Studies Show Traveling Makes us Happier Than Any Material Wealth

We’ve all heard the saying “money can’t buy you happiness.” It’s a simple statement with an even simpler meaning: True happiness isn’t rooted in things. You can buy a new car and it might make you happy for a time, but eventually that happiness will fade with the novelty of having something new. Unfortunately, it’s easy to think that things make you happy—it’s what causes people to continually buy and buy, until they’re surrounded by material objects, but still haven’t found happiness.

As it turns out, experiences make us happier than any physical object can. According to a research paper by Cornell University, experiences are more likely to result in long-term improvements to our happiness. Why? Because we are the sum of our experiences, and if those experiences are happy, we’re more likely to be happy!

The paper goes on to talk about one of the simplest, most productive ways to live a happy life. According to the data, we should all be traveling more.

Why does travel make us happy?

Travel is one of the simplest ways to make us happy and keep us happy, according to the study. This is because travel touches on all the vital experiential elements that evoke happiness within us. There’s the excitement of journeying to a place outside of the ordinary. The anticipation of new things. The eagerness of adventure. The sense of confidence and accomplishment we get from our successful travels. It all adds up to happiness—happiness we keep with us for the rest of our lives!

There’s also the human element of travel. Often, we travel with friends, family or partners, which means having a shared experience with them. This reinforces the positive feeling we get from our travels—shared experiences are almost always more powerful than single ones. Plus, we can reminisce and look back on these memories with another person, confirming their realness and authenticity. Even decades after the fact, our brains will still be rewarded with the serotonin kick we get from reliving experiences with the people we care about.

Don’t forget the cultural element, as well! It’s well documented that travel and cultural immersion make us more empathetic. We connect with the people and places we go, growing attachment and feelings for them. For example, look at the people around the world that wept for the fire at Notre-Dame de Paris—people who visited it decades ago and formed a connection to the site as a visitor. The flipside of this sad outpouring was a world full of people giving thanks that they were able to see the monument before it burned.

Travel makes us happy because it expands our world. We’re able to find happiness beyond the home we live in and the people we see every day. Travel exposes us to the majesty of the great big world beyond our immediate lives, unlocking happiness we never knew existed!

Go out and travel more!

You don’t have to take a trip around the world to find happiness in traveling. Consider taking a weekend road trip to another state or catching a plane to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. A few days is enough to immerse you in an experience you’ll remember forever—and enough time for you to get homesick, appreciating everything you have waiting for you back home.

If you’re the type of person who’s scared to travel, this is one fear you need to face. The world may feel like a big, scary, unfamiliar place, but that’s okay! Just remember it’s filled with people just like you. They may have different customs or speak a different language, but they live the same life you do—they’re ultimately part of the same species, and they’re not so different as you might think.

The key to finding happiness on your travels? Cultural immersion. Eat the food, see the sights, try to speak the language and do things you couldn’t do anywhere else! The most fulfilling adventures are the ones you can bring stories and memories home from. As your experiences age, they’ll become more engrained in your happiness. You’ll look back fondly on the trip you took a decade ago or have cherished memories of a particular moment you had traveling 50 years back. It’s these things that’ll stick with you and help foster the happiness inside of you.

The next time you’re shopping online or waiting in the checkout line at the store, ask yourself if you really need the thing you’re buying. Will it make you happy for the rest of your life? Or would spending that money on a meaningful travel experience do more to help you live the life you’ve always wanted? Science says travel might be the better buy.

Janna Breslin

Janna Breslin was born and raised in Southern California and is a former pharmaceutical representative for one of the leading Pharmaceutical companies in the world.

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