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Washington State University
Dividend - Fall 2020 Research

Looking for More Satisfaction in Life? Research Says Travel More Often

Story by Eric Hollenbeck

It’s often said that life is about the journey, not the destination. The same can be said for vacation. No matter where you plan to go on your next trip, embracing a lifestyle that includes travel and tourism, especially when focused on seeking new experiences, can improve happiness and increase overall satisfaction in life, according to new research.

Bamboo Chen, assistant professor of hospitality business management at WSU Vancouver, recently published a study on the compounding effects of travel during a 12-month period and found that people who travel more frequently are more satisfied with their lives.

“Positive experiences that come from travel and tourism have a cumulative effect on a person’s happiness,” says Chen. “The more we have, the happier we are.”

Reaping the Benefits of Vacation

Research shows people often feel happier, healthier, and more relaxed following a vacation, but what happens when travel is considered to be an essential part of one’s life?

“Life satisfaction is determined by many factors, and travel and vacation add to the feelings of satisfaction,” says Chen.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that once you start taking more vacations, you’ll instantly lead a happier life, but the research does suggest those who travel more often have experiences that improve overall well-being and satisfaction in life. “Frequency of travel explains about ten percent of overall life satisfaction,” he says.

People engage in all types of activities or hobbies to help them relax, recharge, and cope with stress—such as gardening, home improvement projects, reading books, playing music, fitness and exercise activities, etc.—and it can be argued that travel and tourism belong in the same group of essential activities that foster happiness and satisfaction.

The Return of the Great American Road Trip

AAA estimated nearly 100 million Americans took a family vacation in 2019, with a little more than half of those traveling families loading up the car and hitting the open road.

As the travel and tourism industry rebounds from the restrictions issued in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Chen expects to see domestic and in-state tourism and travel—specifically road trips—to return at a much quicker rate than air travel as the preferred method of vacation, as travelers may be reluctant to pack into confined spaces with other people.

“You can maintain social distancing a lot easier on a road trip,” says Chen.

No matter where your next vacation takes you, the evidence is clear: if happiness and feelings of well-being are important, make travel and tourism a priority in your life.