst nature. And we tend to live in isolation, with no involvement and support from our communities.
Realising this can be a spur to simplify your life and make friendships with those around you, resulting in more connections to other people.
Or it can be a spur to appreciate the greenery and blue skies of your local park, increasing your connections with nature.
8. Travel Makes You Want To Help Your Uncle
Many communities you come across while on the move are family orientated.
It is chastening to watch a person dedicate all their money to support a family member. Or to meet a family in their mud-brick hut after a successful home child-birth to their youngest boy of seven.
And it can be surprising to sit with an extended family of 30, of uncles, aunties, and cousins, all intimate like close brothers and sisters. They are all ready to support each other and sacrifice what they can to the betterment of the collective whole.
When you return, you may be less inclined to distance yourself from your family. You will appreciate more how important it is to have people you care about close to you.
9. Travel Teaches You to Tolerate Stinky People
On the road, you meet all sorts of people.
Some you like, some you hate, and some you’re indifferent to.
But one thing is for sure; you hang out with people that you never expected to.
Exposure to other ways of doing and seeing also broadens your horizons, making you realise there is no one correct way to do things.
Accepting that you’re not always right and that your ways aren’t always the best can be a harsh but valuable lesson to learn. On the road, you’ll have plenty of teachers.
10. Travel Encourages You to Save Milk Bottle Tops
If you spend any time on an extended journey, you’ll soon learn to conserve.
You’ll wear clothes again and again; the amount of luggage you carry shrinks. Food and water do not go to waste.
Conserving is a lifelong skill that’s hard to learn in our home societies of convenience and excess.
In fact, waste can often be one of the hardest things to deal with when you return. Many people report shock at seeing aisles full of cereals and shampoos, flummoxed by the abundance, and disgusted at Christmas excess.
11. Travel Makes You Save Electricity
How amazing that you can share the exploits of your journey in tweets, videos, posts and pictures! How amazing that you have maps and all sorts of information accessible in your palm.
But time away from your phone also helps you realise balance.
Social media is good, but we need to minimise it and make it a controlled part of our day.
Travel will help you do that. You won’t want to miss the view because you were tweeting about it.
12. Travel Helps You Conquer Your Money Insecurities
When you see people dying because of lack of access to a one-dollar malaria shot, you soon realise it’s essential to have money.
Money gives you control and provides access to things that keep you alive.
But it’s also surprising how little people need. Many of the happiest people I have met have had little but their health--nevertheless, they always smiled.
Money has value if it helps us support ourselves and our family, and if it helps us grow as individuals and allows us to help other people. Beyond that, it has little worth.
Realising this reduces the insecurity you feel when faced with the contemporary Western message that only the rich can be happy.
13. Travel Helps You Enjoy More Stillness
Travel teaches you the values of peace. Of stillness, of silence. Of calm and relaxation.
If you travel with a partner, it also teaches you the benefit of making time for each other.
Too often we are overstressed and overworked, having no quiet time to spend with either ourselves or our partner. Slowly we lose the connection to both.
Travel teaches you the value of making time to ‘be’.
14. Travel Makes You a Lone Ranger
Travel teaches you to depend on yourself.
You gain self-confidence by setting goals and accomplishing them. You learn self-reliance by meeting challenges and overcoming them. You learn the determination to keep going no matter how tired and worn out you feel.
These are life skills that you can carry into many situations. Learning that you can cope, that you are able and that you will survive this situation helps you get over hurdles when things are running off track.
Lessons learnt on the road are lessons that stay with you for life.
15. Travel Helps You Save the World
On the road, you will witness injustice, discrimination and the destruction of nature.
The beauty and unfairness of this world will shock you. This realisation will increase your appreciation of the real things in life and may give you a cause.
At the very least you’ll never take anything for granted again.
And even without a grand cause to work toward you’ll be hard-pressed to waste your time on distracting vainglorious pursuits.
No Time For Travel?
Don’t worry if you can’t travel at the moment.
Concentrate on what you can do now. You can cultivate the lessons learnt from travelling in other ways too. Try to imagine bringing the benefits of travel into your life in smaller or different ways.
For example, how could you increase your connection to nature in the area you live? Could volunteering help create a link to other people? Or could you bring some stillness into your life by starting a daily walk?
Not only that, anything that you can do now to cut back on expenses will make your life simpler and will give you money for when you do have time to take that trip.
Key Lessons From the Road
Travelling with an open mind has a vast number of benefits.
It will humble you, broaden your horizons and make you more content.
It will increase your creativity, confidence and independence, and it will teach you the value of the simple things in life. Laughter, friendship, companionship. Good health and simple living.
If you’re considering travel and sitting on the fence, then don’t equivocate anymore.
Or if you need the motivation to cut expenses and save then make a start.
A flawed but beautiful world awaits you.
So open your heart and get out there.
Start planning your next trip today.
- Science Direct: https://squarespace.com/Gilovich+Kumar+Jampol+A+Wonderful+Life.pdf
- Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easterlin_paradox
- Cornell Research: https://research.cornell.edu/researchers/thomas-d-gilovich
- Cornell Chronicle: http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2014/09/doing-makes-you-happier-owning-even-buying