Extended travel (sabbaticals, Big OEs, moving overseas) is a common pursuit of happiness tactic.
How to Maximize the Psychological Benefits of Travel
How to understand the emotional dreams that are fueling your travel dreams
Let’s say your travel dream is to travel in Europe for 3 months. The deeper emotional goals underlying your travel dream could be any / multiple of the following:
If lots of the following apply to you, list them in order of priority.
1. You want a sense of independence and of making your own decisions.
2. You want excitement.
3. You want to reward yourself for hard work.
4. You want to directly experience more e.g., see parts of the world first hand rather than relying on media reports.
5. You want to feel connected with humanity and with people from different cultures or historical periods. For example, if you’re an artist, you might want to feel connected to other artists from other places or historical periods. If you’re a Mum, you might want to feel connected to other Mums from different cultures/times.
6. You want to experience natural or human-made beauty and have other glorious sensory experiences.
7. You want a sense of unlimited possibilities.
8. You want to develop a closer relationship with your planned traveling companion.
9. You want to change something about yourself.
10. You want to escape something unpleasant.
11. You want a sense of history and your place in it.
12. You want to experience new technologies and a sense of the future.
13. You want to see if another culture is a better fit for you than your own. You want to feel like you fit in.
14. You want to feel different from other people (a sense of uniqueness).
15. You want a sense of freedom.
16. You want to relax and decompress.
17. You want a new perspective on your home culture and how you’re influenced by it.
18. You want to gain confidence in relying on yourself, dealing with the unknown and solving problems.
19. You want to have new and novel experiences/variety.
20. You want adventure.
21. You want fun.
22. You want to experiment with not being overly hesitant in making decisions.
23. You want to explore e.g. what’s out there in the world or what makes you personally happy.
24. You want to think in new ways (e.g. see yourself in new ways, see others in new ways, see your choices in new ways).
25. You hope travel will provide some psychological distance (When you are psychologically close to a problem your view will be relatively narrow and objects will seem large. When you can get psychological distance, your perspective will be broader and different aspects will come into focus. To understand this, think about what it’s like to view a scene from close up versus from a wide angle).
Main reasons why its good to understand your deep emotional goals.
1. So you can use your deep emotional goals to guide your specific travel plans.
For example, if relaxation is your most important emotional goal then this will influence the plans you make. You’ll be more likely to prioritize relaxation rather than being distracted from that goal by other goals that are in fact not as important to you (e.g. if I plan to see 8 museums in 3 days will this be relaxing?).
2. So you can check if traveling is reasonably likely to lead to you achieving your emotion goals.
Sometimes understanding why you want to travel might make you realize that travel might not be sufficient for achieving a particular emotional goal.
Number 25 on the list above (about achieving a different psychological perspective) is a good example. You might need Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to achieve that.
3. So you can accurately/comprehensively communicate your deep emotional goals to others and therefore help them understand you.
For example, so you can accurately communicate to your significant other about why extended travel is important to you.
4. If your specific plans seem like they are good match with your deep goals it can help you feel confident that you’re making good decisions.
5. There are almost always multiple ways you can achieve your emotional goals. (More here) If you can’t travel right away, look at additional ways you could achieve your deep emotional goals without waiting until you can travel. You might have to wait to start achieving your travel dreams but you don’t have to wait to start achieving your emotion goals.