The Psychology of Traveling and Happiness


We are bombarded these days with tons of advertising for cruises, hotspot vacation destinations, and stunning resorts that encourage us to pick up our suitcase and begin seeing the world. While many people believe that traveling will make them happier and improve the quality of life, is this actually true? Does travel deliver the satisfaction we believe it can? We collected some information on the psychology behind traveling and happiness that might surprise you.

St. Augustine said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” History is full of brave souls and frustrated societies who discovered new lands or even empires as a result of traveling beyond familiar territory. Think of the word “exploration.” What is the first name to come to mind: Christopher Columbus? Neil Armstrong? Lewis and Clark? These were travelers who gave up that “nine to five desk job” (well, figuratively speaking), walked outside their comfort zone, and chose a life of travel and exploration. It is hard to say what it did for their cognitive state, but they all found their lives inexplicably changed, and seeing places they (and the rest of the world) have never seen. The same can be applied to the modern vacationers, RVers, and full-time explorers.

One study published by the International Study for Quality-of-Life Studies says that travelers are in fact happier than non-travelers. A relaxing vacation has the power not only to boost happiness levels in real time, but also in the prior weeks or months leading up to the vacation. Remember the last time you were looking forward to a trip, and how excited you were even just thinking about it? It’s the same idea!


The world’s first International Happiness Day took place on March 20, 2013. Along with it came multiple studies claiming that the act of traveling is very important to one’s happiness and vitality. One study led by G Adventure, stated that 71% of participants chose travel as a stronger source of happiness than job promotions, having a child, or even getting married. Moreover, going back to those dreamy advertising campaigns, the study claims that 60% of individuals receive travel inspiration from browsing online, followed by 16% who watched films. The Internet gives us virtually unlimited access to any information on travel destinations, blogs, reviews, and other information we want to plan a dream vacation. Not to mention the stunning visuals on TV, films, and YouTube videos. If those Red Bull or GoPro commercials, Lord of the Rings scenes of New Zealand, or a documentary on the Top 10 Getaway Resorts in the World have little impact on the average viewer, those millions of dollars in marketing campaigns would have been wasted and the effect of wanderlust would probably disappear altogether.

What can we conclude from these surveys? Americans place value in travel! People can extract joy from vacations, whether it is the anticipation, the opportunity to reunite with family or friends, or just getting away with a loved one for the weekend. The aspect of traveling offers a freedom and state of bliss that essentially improves happiness levels. While it does also depend on personality traits and external circumstances, psychological studies have produced a strong argument that travel and happiness do have a positive correlation. So keep calm and travel on!