Travel for most of us stirs up images of happy times and happy memories whatever these may be and mean for each of us as individuals, as families, as communities and society at large.
Have you reflected upon what it is about your travels that makes you happy?
Have you considered your sense of happiness before you actually depart on your travels physically?
What about happiness when you arrive home after your travels?
Travel and happiness are part of an interplay that starts way before we depart on our travels and can continues long after our return home.
The idea of happiness applies to the times
before, during and after our travels.
Before We Travel
Browsing through glossy brochures and interactive travel websites we start to dream of and plan our next travel projects. For most of us our moods are elevated, we feel excited, motivated and energetic when we imagine ourselves for instance:
Having fun in doing something we have not done before or not for a long time.
Being surrounded by infectiously friendly and welcoming people, beautiful scenery, blue skies and sunshine.
Being taken care of and pampered by those who work in the travel and tourism industry, directly or indirectly, and not having a ‘worry in the world’.
Having a good time with family and friends while away from everyday routines.
Making new friends, to feel a sense of connection with others and ourselves.
Relaxing physically and mentally away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Improving our physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
Experiencing nature, exploring other cultures and learning something new.
Building our self-confidence and adding to our sense of identity.
Travel is about experiences that stir our emotions and
Living in a fast paced sociocultural environment, however, we often forget to stop and reflect on our hopes and dreams; or for that matter on our established ways of how we live our lives, how we relate to each other and our aspirations.
For example, it is not uncommon these days to notice those around us and also ourselves with our eyes looking down at a piece of technology rather than at people’s faces or what goes on in our immediate environment. Checking messages and news on the Internet and communicating through text messages, emails and social media rather than in person is becoming more and more the norm. There is no doubt that we live in a technological and media-centric culture that pervades our modern society in many ways.
Our travels, especially our leisure travels provide us with opportunities to indulge ourselves, liberating ourselves from the ‘chains’ we are bound by at home, either imposed on us externally or by ourselves. There is a sense of freedom in not having to follow the expectations of ‘should, ought and have to’ that surround us in our daily lives at home.
During our Travels
Research shows that many of our attitudes, behaviour and habits that pervade our daily lives are also travelling with us in our metaphorical 'backpacks'. On the other hand, we also detach ourselves from our daily routines, opening ourselves to new experiences and influences, slowing down to ‘smell the roses’ so to speak:
Taking a moment to just stare at the horizon, letting our thoughts drift and be in the moment.
Noticing the peace and quiet while walking through a park or neighbourhood early in the morning.
Appreciating the magnificent colours and vibrancy of the natural world around us.
Sensing the stories reflected in the architecture and heritage that surround us in our travel destinations.
Feeling the warmth of the sunshine and the fresh sea breeze on our skin.
Relishing the tantalizing different and familiar aromas and tastes of meals cooked in restaurants or other people’s homes.
When we travel we can take the time to be more in the present, in the here and now, getting in touch with our senses, to see, hear, touch, smell and taste that which is unique to our travels.
During our travels we can connect with the world around us and at the same time with our intimate selves - our feelings and thoughts that are often squashed under the heavy demands and commitments in our daily lives.
We can re-write our heroic scripts of our identities by stepping beyond our comfort zones, by daring to care not just for ourselves but also for others and the environment.
Connecting with that which is alive in us and around us adds to
our sense of happiness.
After our Travels
The return home from our travels means settling back into our daily life’s routine which can impact us in two major ways:
Feeling amazed, thankful and fullfilled if not even glad, relieved and proud to being home again.
Happy to be able to relax back into that which is familiar and comfortable.
Realising what we were missing during our travels.
Appreciating what we have been taking for granted at home.
Inspired by what we experienced and the new perspectives we have gained.
Or feeling confused, irritated, sad and perhaps even somewhat discouraged, frustrated and distressed.
We might be missing that which we have fallen in love with during our travels: the places, the people, the beauty of that which is different to what we have at home.
We might be missing the new friends we have made, all those social times and experiences we shared, their different takes on life and the constant learning that took place, although often mostly unconsciously.
We might find ourselves feeling uncomfortable, unfulfilled and possibly not valued in our home environment upon returning home.
We might not want to really face the troubles and stresses in our immediate environments which we left behind when we went on our travels, be they within our families, at work or our other social circles.
Our travel experiences provide us with stories we can tell others and most importantly ourselves. These stories give us a sense of connection with ourselves and the world around us: who we are, how we fit into the world and who we might aspire to be.
The cathartic and therapeutic effect of travel has long been recognized.
Generally, any travel destinations and contexts that exude warmth and welcome set the stage for positive and enjoyable interactions. However, the quality of our travel experiences and the hoped for happiness is not just dependent on the external attributes of the places we travel to and the people we encounter. Our happiness is found in our attitudes and worldviews that colour our perceptions, interpretations and interactions with the world we travel and live in.
When we slow down and take some time to explore our happiness before and during our travel experiences we tap into their nourishing, enriching and enduring capacities. We reveal their transformative contributions to happiness that extends into our daily lives long after we return home.
Revisiting and reflecting on our life's travels helps us to uncover the meaningful moments that feed our happiness not just during our travels