Why travel content is more important than ever (even if we’re going nowhere)

Liz Darke

Paper clouds and an old-fashioned globe

Over the course of this distressing, dreadful year, we’ve managed to squeeze hope and happiness from every corner of daily life. The kindness and positivity of humans – key workers, helpful neighbours, Joe Wicks – is a shining example. Plus, the less profound things, such as home-baked banana bread, 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles and TikTok dance routines, have also added little sparks of joy to an all-round miserable nine months.

And, while many of us haven’t ventured as far as a different postcode since March 2020, travel inspiration – whether a listicle of lustworthy destinations or a nostalgic ‘This time last year...’ post on Instagram – has brought its fair share of cheer, too. Pining for something that’s so far from our grasp doesn’t often bring pleasure, but travel – and travel content – has a somewhat special effect on the brain. We’ve been working on various editions of Journey magazine for Princess Cruises during lockdown, so it was important that we investigated why people still yearn for travel content even when they're going nowhere. 

A trip down memory lane

Holidays remove us from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and it’s then that we pay greater attention to the things we love most: our family, friends, music, books, physical activity. Because of that, some of our warmest memories are made while we’re on vacation.

Psychology experts claim that reminiscing over past trips – whether scrolling through travel snaps or being reminded of our fondest experiences by others – produces feel-good hormones, helping to boost our mood and sense of happiness.

‘By focusing on those positive memories, your body releases dopamine, and dopamine is kind of the reward centre of the brain. It gives us a lot of good, positive energy,’ says Dr AJ Marsden, an assistant professor of human services and psychology at Beacon College in Florida, USA.

Taking the time to be grateful for all of the incredible experiences we’ve had in our lifetime – from cruising down the Panama Canal to scoffing vinegar-drenched chips on Margate beach – can increase positivity, too. Thomas G Plante, a professor and psychologist at Santa Clara University and Stanford University in the USA, is an active advocate of ‘practising’ gratitude and believes that focusing on the things you’re grateful for can help shift mood and perspective. ‘Even when things are hard, we want to ask ourselves, what am I grateful for?’ he says.

When a little research pays off…

When it comes to planning ahead, a 2014 study by Cornell University found that the anticipation of an experience (such as a holiday) can increase happiness levels, even more so than the prospect of buying an expensive or covetable item. Psychologist and creator of the Track Your Happiness app Matthew Killingsworth explains: ‘Since we know a trip has a defined start and end, our minds are prone to savour it, even before it’s started. Sometimes, people even prefer to delay good experiences like a trip so they can extend the period of anticipation.’

In this time of disruption and uncertainty, planning a trip isn’t only something to look forward to – it’s also a welcome distraction that may help to soothe a frantic mind. Which is where great travel content and inspiration comes in. For Journey magazine, this is about showing committed cruisers a preview of where they will be able to go at some point.

Alice Boyes, clinical psychologist and author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit, suggests that organising a holiday can have a calming effect. She says: ‘If you’re anxious by nature, trip-planning can give you a sense of comfort and reduced anxiety’.

There’s surprising solace to be found in researching far-flung destinations, transport transfers and restaurant menus, or calculating walking routes on Google Maps, all of which can keep you occupied for numerous hours in lockdown.

The future’s bright (and filled with adventure)

As more of us embark on a daily commute from the bedroom to the dining room (sorry, home office) then settle in for yet another evening on the sofa, getting lost in stories of exotic lands is much desired. Never before have we needed as big a reminder of how gobsmackingly beautiful this world is and that, when this pandemic is over, we must go out and enjoy every last corner of it.

According to Gaby Huddart, Group Editorial Director, Lifestyle & Homes and Editor-in-Chief, Good Housekeeping, her consumers are just as hungry for travel content as they’ve ever been.

“In every piece of reader research we have done, GH readers have told us that travel is their top priority for their disposable income, and that during 2020, this passion for getaways has remained undiminished. While they haven’t been able to go where they’d like to, they have certainly had an appetite to be armchair travellers and have wanted us to continue to feed their imaginations with inspiring travel content.”

So, until we can really travel again, let’s keep the photos of jaw-dropping Mexican beaches and round-ups of the best places to devour pizza in Naples coming, please. I’m more than happy for my travel bucket list to keep expanding – less so my waistline after all this banana bread, however...

Quotes sourced from: National Geographic; Forbes; Huffington Post

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