Monday, August 09, 2010

Will Travel Make You Happier?

The business section of the New York Times ran a major story on consumption and happiness this weekend.  To sum up the findings of a number of prominent psychologists quoted in the article, spending on an experience provides more lasting happiness than spending on stuff.
According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor at the University of California, Riverside with a grant from the US National Institute of Mental Health to study the possibility of permanently increasing happiness, spending on travel experiences is a happiness ‘best buy’. She claims that travel provides longer-lasting happiness because unlike a new jacket or a TV, it cannot be consumed in one go. Travel enhances social relations.  It creates memories that can be savored. Most importantly, Lyubomirsky argues, we edit those memories to put a positive spin on the past. “That trip to Rome during which you waited in endless lines, broke your camera and argued with your spouse will typically be airbrushed with rosy recollection.”
I’m not so convinced about the ‘rosy recollection’ part, I remember a lot of terrible trips very vividly, but I am sold on the idea that travel experiences create the best emotional bang for your dollar – or pound, euro or whatever. I’m thinking, in fact, about this year’s summer trip to North Carolina. I’ve been back in London for almost a week, but I am still happier than when I left. Why? Because I am emotionally satisfied. It’s not so much what we did in North Carolina. In fact, we do the same things every year. We eat barbeque, go to the beach, play tennis and visit Chapel Hill. The reason I am emotionally satisfied is the simple but invaluable pleasure of doing those things with the same people every year, a collection of friends and relations with whom I hope to be forever connected. Whatever it cost to get to North Carolina this summer was money well spent and a much better buy than the new chairs I was considering. I think the New York Times is right. Spending on experiences, particularly travel experiences, does make you happier. 


  1. Hello Kate, NoCrowds aficionados,

    I enjoyed UC Riverside Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky's clinical assessment of social benefits of travel. For millions, travel offers opportunities for treasured, savored memories.

    I might add; unlike my parents, siblings, family friends--including our blog Mistress Kate Hedges--several ex-wives, my children, and countless other hapless Good Samaritans, the good professor hasn't yet traveled with me!

    Just as NoCrowdsBlogspot offers unique travel perspectives, I, too, espouse a unique non-travel point-of-view; it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be!

    Perhaps if I lived in Riverside County, California, with blistering temperatures, howling Santa Ana winds, miles and miles of undistinguished, suburbanized landscapes, I too would be more interested in travel. But here in Irvine, ten miles from calming Pacific shores, with thousands of acres of beautifully preserved open spaces, many arresting if not thought-provoking homes, gleaming office towers, inspiring church spires, and even world class shopping malls, it’s probably better if YOU visit ME! We’ve been approved by Kate Hedges, all four children, and only await a confirming, definitive thumb’s up from her spouse Jeff!

    Come to Orange County!


    Sandy Stiassni

  2. Nice dispatch and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Say thank you you on your information.

  3. Agreed. I really enjoyed the article and made me feel even better about working in the travel industry.
    I think the story was definitely food for thoughts, especially in a time when we buy more than we can consume.

    Great post!

  4. I've always found that travel (foreign, not domestic) gets me back in touch with the real Me. Now to find that genie-in-a-bottle and fix the economy so I can get back into the swing of it!

  5. We like having Eloise and you, Kate, as part of our family at Neuse River Racquet Clayton...formerly Vinson Ridge. Thank you for sharing your time with us...great blog!