Whilst we can all agree that happiness can’t simply be purchased at the local 7-11, years of research have conclusively proven that spending money wisely can, indeed, bring us intense and long-lasting happiness. What constitutes ‘wise’, might you ask? Well, according to science, that would be spending money on experiences rather than material possessions.
Spending our money – and time – the best way possible
The ‘money can’t buy you happiness’ brigade has always made a very valid point even if, perhaps, its simplicity may have led us slightly astray. Inspirational messages along those lines really ought to come with a wee bit of fine print at the bottom, something along the lines of *well, for some things and only in certain circumstances. Rebukes usually come thick and fast, especially from those who struggle to make ends meet and even from those who don’t. Sure, they say, a new pair of shoes or car upgrade isn’t going to bring you the kind of soul-reviving happiness that hiking the Inca Trail to mystical Machu Picchu does, but you still need money in order to achieve the latter. Sometimes, the best things in life are not free.
Even if a solely experiential trip trumps any kind of shopping-filled journey when it comes to stellar emotional, educational and intellectual rewards, it still costs money, nevertheless.
It is for this reason that scientists (who tend to be sticklers for details) state that money can actually buy us happiness, as long as we spend it on the right things. This is especially true when we use money to travel and enjoy once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and when we buy spare time, by far our most precious commodity. The global increase in prosperity (and corresponding drastic decrease in poverty) means we are all collectively much better off than ever before yet the counter-effect of that is that we are leading much busier lives, leaving us in a rather interesting conundrum: we may well have more money to spend, nowadays, but we also have much less time in which to spend it. This is when it becomes even more important that we spend our precious money – and even more precious time – on all those things that bring about the greatest happiness.
Why does travel bring us happiness?
Travel has been used as a form of therapy and escapism, a tool for personal growth and a resolver of existential crisis since time immemorial. For many people, the meaning of life and true key to happiness has been found in between the pages of literary giants like Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Paul Theroux and even, most recently, Elizabeth Gilbert, who single-handedly inspired an entire generation of women to pack their bags and travel the world in order to find themselves. Many of them did and even those who didn’t are still, no doubt, rehashing the insane memories of their crazy adventures abroad. That’s the beauty of travel: it doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be enjoyable all the time but it is always rewarding and always unforgettable. We dare say travel is among the most educational experience you can ever have. Travel teaches you about yourself and the world around you better than any school book ever could. It teaches you to be tolerant and resilient, to share and to care. Travel gifts you the chance of aloneness and distance, so that you may find out who you really are outside the constraints of whatever role you’ve grown into, back home. Travel has the potential to literally change you, at your very core, and to alter the course of your life.
Time and again, travelling has been proven to be incredibly good for our souls and, it would seem, also our brains. Travelling makes us wiser and enhances our CPS (complex problem-solving skills), it increases our ability to think critically and gives us a much broader perspective, even increasing our employability, making us more sociable and able to interact with people from all walks of life as well as being more creative and productive. Now, we may love shoes as much as the next Carrie Bradshaw but there really isn’t a single pair of designer shoes in the world that can do all that. And all that is what makes us happiest, overall.
And do you know what happiness does, above and beyond anything else?
It makes us much healthier.
Spend money on all the right things and you could buy yourself good health too
It’s no secret that a happy and stress-free life is the holy grail of all those seeking good health and if money can buy you happiness, and we know happiness promotes good health, then it isn’t much of a stretch to state that money can buy you good health. But don’t just take our word for it: we have some serious science backing us up.
When we travel, we’re usually more physically active than when we are at home and do keep in mind that even if you hit the gym 5 times a week, you’re probably not getting the kind of overall workout one gets when one spends days and even weeks on-end sightseeing, hiking and doing all sorts of activities whilst galivanting the globe. Spending more time in the great outdoors, whether in nature or cities, promotes better health and aside from constantly soaking up fresh air, we’re also likely to be soaking up a lot more Vitamin D when we travel rather than when we’re home. All of this increases our serotonin levels, promotes better sleep, resets our metabolism and gives our mood an incredible boost, which explains the famed ‘holiday high’. It’s almost irrelevant where in the world one travels: most simply feel happier being out and about and away from their daily grind and routine life. And there aren’t many people who need a scientific study to understand that.
Research by the US Global Commission on Aging concluded that travel literally keeps us young by keeping us healthier and fitter. The study found that people who don’t take yearly holidays run significantly higher risks of dying of heart attacks and suffering from stress-related illnesses and that the risks increase the longer one goes without a vacation. Now you can feel even happier about taking that much-awaited Antarctica expedition cruise or wildlife-watching trip to the Galapagos Islands.
Knowing our hard-earned money is going towards an epic journey and giving us an incredible health boost is that win-win we’ve all been searching.
Whoever coined the term “money can’t buy you happiness” obviously hadn’t dished out some hard-earned funds to experience the wilderness and wildlife treasures of Antarctica.
Given that mental health is as important for our general wellbeing as physical health, it’s great to know that travel also plays a role in improving our state of mind. With the increase in happiness that arises from travelling also comes a most defining decrease in stress, as travelling tends to reset our circadian rhythms and, by removing us from the stress-causing sources in our lives (usually work and routine commitments we don’t necessarily enjoy) gives our brains the break they need to reset and recharge.
If all this isn’t enough, a 2014 study on experiential purchases vs material purchases concluded that the anticipation of an impending experience lowers anxiety and stress levels almost immediately and certainly long before the experience even rolls around.
Imagine that?! Book that tour to Latin America today and your trip will make you happier and healthier, long before you ever need to start packing your bags!
At Chimu Adventures, we offer EPIC tours to South America and Central America and sensational expedition cruises to Antarctica and the Arctic region. What better way to improve your health and secure your happiness than by planning a magnificent adventure with us?
Contact us for more info.
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Author: Laura Pattara
“Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 15 years. She’s tour-guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and has completed a 6-year motorbike trip from Europe to Australia. What ticks her fancy most? Animal encounters in remote wilderness, authentic experiences off the beaten trail and spectacular Autumn colours in Patagonia.”