In the old days, when our annual trips to Europe required a transatlantic flight, our planning began more than 11 months in advance because that was how far ahead we could book the airline tickets. We then had almost a year to do all of the fine tuning and to picture how we wanted our holiday to turn out. Once we moved here and started traveling almost exclusively by train, where tickets are generally available only 3 months in advance, we had to change our strategy. No longer did we have months of anticipation but only weeks and according to an article I read last month it’s that period of looking forward to your break that makes you feel better about life in general and specifically about your health, economics, and social situation. With the article titled, “Waiting for Merlot”, I just had to read it.
Researchers from the Universities of Cornwall and of California (Berkeley and San Francisco) already knew from previous research that money spent on doing something, such as going on vacation provided more long-lasting positive psychological effects than on having something, like making a material purchase. They now wanted to see if that experience applied even before the money was spent and that’s exactly what they discovered. The abstract of the study states that people who know that they will be going on vacation, “are much happier with their life as a whole, experience less negative or unpleasant feelings and thus enjoy an overall net positive effect from pleasant feelings.”
When our friend Anne was training travel agents about how to sell her company’s tours, she would always say that by the time someone visits a travel office they have already taken the photos of their destination in their head. One of the authors of the study, Matthew Killingsworth, would concur: “In a sense, we start to ‘consume’ a trip as soon as we start thinking about it. When we imagine eating gelato in a piazza in Rome or going water skiing with friends we don’t see as much as we’d like, we get to experience a version of those events in our mind.” He concludes that people, “ would rather savor just how wonderful their experiences will be…” including to “ open a Merlot because waiting for the latter is simply more pleasurable.”
Before the lockdown put a temporary halt to our travels, we had already booked trips within France for April and May so we will have to reschedule those. Yes, Anne, we’d already taken the photos in our heads so we’ll just have to take them again. In the meantime, since we haven’t been able to get out much recently, the photos here are of places not far from home taken by the Greater Carcassonne Tourist Office (Droits réservés) https://www.grand-carcassonne-tourisme.fr/.
Link to the original article, “Planning a Trip Can Boost Your Mental Health”: https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/planning-vacation-boosts-mental-health/