travel experience psychology
Chantel Brink
Chantel Brink
February 5, 2024 ·  3 min read

Science confirms that travelling makes us happier than material wealth ever will

Lots of people love to travel. It’s exciting and gives us a reason to get out of our comfort zones. Almost everyone would agree that a trip somewhere is something to be looked forward to. I remember my first trip elsewhere in the world, everything was so exciting. Even the most mundane of things was incredible. Taking the metro, looking at art, going to the beach, are all activities whose fun is amplified when doing it abroad, no matter how many times you’ve done those things at home. But the feeling of elation that we get from traveling is not just in our heads. A new study proves that we actually get more out of buying experiences in comparison to when we buy material things.

Traveling, it’s exciting

It’s pretty simple, the idea of buying an experience makes us more excited than the idea of buying things. As the study puts it: to do or to have, that is the question. It would seem the answer for most of us is to do. In two surveys, respondents from various demographic groups indicated that experiential purchases, those made with a primary intention of acquiring a life experience, made them happier than material purchases. For example, people felt better about a trip to France than the idea of purchasing a new television.

Thinking of a far away place


In a follow-up laboratory experiment, participants experienced more positive feelings after pondering an experiential purchase than after pondering a material purchase. So even the idea of traveling somewhere, or doing something makes us more excited than ideas about purchasing items. It might have to do with the fact that the pleasure over buying something is fleeting, but memories we have of doing something really enjoyable last with us for a lifetime. Looking forward to a trip or an experience we’re going to have is painstaking, knowing that in a certain amount of time we’re going to be somewhere, or doing something, reflects how much we actually enjoy those things.

Invest in happiness


Aristotle observed that “men fancy that external goods are the cause of happiness” but claimed that “leisure itself gives pleasure and happiness and enjoyment in life.” So the idea that doing is more pleasurable than making a new purchase is not new at all. As a society, we have more material wealth than ever before, but is it getting us anywhere when it comes to happiness? It might seem that allocating your resources towards things like travel would have a higher impact on our happiness than other investments we can potentially make.

Save for yourself

It’s been observed that an increased in material goods produce virtually no measurable gains in our psychological or physical well-being. The idea of having a big house or fast car might indeed not make us any happier. So why not instead allocate your resources in a way that would make you better off? By saving up for experiences rather than things we can make an investment in our own happiness.

By choosing better things to spend our money on we can instead build a more happy life for ourselves. It’s not about not spending your money on things at all. After all, you need a fair bit to run your life, but choosing those things wisely and spending your money on experiences could have a benefit that will last for ages. Getting to travel or experiencing something you really wanted will have profound effects on your happiness and long-term satisfaction.