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Many people prioritize traveling as a highly sought after activity, and imagine that it will increase their happiness and life satisfaction, but according to the Hedonic treadmill or Hedonic Adaptation Theory, “Humans tend to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.”
British psychologist, Michael Eysenck elucidates “comparing the pursuit of happiness to a person on a treadmill, who has to keep walking just to stay in the same place.”
“Those with ‘hypermobile’ lifestyles are often seen as having a higher social status, explains lead author Dr Scott Cohen from the University of Surrey. It is not only traditional media that perpetuates this image. Social media encourages competition between travellers to ‘check-in’ and share content from far-flung destinations. The reality is that most people who are required to engage in frequent travel suffer high levels of stress, loneliness and long-term health problems. There are also wider implications for the environment and sustainability.”
“In this context, hypermobility seems far from glamourous. The level of physiological, physical and societal stress that frequent travels places upon individuals has potentially serious and long-term negative effects that range from the breaking down of family relationships, to changes in our genes due to lack of sleep.”
However, travel may make one’s overall life more meaningful if a significant amount of time is spent, immersed in the experience, your family, or people you care about. According to a study in the Journal of Travel Research OnlineFirst, a higher level of satisfaction was reported by those who had longer stays, in contrast with those who had briefer stays. When you are staying somewhere for a short amount of time, there is increased pressure to fit everything you want to see and do into an illogical time frame, so it’s highly stressful on a physical and emotional level. Things are getting checked off your “bucket list”, but you’re not able to be fully present in the experience, than if you were to limit yourself to fewer, more consequential pursuits.
M. H. Apley, ed., Adaptation Level Theory: A Symposium, New York: Academic Press, 1971, pp 287–30
Lykken, David, and Auke Tellegen. “Happiness Is A Stochastic Phenomenon.” Psychological Science 7.3 (1996): 186-189.
University of Surrey. (2015, August 3). Frequent travel is damaging to health and wellbeing, according to new study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150803212554.htm
Journal of Travel Research OnlineFirst
M. Joseph Sirgy, Department of Marketing, Pamplin College of Business, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, Blacksburg,