According to science, doing this simple thing will make you 7% happier

Heading into a brighter and better 2021, it’s safe to say most of us are feeling a bit stir crazy.

Staying home in 2020 was the right thing to do, but as we approach a full calendar year of lockdowns, it would also be foolish to pretend all that isolation and stagnation hasn’t taken a toll.

If you can hardly wait to dust off your old suitcase and hit the road (or airport), a new study from Washington State University is supplying some scientific evidence in support of our collective restlessness. Researchers report people who regularly travel and see new places located at least 75 miles away from their home are 7% happier than others who rarely if ever leave their neighborhood. 

Chun-Chu (Bamboo) Chen, an assistant professor in the School of Hospitality Business Management at WSU, decided to conduct this research to better understand just how much travel and new experiences influence an individual’s overall happiness and well being.

When we stop to ponder what makes up a content, meaningful life words like family, friends, creativity, and love often come to mind. But, as we can all personally attest after this year, being able to see something new and break the monotony of everyday life also goes a long way toward fostering happiness.

“While things like work, family life and friends play a bigger role in overall reports of well-being, the accumulation of travel experiences does appear to have a small yet noticeable effect on self-reported life satisfaction,” Chen says in a release. “It really illustrates the importance of being able to get out of your routine and experience new things.”

Interestingly, this research also discovered that people who keep tabs on travel and tourism-related information and talk about their future travel plans frequently, usually end up taking vacations and trips more often than others.

“This research shows the more people talk about and plan vacations the more likely they are to take them,” Chen adds. “If you are like me and chomping at the bit to get out of dodge and see someplace new, this research will hopefully be some additional good motivation to start planning your next vacation.”

A total of 500 people were surveyed for this study. Each adult was asked how important they consider traveling to be in their lives, how much time they typically spent planning future vacations, and the number of trips they usually took during a normal year. Respondents were also asked how satisfied with their life they felt. Only 7% of study subjects admitted to never taking vacations.

While plenty of earlier research projects have noted a connection between travel and improved life satisfaction, all of those studies focused solely on the effects of a single trip. This research is unique because it analyzed the impact of a full year’s worth of traveling or not traveling.

Many may be ready to start packing by the end of this article, but it’s important to note that we should all hold off on traveling until it’s safe to do so. The vaccine is here and the world will slowly but surely begin opening up this year. So, there’s a light (or perhaps vacation) at the end of this awful viral tunnel, yet we all still must practice some patience for just a little bit longer. 

Whether you want to visit Rome or Paris, or perhaps just Los Angeles or Chicago, all of those destinations will still be there once the pandemic is totally under control.

There’s no reason you can’t start planning and pondering your next big trip, though. Even if you were never a big traveler pre-pandemic, getting out there and seeing a new corner of the world could be a great way to start a new chapter.

The full study can be found here, published in Tourism Analysis.