For most people, going on vacation is something to look forward to. Being in a different environment is a chance to relax and leave the daily grind behind, let go of stress and forget the routine. No meetings. No deadlines. No annoying bosses.
There’s even a study that links happiness and geographical location, showing that people’s tweets get significantly more positive in mood the greater the distance they are from home.
So it appears, we’re least happy at work and most happy when we are farthest from home. Why? What is it about travel that makes it a happy thing?
Happiness is a concept that is not that easy to define. I thought I’d start by making a list of 10 travel experiences that made me really happy.
1-Hot air balloon flight over the Masai Mara
Drifting over one of the world’s greatest wilderness regions, the Maasai Mara, is an uplifting feeling. I visited at the start of the migration and floating low above thousands of wildebeests was exhilarating. Everyone in the basket was happy, including the pilot, and the mood was infectious. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
2-Gorilla trekking in Uganda
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to handle the gruelling trek. Sometimes, if you’re unlucky, you might have to trek all day to catch a glimpse of the gorillas. Our group was very lucky. We only had to trek for 90 minutes. Later in the day, the gorillas appeared at our camp and chose to spend the night next to my tent. The mood at camp was jubilant.
3-Meeting a sea lion in Sea World
Who would guess a sea lion encounter at Sea World would make a grown woman happy? Wendell was so adorable I wanted to take him home!
4-Brigadoon Bundanoon Highland Gathering
There’s nothing like a festival to foster a happy mood. One festival that stands out is Brigadoon Bundanoon Highland Gathering, which is a celebration of all things Scottish.
5-Mahout training in Thailand
Learning to ride an elephant like a mahout (by sitting on its neck) seemed daunting at first but it was so much fun I’m itching to go back again with a group of friends. Anyone want to come? The 32 elephants at Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation were saved from begging and performing tricks in the streets.
The project is sustained through donations and elephant experiences for guests staying at luxury resorts Anantara Golden Triangle and Four Seasons Tented Camp. The foundation is run by passionate elephant conservationist John Roberts. The foundation’s head of Elephant Research, Dr Joshua Plotnik, is investigating elephant cognitive complexity by conducting experiments on memory, problem-solving and co-operation.
6-Learning to ski in British Columbia
I love wintery landscapes so visiting British Columbia in winter was like stepping into a scene from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It was a three-week trip visiting six ski resorts and I decided I’d put my mind to learning how to ski. I loved it!
Did you know that Vanuatu was voted as the happiest place in the world in the New Economics Foundation’s Happy Planet Index? It’s easy to see why. The people have big smiles on their faces and there’s a really relaxed mood. Being there made me feel that time (or lack of it) isn’t important.
The home of Happy Feet is a place I often reflect on. Memories of watching thousands of penguins never fail to put a smile on my face.
There are birds everywhere: trees full of red-footed boobies, tropic birds, gulls and storm petrels, are Nazca boobies sitting on eggs on the ground and chicks peering out from beneath under bushes. Seeing a baby sea lion reunite with its mother sticks in my memory.
White-sand beaches, aquamarine water and swaying palms. When I think of a beach vacation, Fiji always pops into my mind. What’s more, the Fijians are a happy lot. Their laughter and smiles are genuine and filled with warmth.