Travel Hasn’t Made Me Happier

Namibia

Travel Hasn’t Made Me Happier

I have a confession to make, one that may not entirely make sense, travel hasn’t made me happier. This may sound conflicting, especially when compared to all of my other posts that glorify travel, but even though travel is one of my greatest loves, it isn’t the cause of my happiness.

Yes, it’s true that I am at my happiest state while traveling, but often when I arrive home, it seems to slip away from me entirely. I think that’s one of the most difficult challenges of travel, making sure that we aren’t using it as an escape from our lives. If we do, in many ways, it becomes counterintuitive.

Namibia

Travel is supposed to enhance our lives and our well-being, but what I have discovered is that while doing this, it also lends a hand to other feelings, more difficult ones.

While traveling, I have been able to see how the world actually lives, which makes me feel a sort of responsibility, an urgency to work on improving the world; it also makes me feel as though I am not doing enough. My day to day life feels insignificant to what others in the world are doing, and travel has only enhanced my understanding of this. But, while doing this, it has also led me to a better understanding of what true happiness is.

Kids in Thailand

My realization of this has opened my eyes entirely. It’s also made me think of one of my favorite quotes about happiness by author, Elizabeth Gilbert:

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”

Happiness is fleeting, it does not stay without work, and for some of us, the work may be harder than others. But, the ultimate lesson is the fact that happiness comes from within and there’s nothing that the outside world can do to make us happy unless we are internally happy; the job is an inside one.

Fiji.

I thought traveling more frequently would make me a happier person, until I realized that while traveling did make me happy, coming home got more and more difficult. I was using travel as an escape from reality, a method to distract myself from something that wasn’t quite right at home.

The fact is that when it comes down to it, no matter how happy travel may make us, it doesn’t remove the fact that we may not be happy with who we are and the lives we lead when we come home. Sometimes, it may even take a trip for us to realize this, but that’s not necessarily negative.

I have found that because I have traveled, my mind has been opened up to the world, and I have realized my place in it. It may not always be one that I understand or am comfortable with, but the understanding of what small space I take up in the world has changed my outlook for the better. It has also made me become conscious of the present moment and grateful for the people I have in my life.

Happiness in Puerto Rico!

I am a very happy person today, but travel is not the reason why. Happiness is something we carry with us, no matter who we are with or where in the world we are, and it is up to us alone to ensure we are happy. So, while travel hasn’t made me happier, I do believe that it has enriched my life in more ways than staying home ever would have done.

Still, I do believe it is also important to note that unless we are happy with who we are before we leave our front doors, happiness is something we will continue to chase forever, and something we may never find.

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Comments (17)

  1. Tim

    You are correct. Happiness will be fleeting if travel is nothing more than escape from life. That said though, when any of us travel we are escaping from everyday life. That is why we do it; the excitement, the adventure, the knowledge and hopeful understanding of our place in the world and the place of others.

    When we leave home happy, you are correct, travel will be enhanced. When we leave home depressed, travel will help fill the void and may put you on a path to feeling better or at the very least give you some tools to handle your life a little better.

    No matter how you, I, look at it, travel is a tonic for the soul and should be utilized in whatever capacity it is needed at the time.

    1. The World Wanderer

      Completely agree, Tim! I’d never be who I am without travel, and it has helped me get through some of the most difficult times in my life. Though, I think I realized this year, that I was using it too much as an escape from reality, which wasn’t healthy for me. Now that I’ve adjusted my thoughts, I can be grateful for the travel I’ve had and the travels yet to come.

      I used to think I was the type of person who could travel non-stop and wander around the world, but I’ve realized that I love coming home and appreciate the people in my life, so much so that I’m not sure I could leave home permanently. Though, my little periods of travel have given me such insight and understanding into the world, myself, and a greater love for those I am lucky enough to have in my life. 🙂

  2. Amy Lynne Hayes

    GREAT post!!! I have been pondering the concept of travel as an escape for some time now. Especially after reading Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection – she talks a lot about avoiding numbing behaviors to avoid negative emotions. I realized that I often used travel as a means to “capture the high” without dealing with what was making me unhappy in the first place. I do love my traveling, and will be continuing that habit, but now I will practice it with much more personal awareness that previously. 🙂

  3. Lisa - Wee Wanders

    This is one of my favourite quotes too. At the start of 2014 I made a few changes in my life in a conscious effort to be more happy (one being travelling the world; I set off in 6 weeks). I really have noticed such a difference when actually participating in my happiness as opposed to thinking it is external influences that determine it.

