“To me, travel is a triple delight: anticipation, performance and recollection” — Ilka Chase
I have often pondered this question. It is hard to believe that lounging in a hammock on a tropical island wouldn’t make you happy, but is there a possibility that the anticipation of being on your tropical island could lead to greater levels of happiness?
According to a study published in the journal of Applied Research on quality of life — planning or anticipating your trip can make you happier than actually taking it.
As shocking as this sounds, let’s dissect it to find how this could be.
During the planning stage of travel, you build up positive expectations and are eagerly looking forward to what adventure lies ahead. According to Alain de Botton, when we think of travel, “we don’t anticipate ‘same’, we anticipate different, exotic, unusual”. You start to mull over how you will fill your time — massages, dinners in quaint local restaurants, spectacular walks. You brag to friends about where you’re going and ask for advice from others that have been to that part of the world.
Resfeber (n.) — The restless race of the traveller’s heart before the journey begins, when anxiety and anticipation are tangled together.
Now, consider you’re on your trip. It could be a weekend away, or a big trip you’ve been planning for months. Anyone who has travelled knows that sometimes things don’t go to plan — a plane delay, lost luggage, a bad meal. This doesn’t mean you didn’t have an amazing trip, but just maybe, the realities of your travels have dampened your pre-trip levels of happiness.
So is it that simple? The secret to happiness is daydreaming about beautiful places to travel? Not quite. Apparently there is an ‘art’ to anticipation.
Happiness researcher Elizabeth Dunn says that savouring is an active, not passive process. You will derive more happiness from an immersive process where you are learning something new — reading stories from other travellers, watching films, browsing photos, learn the history, examining maps, listening to local music, learning the local language. She reiterates that by building up these positive expectations, we’re also less likely to be bothered if the reality doesn’t measure up to the fantasy. So her advice is to go ahead and assume it’s going to be wonderful.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should cancel your trip. Travel is about much more than bringing you happiness — it will teach you patience, resilience, to be appreciative, it will boost your creativity, increase your mental clarity, reinvigorate your body, and make you humble. You will learn new things, meet new people, and challenge yourself out of your comfort zone.
So don’t lose your sense of anticipation — dream big. Then enjoy the travel experience for what it is, and come back to share tales and reminisce on the memories you’ve created.
Written by Zoe Manderson