"Travel far enough, you meet yourself." (Cloud Atlas)
There is something to getting away. Even if for a moment. We all need one from time to time to break up the routine. Travel doesn't have to be to another land, it could be to another room, up the road, or to a place that gives us comfort.
Whatever "travel" means to you, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you establish consistent times to tend to your needs. People who see and experience new things are more likely to retain positive emotions and minimize negative ones (according to psychologist Rich Walker, see reason 7 ).
Daily grinds can become mundane but what if we told you that traveling is a great tool to help make you a happier person. We aren't saying that travel is the silver bullet but it is some medicine that we at lovasté practice and prescribe.
Happiness is what psychologists call "subjective well-being" and thankfully humans have say in what that looks like. It shows up differently for all of us. So wherever you go, here are 8 reasons why traveling makes you a happier person:
1. IT'S FUN
Whether you are saving for a road trip or a plane ticket, the fun begins the moment you begin to think about where you want to go. Planning sometimes can be arduous but make it easy on yourself. Use your social media networks or anyone you know to see about best ways to get there, where to stay, hot-spots, attractions, eateries, shows, views, drinks, museums, etc. If you are alone, with someone (s) special ask the locals questions and engage while you're there. Time will fly, spirits rise, and dopamine will increase just by being around beautiful people and beautiful things. In Jamaica I jumped off of a cliff at Rick's Café off of the coast in Negril. That was fun!
2. EXPLORE MORE
When you are familiar with your surroundings, for the most part, you are less likely to wander and find something new. You become accustomed to what the place has to offer. Traveling is a great way to leave the bounds of familiarity and plunges you into the unknown. Language, customs, even direction can jut you into explorer mode making you more interested and aware.
Having a deadline will push the most modest traveler to check a few things off of a to-do list.
3. LEARN HOW TO NAVIGATE UNKNOWN SITUATIONS
My wife and I recently traveled to London (my first time in Europe, longest flight yet) and although we've gone out of the country on numerous occasions (even to get married) every place we encounter some obstacle. After a day-long tour of the UK, the Evan Evans tour guide in her lovely British accent announced that we wouldn't be dropped off near our hotel but instead further away and we would have to find another way. So we decided to take the Underground (what they call the Tube) transport system. You might compare it to the New York subway. This example is basic but is the kind of problem travelers face when the need arises to get around. You must adapt and learn how to navigate an unknown situation. We could have gotten into a taxi (which we had done before) but instead decided to try something different. A stretch outside of our comfort zone (which leads me to reason 4).
4. GETS YOU OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Some believe that you should work really hard for 40-50 years, retire, and then travel. To each their own. We aren't of that mindset. At the onset it is quite normal to believe that traveling is 1) too expensive 2) cuts into paid-time-off 3) what rich people do 4) not important 5) or it's dangerous/unsafe to travel abroad. Whatever reason or myth about traveling that you have, let it go. Of course do your research and plan ahead but don't not travel because of what you heard or what you were taught. You're holding onto someone else's stuff. Stepping out of your comfort zone will be uncomfortable (it always is) but it is worth it. Grow. Explore. Learn.
5. CULTURAL COMPETENCY
We once stayed at the Coconut Court Beach Hotel in Hastings, Barbados which is about 10 minutes south of Bridgetown and 15 minutes north of Oistins Fish Market by taxi. Right across from the hotel is a rum shack called the Blue Room where local man Jason pours the meanest Rum Punch. The Blue Room is where we learned a lot about Barbados. In Bridgetown we were more observers of the town, awed at the marina, marveled at the crowds. In Oistins we bought fresh fish and macaroni pie from one of the stalls that lines the bay and listened to Barbadians speak bajan creole. The greatest thing about traveling to different places is that you learn about other people's culture in comparison to your own. The biggest challenge is to avoid placing judgement. Note that things are done similarly or differently. This practice increases appreciation.
6. INTENTIONAL TIME TO BREAK AND BREATHE
Nothing says relaxation more than the ocean. The sound. The breeze. The calm. If you aren't a beach person, maybe a cabin in the mountains somewhere next to a warm fire is more your cup of tea. Regardless, go somewhere that allows your soul to refresh. Intentional time set aside to break and breathe is a necessity for self-care. It allows you to put things into perspective, re-energize and unwind. Bring all those books you have been meaning to read, that journal in need of your pen, movies you weren't able to catch in theatre. Whatever it takes for you to be able to pay attention to your breath. "Breathing breaks," says Max Strom, "increases happiness and productivity."
7. RETAINS POSITIVE EMOTIONS
Engaging in a variety of experiences retains positive emotions and minimizes negative ones than people who have fewer experiences, maintains Rich Walker of Winston-Salem State University. The psychologist examined 300,000 memory events and over 500 diary entries. Another psychologist from UNC Chapel Hill, Barbara Fredrickson, concludes that our optimal positive to negative emotions ratio is above 3 to 1 and below 11 to 1. It is when the ration gets down 1 to 1 where we see potential disorders such as depression and anxiety. Get out and experience the world. The more you see, the happier you will be.
8. YOU MEET YOUR (BEST) SELF
Warsan Shire, London's first Poet Laureate, encourages us to document the moments we feel most in love with ourselves - what we're wearing, who we're around, what we're doing. Recreate and repeat. Travel, for us, is just that. It is when we are at our happiest and we feel in love and at peace with ourselves. Traveling is a mirror into a world that already exists within us.
"Traveling makes me happy because I get to see more of the world and I get to learn about cultures and how other people in different parts of the world live. Traveling makes me content and experiencing something new gives me a sense of accomplishment." (Danielle Schreiber, @danielleschreiber_, South Africa)
"Traveling is like dreaming. Going to other places with different rules. No society spying on you. Just yourself or the one you brought with you. I guess traveling makes me feel lighter." (Hioby, @hiobyr, Madagascar)