The New York Times reported this week that the simple act of planning a vacation boosts happiness. Conducted by researchers in the Netherlands and published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, the study also showed that the length and type of vacation did not necessarily influence happiness. What did was rather you relaxed, did not argue with a travel partner or did not fall ill.
Interestingly, post-vacation happiness seems to be a myth. People after a vacation appeared to be no happier than people who didn’t vacation. Being in a state of pre-trip anticipation seems to be what boosts the mood.
Anecdotally, I certainly feel this theory to be true. Everyone loves to talk about an upcoming trip. I have often said I always need a “trip on the calendar.” We booked Belgium a year before we went. We knew we were going to Ecuador about nine months in advance. I’m a pretty easy traveler so I don’t argue with my husband on trips (or with anyone really), I rarely fall ill (except that time I had food poisoning in Jamaica, but it was over within a day), and I can readily transition into “relax mode” once I’m at my destination (I don’t find plane rides relaxing). I might be one of those lucky folks who’s happy pre- and post-trip.
Considering how little I traveled growing up (and envying those in junior high school who did), I don’t take travel for granted. And you shouldn’t either. Here’s Anna enjoying a recent weekend jaunt to Upstate New York, where everything is white: from the ground to the elderly people because Upstate New York has a youth drain. We took enjoying the snow to a new level on this trip and had a picnic outside–in 26-degree weather!! Was it a vacation with a capital “V?” No, of course not. But it was on the calendar, anticipated with excitement, enjoyed, and it left us feeling better.
Goes to show the concept of a vacation can be very simple–just take a break from the routine. We didn’t use Expedia (although we did for our next trip–Key West). We didn’t do research. Like our Catskills trip last summer, we just showed up, had fun, and went home. And like the Dutch study participants, Anna was excited before the trip. And as you can see, she was excited during the trip, too.