I love traveling. I’m sure that comes as a surprise to absolutely no one and I’m sure a good deal of you feel the same way. Still, it’s far from a universal sentiment. There are plenty of individuals out there who don’t share a passion for travel and I’m guessing at least a few of my readers fall into that category as well.
Now to us travel enthusiasts, that’s just plain old bizarre, right up there with not liking chocolate. I mean, how could you not love to travel right? Well strangely enough if you’ve ever tried to explain why you love to travel to someone who doesn’t, it’s surprisingly difficult to put your passion into words. In fact, on the surface home seems to have all the obvious advantages. Home is comfortable and safe. You have your possessions there. Your friends are close and you may even be lucky enough to live someplace beautiful. What’s more, in the modern world you can travel by watching a show on television or simply reading a book, no need to spend bags of money or get violated going through airport security.
So why the love of travel then? I’ve spent a good deal of time recently contemplating this question. I’ve come up with a list of reasons, only one of which I’d like to address today. The reason is this: traveling gives me the best opportunity to collect experiences and these experiences make me happier. Sounds simple enough, but allow me to clarify anyway.
The most obvious experiences traveling affords are the beautiful sites, from mountains to cathedrals. There’s a reason Michelangelo painted ceilings and not postcards, seeing a photo of the Sistine Chapel can never adequately represent the experience of standing it. Also, the endless variation of foods, peoples, places and activities you’ll find traveling can’t be matched even in a city as big as New York. I don’t count only pleasurable experiences among those that have brought me happiness either. Changing a flat tire by the side of a highway and sleeping on a park bench aren’t things I’d jump at the chance to do again, but both of them have made me richer and happier.
It seems strange that bad experience can make you happier, but I’ve felt this way for a long time. Amazingly enough, the nerds over at Cornell University were kind enough to confirm my instinct using science. A recent study (you can read an article about it by clicking here) shows that while material possessions do not add to one’s feeling of happiness, collecting new experiences does, even bad ones. I guess Wiley Coyote owes Road Runner a Christmas card after all.
I don’t want to be a complete hypocrite. I have a Sex in the City worthy three closet collection of clothes to testify to my weakness for material possessions. Still, if I compare the clothes to the memories I’ve collected traveling; it’s not a close call as to which one adds more to my life.