Why do we feel so good when we travel? Is it the prospect of new surroundings? Is it the endless amount of delicious, exotic food? Is it the meeting with new people from exciting new cultures? Or maybe is it something completely else on a much deeper level that pushes us to learn more and become a better version of ourselves.
Anyone who has traveled by air understands the meaning of the term patience. Getting through the airport can seem like an obstacle course. Delays go hand in hand with travelling, and finding your way around a new city is easier said than done.
Travel teaches us to deal with challenging things. When everything goes wrong, we have to somehow manage it and find a new plan without letting it affect either our journey or our mood. We end up feeling more successful and satisfied when we manage to overcome challenges. Often the crazy experiences become our best stories to tell. But how can it really be?
WE LIVE MORE INTENSELY WHEN WE TRAVEL
“To travel is to live”. The Danish classic story-teller, H.C Andersen, wrote this quotation in The True Story of My Life, when he bumbled through Europe in a horse-drawn carriage in the 1840s. During the years 1840 – 1858 he became an experienced traveler. He traveled to destinations throughout Europe, even in North Africa.
For H.C Andersen, travel was an expression of the fact that man is always in physical or mental movement. He found himself being more alive in his encounter with the stranger. And he had a point. We live more intensely when we travel.
TRAVEL CHANGES OUR LIFE AND SELF-UNDERSTANDING
H.C Andersen suffered from anxiety, and especially the fear of being trapped inside a burning house haunted him. He therefore always had a long rope with him in his travel bag. He wanted to use the rope to climb out of the window in the event of a fire.
News has a way of making the world a scary place. While we should always be aware of our surroundings and safety in certain countries, the reality is that even countries that seem epically alien and scary hold beauty and hospitality.
Of course, don’t venture into the wilderness in a dangerous place. But wherever you travel you must entrust with strangers. When you ask for directions, exchange money in a market or jump on a bus, you must always believe in the goodness of others.
It’s hard to be afraid of an entire country when you’ve interacted with them in the best everyday manner. Seeing foreigners living their lives – smiling and laughing, washing their clothes, walking their dog, sharing ice cream with their children, sitting on a bench with an elderly person – all these experiences complicate our feelings of hatred or prejudice. Probably so much so that these feelings completely disappear.
It gives us the opportunity to break down cultural barriers and turn an otherwise stranger into another human being.
CAN MONEY BUY HAPPINESS?
Happiness is when expectations and reality match. This fact largely makes happiness both abstract and fleeting.
Most people seek and strive for happiness. Many are tempted to believe that high financial prosperity is the best indicator of inner happiness. But various studies within the last decade conclude a startling paradox – we have not become happier as a result of increases in prosperity, almost the opposite.
That’s not to say that money can’t make you happier. But if your basic needs are already met, money’s auspicious effect is limited. The reason behind this fact is that we quickly get use to greater consumption. A pair of Louboutin shoes, a Porsche or a rolex watch will only bring happiness in the short term. Then our demands for happiness increase as our expectations are adaptive.
We thus adapt to the new conditions and learn to expect more from life. Conversely, it is more difficult to go the other way and adapt to worse conditions. You can therefore end up in a classic vicious circle, where the focus is always on getting a newer car or a nicer house, which in the end will never make you happy. And this conception of happiness sells.
EXPERIENCES CREATE LONGER-LASTING HAPPINESS
However, there is one thing that gives us long-lasting happiness. That is experiences. According to Danish happiness researcher, Christian Bjørnskov, experiences such as travel make us happier for longer.
Experiences become an intricate part of our identity. Living the same unremarkable daily routine day in and day out is identical to buying a physical object that loses its happiness or value factor. Although you may at times reflect yourself in your material things, they will never be a part of you. In contrast, your experiences are part of you – you are the sum of your experiences.
You are also much less likely to compare your experiences negatively with someone else’s, which is often the case with material purchases. Furthermore, experiences connect us more with other people than shared consumption. You are much more likely to feel a bond with someone you travel with to Denmark than with someone who also bought the new Apple Watch.