• Melinda Murphy

Planning a trip is good for you

Courtesy National Geographic


With the pandemic far from over, now may not be the right time for leisure travel. But that doesn’t mean trip planning is canceled too. There’s some good news for globe-trotters: According to researchers, looking ahead to your next adventure could benefit your mental health. Even if you’re not sure when that adventure will be.


Some psychologists tout the mental benefits of vacationing somewhere new. One 2013 survey of 485 adults in the U.S. linked travel to enhanced empathy, attention, energy, and focus. Other research suggests that the act of adapting to foreign cultures may also facilitate creativity. But what about the act of planning a trip? Can we get a mental health boost from travel before we even leave home?


Scientists talk travel

Planning and anticipating a trip can be almost as enjoyable as going on the trip itself, and there’s research to back it up. A 2014 Cornell University studydelved into how the anticipation of an experience (like a trip) can increase a person’s happiness substantially—much more so than the anticipation of buying material goods. An earlier study, published by the University of Surrey in 2002, found that people are at their happiest when they have a vacation planned.


Amit Kumar, one of the co-authors of the Cornell study, explains that the benefits are less about obsessing over the finer points of an itinerary than they are about connecting with other people. One reason? Travelers “end up talking to people more about their experiences than they talk about material purchases,” he says. “Compared to possessions, experiences make for better story material.”


Among the pandemic’s many challenges: quarantine measures greatly reduce our ability to create new experiences and connect with other people. And we’re craving those those connections and their social benefits more than ever.



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