"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page," said St. Augustine. Quotes like this one have long persuaded people to seek out the story they haven't yet lived in places they haven't yet seen. Many of us have stayed up late scouring the Internet for the perfect flight to the perfect resort to cheer us up and perhaps even change our lives. But does travel really serve up all the joy we crave? And are people who travel really happier than those who don't?
According to one study published by the International Society for Quality-of-life Studies, the answers to those two questions are "yes" and "yes." The study results suggest that a relaxing vacation not only has the power to serve up delight while it's underway, but, thanks to eager anticipation, it can also boost vacationers' happiness levels weeks and even months prior to its fruition [source: Nawijn].
To evaluate how vacations affect happiness levels, the study compared two obvious groups of people: a group of vacationers and a group of people who stayed home. The results of the study showed that in the two months prior to their trips, the vacationers' happiness levels steadily rose, while the non-vacationers' happiness levels remained relatively constant. Overall, the vacationers' happiness levels were higher than the non-vacationers' -- both before and during their trips [source: Nawijn].
As you might expect, the vacationers' happiness levels peaked while they were on vacation. But were the travelers able to hang onto that glee post-travel? That depended on whether they'd experienced a "relaxed" vacation or a "very relaxed" vacation. The "relaxed" vacationers fell to pre-trip happiness levels almost immediately upon returning home, while the "very relaxed" sect were able to maintain vacation happiness levels for about two weeks post-trip. After that, they, too, dipped to pre-trip happiness levels.
From the looks of this study, it seems our question has already been answered. But there's one kink in the research. This particular study controlled for extroversion, meaning that all the participants in the study had been tested as extroverts rather than introverts.
Does personality affect how much happiness you derive from vacation? We'll investigate that on the next page.