Why Plan a Trip When You’re Broke and in Lockdown?

woman on vacation looking out over the water
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We only get so long on this world, so let’s see as much of it as possible, right?

I love to travel. I’ve been privileged to study abroad in Europe as well as seeing a fair bit of the United States. My bucket list? It’s basically just a list of destinations I want to see. Egypt. Japan. India. Australia. Someday, I’ll see them all.

But in 2020, I didn’t journey more than 50 miles from home. The pandemic has been terrible for so many reasons, and I know that not being to travel is far down the list. Someday, I’ll get back out there. In the meantime, it turns out that just planning an epic journey is good for your well-being.

The Link Between Anticipation and Happiness

A much-quoted 2010 study from the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life found that people who were planning a trip experienced more happiness compared to their non-traveling peers. The study also found that, unless the vacation was very relaxing and enjoyable, tourists tended to be slightly less happy after traveling. “For most, the enjoyment starts weeks, even months before the holiday actually begins,” the study authors concluded.

In other words, the anticipation was better than reality. Guess somebody needs a vacation after their vacation, huh?

Considering that none of us are traveling right now, anticipation is all we’ve got. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, even if you couldn’t possibly afford to go on a trip right now, allowing yourself to daydream about one could be good for you.

Another study, this one from Cornell University, found that experiential purchases–spending money on doing–makes us happier than material purchases. In addition, we’re also happier thinking about experiences rather than buying stuff.

Amit Kumar claimed that one of the reasons we prefer spending money on experiences rather than things is the social aspect. “Compared to possessions, experiences make for better story material,” Kumar told National Geographic Magazine.

Plan It, Share It, Live It

So what does that mean for you? Start daydreaming about all the trips you’ll take once the pandemic is finally under control. Not just that, but share your plans with the people you care about. While it’s bittersweet to think that your trip might not happen for months–if at all–planning it can help boost your mood.

We could all use a break from the unpleasant reality of 2020. Imagining the places you’ll go next year helps break up the mental monotony. Sharing that dream with a friend eases feelings of social isolation and gives you both something positive to talk about.

There’s one more surprising benefit to planning a trip that you might not ever take. Looking up prices on flights, browsing hotels, or mapping out driving routes can give you a sense of control.

In a year when so much has been beyond our ability to influence, planning a vacation is a form of self-care. If you can, start saving money to make your daydream possible once the pandemic is under control. But even if travel isn’t logistically or financially possible, you can still benefit from thinking about it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go compare Egyptian river cruises for the fifteenth time since March.

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