Want to wring out every last drop of happiness from a big overseas trip, a long weekend in the country, interstate travel or even a hometown stay-cation? Travel is often a huge financial investment, so it makes sense to maximise the happiness return on that expense.
The time you are actually traveling seems to pass so quickly, and before you know it you’re back onto the everyday treadmill. However, I think I’ve worked out a foolproof system to triple the happiness the Fairlie Entourage gets from any travel experience, and I’m prepared to pass on my secret!
My ‘triple your travel happiness plan’ existed as a loose association of ideas in my head until I read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project a few years ago. I had a bit of an ‘ah-ha’ moment when I realised that some of the things I was instinctly doing dovetailed very neatly into her thoughts about the four stages for enjoying a happy event.
Gretchen’s four stages are: anticipation, savoring, expression and reflection. My ‘triple your travel happiness’ plan sort of bundles the middle two together, but we’re basically on the same page.
Fairlie’s ‘triple your travel happiness plan’
Stage 1: Anticipation
I know some people who literally book travel one day, jump on the plane the next. That’s not me. I like to start planning experiences a long way in advance. That doesn’t mean that I won’t seize a spontaneous opportunity if it arises, but at any point in time I like to have at least one long-term plan in place that I can ruminate over, chat about with other people, research extensively and read about. The more time I have to look forward to a trip, the more the excitement builds.
I encourage the whole Fairlie Entourage to be involved, and we discuss itinerary inclusions and preferences. I think it’s really important that the girls are aware of where they will be going and can look forward to it as much as The Poolboy and I are.
We tend to do most of our bookings ourselves, so can spend hours checking out destinations, hotels and restaurants online. I’ll read lots of Tripadvisor reviews and flick through some travellers’ pics, which I enjoy.
I’ll create a list of novels and movies set in the place we’re going and then read a few of the books, and watch the movies with the family. The more in advance, I know where we’re going, the more books I can get through on the list. Reading novels set in Vietnam prior to our travel there, added a very meaningful extra dimension to my experience of that country.
Before one holiday is finished, I like to have at least one future plan penciled into the diary (even if it’s just a night at a friend’s holiday house) as it gives us something to look forward to as we attempt that dreary re-entry to real life!
Stage 2: Being in the moment
Of course, this stage relates to the travel itself. It means savoring every experience as it happens. Trying new foods. Pushing outside your comfort zone. Experiencing local culture and traditions. Or just relaxing totally, if that’s the kind of vacation you’re after. But if you’re relaxing…do it well. Commit to the experience. One of The Poolboy’s favourite sayings when we’re tossing up whether or not to do something at a destination is, “We probably won’t ever be back here, so let’s do it”.
We try to switch into travel mode as soon as the holiday starts, and that means shutting out real-world stuff as much as possible. Of course, in this day and age, it’s almost impossible for many people to go totally off-the-grid, but you can take steps to minimise the intrusion. For instance, when we went to the US earlier this year, The Poolboy did not have global data on his phone, which meant he could only hook into the internet and get work-related emails when we were somewhere with wi-fi (usually back at the hotel in the evening). I receive a lot less work-related mail to my phone, so I had a prepaid US SIM card that allowed us to use my phone for research and maps when we were out and about. Being able to block out the demands of home really helps you to immerse in the environment.
But the flipside of that equation is that there is also a lot of happiness to be gained in sharing your pleasure with others in real-time, not only the people you’re with, but also friends and family back at home. For me, that means posting daily photos to Instagram or to Facebook. I loved waking up in the US morning and reading all the comments friends and family in the Australian timezones had left overnight on the previous day’s photos.
Stage 3: Reminiscing
If you play your cards right in Stage 3, you can spread out the current holiday’s happiness for years to come. This is the stage after the travel, where you reflect and remember all you saw, what you experienced, the foods you ate, the people you met. Years after the event, a memory can trigger a renewed experience of old joy.
Obviously, photos play a large part in this process. However, the days of coming home, getting your limited number of films developed and printed, and whacked into a photo album are long gone. I will return from a three week holiday with over 3,000 digital photographs. They could be downloaded to the computer, never to be seen again, or I can take a bit of time to tag them and sort into folders, ready to be used in ways that will trigger memories for many years.
The trick to maximising happiness is actually using those photos in highly visible ways. Some of the ideas I’ve employed are: photo books (fabulous on the coffee table), using photos here on the blog (obviously!), creating photo calenders as Christmas gifts for family, creating Facebook photo albums that I can share with friends when they ask for advice or tips about a place, and even sticking some of the photos onto the fridge.
However, photos aren’t the only way to reminisce. Carefully selected souvenirs that have a useful role in your life can trigger happy memories on a daily basis – the glass light fitting above our dining table reminds me of Murano, the bone salad servers of Hoi An, and the cotton pool towels of Istanbul.
On one holiday to Vietnam, The Impossible Princess started a collection of business cards from every establishment we went into. That plastic bag of cards gave her hours of joy as she sorted and shuffled those cards for many months after our return.
We try to incorporate foods we’ve enjoyed on various travels into our day-to-day menu. I make a ripper New York cheesecake, and The Poolboy is a dab hand at künefe. I’m aiming to master Vietnamese Pho in the near future so I can relive the intense enjoyment I had eating it for breakfast each morning.
Talking about, or writing about, and sharing your experiences with others also contributes to your own pleasure. Sure, I could (just possibly…) bore people with some of our travel tales…but equally, I’m the go-to person for many of our friends (and their friends) for tips and ‘lists’ for places we’ve been – lists of hotels, restaurants, shops and activities. It makes me happy to pass on the benefit of our research and experiences. Which I guess, is also the real reason I blog…I’m just wringing every last drop of travel happiness from every travel experience.
What do you do to maximise your travel happiness? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
This post is linked to #FYBF at With Some Grace