RETURNING TO LIFE: Of travelling fantasies and perks of anticipating journeys

For many of us, cancelling vacations has become all too familiar. But as people begin to get vaccinated against Covid-19, the prospect of taking a trip seems a little less like a pipe dream.
RETURNING TO LIFE: Of travelling fantasies and perks of anticipating journeys


Certainly, it will be a while before vaccines are widely available (and even then we will need to continue certain practices to stop the spread of the virus). However, just thinking about a future getaway can yield surprising benefits. “Anticipation is such a valuable source of pleasure,” said Elizabeth Dunn, a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, who has studied anticipation and happiness.
I first spoke with Dr. Dunn more than a decade ago when I wrote about spending and happiness on the heels of the Great Recession. Recently, I called her again to talk about travel and the art of anticipation in light of the pandemic. The result?
Practical tips from social science on how to cultivate anticipation, what type of trips to take if you want to maximise happiness post-pandemic (the answer may not be what you think), why now may be an excellent time to plan, and how discussing your future adventures can help others who are feeling isolated. When we begin traveling again after months holed up at home, we will likely experience what Dr. Dunn referred to as a “happiness reset”— the result of which may be that even modest, less costly vacations will give us extreme pleasure.
“You can do something pretty simple and it’s going to feel fantastic,” she said. That’s especially good news for the legions of travellers whose incomes have been hurt by the pandemic. The theory behind why a more low-key trip may be a smart strategy is because at some point (faster than you think), you’ll get used to vacationing again. “The more people travel, the less likely they are to savour each trip,” wrote Dr. Dunn and Michael Norton, the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and a member of Harvard’s Behavioural Insights Group, in Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending. Dr. Dunn was involved with studies that investigated the notion that “an abundance of desirable life experiences may undermine people’s ability to savour simpler pleasures.” So, in a sense, our current travel deficit may end up replenishing our wonder of exploring. To take advantage of a happiness reset, begin with a simpler trip — a beach getaway close to home, a cross-country road trip, a fishing expedition with friends. No need for an extravagant getaway on the other side of the world.
Ideally, you want to book a vacation far enough in advance that you have time beforehand to gather details about the destination, to build excitement and positive expectations. This is as true for a trip to a state park as it is for a trip to Sicily. Since you don’t know what will happen on a hike, an escape to distant coastal cliffs or an Italian getaway you can use the time beforehand to fantasise, to imagine the Mediterranean Sea, food and sunshine. It’s through this cultivation of anticipation that the pleasure of a vacation can be extended beyond the trip itself.
In fact, the moment we’re in may offer the perfect amount of runway to cultivate anticipation. “The pandemic is forcing us to prioritise our future selves,” Dr. Dunn said. “January Liz feels pretty excited about what Summer Liz is going to be doing.”
Rosenbloom is a journalist with NYT
The New York Times

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