The ultimate reason why travel brings us happiness

Why do 1.4 billion people travel every year? It’s the ultimate key to happiness.

Let me explain.

At the Virtuoso conference a few summers ago, CEO Matthew Upchurch said travel is a force for good. Travel in general helps economies, it bridges cultures, it brings self reflection and it allows us to express ourselves.

Puerto rico

I have stayed at over 600 hotels, been to 113 countries, and hundreds of destinations. I am on the road every month, but since March 2020, I have stayed put in New York. I miss traveling. It’s a part of me, wired in my DNA. I can’t wait to get back on the road, but for now, I’m finding happiness through other ways (like spending more time on my garden and working on my book). For me, travel is exciting and proven to be great for mental health.

Now that Covid rates are decreasing, and more countries are opening borders, it’s important to get back on the road. Travel is crucial for a good life.

Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve beach

Travel also helps us connect with nature, new ideas and adventures, is proven to lower stress levels and helps strengthen relationships. Only good can come from traveling—but there’s a prominent, underlying reason why even more happiness is achieved when you’re taking jaunts around the world.

In a recent story published by MindBodyGreen, Harvard University psychiatrist Samantha Boardman said little moments with other people, especially strangers, is the key to happiness.

Mingling in Puerto Vallarta.
Mingling in Puerto Vallarta.

“The problem with the relentless quest for self-knowledge and inward focus is that it can become an excuse for self-interest and even narcissism,” says Samantha Boardman, MD. “Don’t get me wrong; it is important to take care of ourselves … but too much emphasis on the self can lead us astray.

“People who connect with other human beings, even strangers on a train or in the checkout line, report brighter moods,” she wrote for MindBodyGreen. “Behavioral scientists call this ‘social snacking,’ and it may just be the healthiest snack in the world. The key is to actively seek pathways that will help us transcend ourselves and escape the echo chamber of our minds. As tempting as it is to dive inward, make it a priority to connect, to interact, and to add value.”

Do NOT be this dude on his cell phone.
Do NOT be this dude on his cell phone.

Travel is already a force of good but the journey is at its most-rewarding peak when we interact with locals, hotel staff, waiters, other travelers, tour guides, bartenders and strangers.

While small interactions with strangers (like the grocery store check-out line) can be achieved at home in familiar territory, our levels of contentment are already high when we’re on a trip. It’s the reason why travel makes you happy.

All things considered, the aspect of “social snacking” essentially doubles our happiness levels. And, unlike moments when we’re at home, easily able to seclude ourselves, there’s no way to avoid interaction with strangers—like hotel staff, locals, other travelers, tour guides, waiters and bartenders—when we’re traveling.

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We’re constantly interacting, even if it’s forced, which still enforces the force of good (like what I did there?). Those little moments with strangers have significant impact on levels of happiness and, in a way, it’s why we travel. We travel because we want to explore the unfamiliar, and strangers are part of that.

So, the next time you travel, remember to interact with locals. It only brings you more happiness—science guarantees this! In fact, think about bonding throughout the history of human kind. In the beginning, we traveled in packs, we hunted in packs, we swam in packs. There was never “I”. It was always “we.” Bonding is a human condition and it’s good for the soul. It’s why we travel. We get to meet wonderful people on our journeys, and those are memories you can always keep.

Travel makes you happy because you also learn so much about yourself and how you connect the world at large.

Making new friends in Bangkok!
Making new friends in Bangkok! Travel is key to happiness.

Do you think travel is the ultimate key to happiness? Let us know in the comments below!

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Happy travels!

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed at over 600 hotels and clocked millions of air miles. He currently lives in New York City.

One thought on “The ultimate reason why travel brings us happiness

  1. I couldn’t agree more that travel helps us connect with nature – you really appreciate nature when you’re travelling. It also definitely lowers stress levels and rather than just helping to strengthen relationships, I think it also broadens relationships. It nourishes the soul!!

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