Just planning your next trip can make you a happier person

Roberto Westbrook/Tetra images/Getty Images
Originally Published: 

Being a stranger in a strange land forces you to remember that the world is big. It’s called perspective and traveling — which most of us miss profoundly, amidst a pandemic — helps us find it. When it comes to how travel impacts your long term sense of wellbeing, it’s not a one and done situation. According to new research, frequent travel makes you happier.

A new study released today in the journal Tourism Analysis looked at how people’s travel habits impacted their sense of wellbeing. According to the research, people who travel more than 75 miles from their homes (four or more times a tear) regularly reported being 7% happier than people who travel rarely or not at all. In another historical moment, 7% may not seem like a giant increase in happiness, but let’s be honest, right now a 7% increase in happiness could make a giant dent in the dumpster of our collective malaise.

These findings are more revealing than the tons of research that touts travel as a catalyst to happiness because it’s about frequent travel. And while several trips a year to Europe are truly just a privilege thing — and not what we or the researchers are celebrating — this happiness stat is attributed to regular travel at least 75 miles from your home. So even if they’re road trips, it’s worth trying to explore a little more.

JGI/Tom Grill/Tetra images/Getty Images

"While things like work, family life and friends play a bigger role in overall reports of well-being, the accumulation of travel experiences does appear to have a small yet noticeable effect on self-reported life satisfaction," Chun-Chu (Bamboo) Chen, an assistant professor in the School of Hospitality Business Management at Washington State University and an author of the study, told EurekAlert. "It really illustrates the importance of being able to get out of your routine and experience new things." Again, it’s not just getting out of town that helps us get happy, you have to do it often. According to the study, frequent travelers — those who traveled more than four times a year — had a higher sense of life satisfaction.

Chen knows that his research comes at a bittersweet moment, since the pandemic continues to rob us of travel opportunities. The good news is, however, that the study also found that people who think and talk about traveling are more likely to actually do it. "If you are like me and chomping at the bit to get out of dodge and see someplace new, this research will hopefully be some additional good motivation to start planning your next vacation,” Chen told EurekAlert. We want travel, and we can’t have it immediately, but, Chen says, nothing can stop us from having conversations about future travel, and those conversations may make us more likely to travel when we can.