Bringing happiness home in the New Year
Posted on January 1, 2018
Everyone has a reason for traveling. Some look forward to meeting new people. Others want to break their routine and seek new sights and experiences. Then, there are those who love the challenges, whether it’s mastering the Paris Metro or learning a new language. But regardless of the reason, the consensus is that travel makes us happy — and that’s a good thing, because happy people are healthier and more productive.
Get Happy, Stay Happy
We’re usually ebullient after a trip and we think the glow will last forever, but then one day we realize that emotionally, we’re right back where we started. Case in point: last spring we spent two weeks in Bhutan visiting peaceful Buddhist temples, loving the local people we met, and soaking up the country’s “Gross National Happiness.” Back in La Jolla, I hung our imported prayer flags between tall trees and basked in their good vibes. Then one day in early September, I noticed how the bright flag colors had faded — as did my mood. In an effort to reconnect with the way I’d felt in Bhutan, I went back to my notes from an interview I did with the director of Nalanda Buddhist Institute, who promoted, among other things, meditation, prayer, chanting and doing “good deeds.” That’s when I realized that it’s easy to be happy when traveling, but it takes forethought and a degree of wisdom to convert the experience into a long-term impact on our mood.
Bhutan isn’t the only country that has helped me be happy. In 2007, I stayed at Ananda in the Himalayas, a gorgeous Ayurvedic spa in neighboring India. There, I lay on my back while a stream of warm oil was poured slowly on my forehead, and experienced a perfect four-hand massage. It was almost by accident that between treatments, I discovered the introductory Vedanta lectures that resonated with my psyche. Vedanta suggests ways to control our mind and emotions, encourages self-reflection, and helps us drop false notions of where genuine happiness lies. Spoiler alert: it isn’t in wealth, fame, or material possessions. At Ananda, I bought books about Vedanta and once home, I connected with a study group in San Diego. Ten years later, this ancient Indian philosophy continues to enrich my life. anandaspa.com, vedantala.org
Make A Promise
Nature can also help lift our spirits. Several studies have demonstrated that walking in nature leads to reduced risk of depression. That’s why many people enjoy active vacations in beautiful settings and feel less happy upon the return to an urban environment.
The way to prolong our active vacation buzz is to prioritize time outdoors. Those who return from a trip with a commitment to regular times for a walk, run, surf, or bike ride will feel at least a degree of the happiness they experienced away from home. In fact, just eating a meal outdoors, watching the sunset at the beach, or moving our yoga mat outside can lift our mood.
Travel philanthropy is another way to derive long-term happiness from a trip. I know of several Ranch & Coast readers who adopted schools in Africa and travel back and forth regularly, meeting students and witnessing the difference their contributions have made. “We derive such happiness from this project,” one donor told me.
Turning a travel experience into a lifestyle change requires a big commitment, but it’s fairly easy to prolong your travel-happy state for a short time. For example, just home from Peru and want to extend the glow? Hang out at the House of Peru in Balboa Park one Sunday afternoon. Watch The Motorcycles Diaries. Read Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams. Eat at Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria in Liberty Station. Post your photos on social media and share them with the people you met on your trip. Find the recipes you collected from restaurants in Peru and recreate their flavors in your kitchen.
Even though it’s been a while since we were in Peru, I still make quinoa pancakes on most Sunday mornings. It’s silly really, because they aren’t nearly as good as the ones at the Inkaterra near Machu Picchu, but those pancakes make me happy. Elizabeth Hansen
Photography courtesy of Adams/Hansen Stock Photos