The first time I remember feeling excited about travel was when I was five years old, going to the USA for my uncle’s wedding. I didn’t understand where we were going but I knew it was a special day because everyone was busy and awake before the sunrise to catch an early morning flight.
I remember this pre-departure excitement feeling more vividly than most of trip (except for Disneyland, of course).
Flash forward about 15 years, and I’m getting ready for my first solo trip as an adult – an exchange semester in Istanbul, Turkey. This time, the anticipation began much sooner than the morning of my flight.
I began the application process nearly a year before my departure date (thanks evil bureaucracy!). I had to save as much money as possible, so I increased my hours at work, cancelled my gym membership and stopped eating out. I stopped doing the things that I loved.
Months and months before the trip, I began to spend a lot of time online, anticipating the upcoming adventures. I curated my packing list based on inspiration from bloggers across the web, and planned my itineraries out day by day. I made extensive Pinterest boards of shiny new destinations and scrolled through Instagram compulsively for a hit of travel inspo.
It’s normal to become obsessed with upcoming travels when it’s something you’ve wished for since you were a little girl. But spending everyday endlessly consuming travel posts more than six months out made me forget the best travel tip out there:
Fully live and appreciate every moment.
I lived in a daydream, not the present reality. Making plans to catch up with friends, going to yoga classes and appreciating the way the sunlight shines through the trees were all forgotten. I didn’t make time for gazing at the moon or smiling at strangers. I wasn’t really alive, I was living in a state of discontented anticipation.
The dangers of media
Some studies have reported that happiness levels peak before you go on your trip. You’re happier when you’re anticipating the trip than when you’re actually on it.
I’m sure a contributing factor to this is the huge industry of travel media, from blogs to books to airline adverts to TV shows to youtube videos, they’re all trying to convince us that we should spend our money on that idyllic getaway, because it will be perfect. We see images of picturesque stone houses and empty tropical beaches, and we hand over our dollars without a second thought.
Or if we don’t yet have the dollars, we live our lives vicariously through the content of travel bloggers. It’s all too easy to spend our days consuming travel media and becoming completely disconnected from reality.
This isn’t to say that travel blogs are evil or that daydreaming is bad. As my grandmother would say: ‘all things in moderation, Miss Rose.’
Not traveling is also a beautiful part of life
Now I’ve returned from a year abroad, I’m really appreciating some of the things I previously took for granted. Travel is great, but there are some things I LOVE about having a home:
- Not living out of a backpack
- Regular routines and habits
- Seeing my friends on the reg
- Access to a washing machine so I can do free laundry whenever I want!!!
- Keeping a collection of herbs and spices in the kitchen
- Having a kitchen
- Having my own space, instead of sharing in a hostel
- Home cooked meals (restaurants = decision fatigue)
- Being able to commit to hobbies and classes
- Being a part of a community, where I know the people and the people know me
I have so many reasons to be happy and enjoy life at home now I’m in between trips. Why waste it constantly dreaming of travel??
I think one reason that travel makes us feel happy is because it pulls us into the present moment. You actually take the time to soak in everything that’s going on around you. Life is so different and colourful and vibrant. You begin enjoying the tiny details that seem mundane in your normal life.
I want to live my life in the ‘travel state of mind’ no matter whether I’m actually travelling, working and saving up for travel or simply focusing on things other than travel. I want to appreciate everything.
The great opportunity is where you are. Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the centre of the world. – John Burroughs
Happiness in the present
Most of us see happiness as some far off goal that we should work towards. So maybe I’ll be happy after I’ve visited every country in the world and own a house and am at the top of the legal profession and solved world hunger and ended climate change.
I’m untying my happiness from goal hitting, and trying to make happiness a daily priority. Everyday, I’ll make space to enjoy the sunshine on my face, the wind in my hair, the snuggly warm fuzzy feeling in my cosy bed, lovely people around me, cooking new recipes.
So, yes, I’m in my home country and will be for a while. Of course I’m keen to go on more overseas adventures. But I’m not deferring my happiness.
Don’t wait for travel to be happy. Seize THIS day.