    Great post, I’m currently writing lots about my journey to finding happiness too 🙂

  4. Shelby

    Great post – I agree with many of your observations and am on my own personal & internal happiness journey, complete with travel & all! 🙂 Cheers!

  5. Muriel

    I definitely agree with you. Just like anything else, using travel as an excuse to make you happier is not the idea. You should be happy beforehand and that trip should just enhance your already good life. I will never be a person that doesn’t travel. It makes me look forward to things, learn things, experience new things… but I definitely experience a sort of post-travel depression after my trips. It’s always such a high to be away for two weeks in a foreign country and then to come back home to routine. Thanks for this post! It was a good one for sure.

  6. Raul (@ilivetotravel)

    Lovely reflection, Erin. Happiness, in the end, just comes from within. Travel enables me to find joys but the long-lasting happiness comes from how I evaluate what life has brought me. Continue your journey and sharing it with us!

  7. Francesca

    This is something I haven’t really thought about. I think I understand where you’re coming from, though… I try to be happy on a daily basis, whether I’m at home or on the road. Like you, I am at my happiest when traveling, but when we’ve got a happy life to return to, coming home isn’t so bad.

  8. Ben

    ‘At once I knew, I was not magnificent’

    A lyric from the Bon Iver song Holocene that has stuck with me.

    Totally take your point about our insignificance and the realisation of such that travel brings. I think I’ve come to embrace it, it makes me feel good in the world. It fascinates me if I look out of a window and see a run-down tower block or something; all of the hundreds of separate lives that are happening there, all with their own triumphs and heartbreaks, all as incredibly important to that individual as my experiences are to me, but in the grand scheme of things absolutely insignificant.

    I guess I’m at peace with it. Sorry to get all deep – great post! Will keep reading.

  9. Traveling Ted

    Travel can sometimes make you unhappier because it raises your expectations for what a good time that cannot be matched at home. What I do to offset these feelings is I lower my standards of fun when I am home. Although it sucks to go to work tomorrow, I am pretty excited to have some coffee. I will focus on the coolness of coffee instead of the fact that I am working.

  10. Ryan

    Amazing analysis about traveling. I personally used to think travel would equate to sudden happiness, and I was so very wrong. It actually had the opposite affect to mu emotions and well-being thinking that way. And when I decided to just work on me and my happiness, travel seemed to fit in as a tool to do that…but I have to constantly keep moving forward and working at it. Happiness won’t just slap you in the face, it is up to you to discover what makes you happy and try to find it in everything you do.

  11. Charu

    Travel is one way to expand your mind but your mind needs to first be content with where you are.

  12. Louise

    “I was using travel as an escape from reality, a method to distract myself from something that wasn’t quite right at home.”
    I hear Ya!
    Thanks for posting, sorted my head 🙂

    http://www.borntobeatourist.co.uk

  13. Clare

    I identify with all of this! I’m home at the moment after travelling for a solid year in Asia, and the perspective I gained there has made it really difficult for me to slip back into the ‘real’ life that seems less and less real. Travel, especially long term, also has the effect of making you re-evaluate and look inside yourself – which, whilst a valuable lesson and ultimately enriching, doesn’t always reveal things you wanted to know about yourself! I too am happiest when I’m travelling, but totally agree with you that is happiness carried inside and magnified by doing what I love, not happiness given to me by the places I travel to. Great post!

  14. Graziella Brincat

    I am now in the realization phase, where the more I travel the more I understand how much effort is wasted on material things that can be far better utilized. I feel alive, encouraged, full of great plans to lead a better life. Once I settle back home however, that feeling slowly dissipates and I fall right back into the same routine until I have to leave again. Vicious circle, and I guess the older you get, the more roots (responsibilities, commitments etc) take hold to ground you. I think happiness takes courage, and determination. Let’s work on that first.

  15. Claire

    How weird! I I have been reading Eat Pray Love and just read that passage from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book this morning on my commute to work before googling ‘will travel make me happy’ and opening this page from the google search results. Weird! Lovely, lovely but weird.

    1. The World Wanderer

      That is both weird and lovely! Love Elizabeth Gilbert so much 🙂

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