Why Travelling Makes Us Happy

by Brenna Holeman


Near San Agustín, Colombia

A couple of months ago (was it already that long ago?!) I wrote a post called On Being Happy With Being Content. In it, I discussed how since moving to London I’ve embraced the idea of settling somewhere and the feeling of happiness I get from routine in my life. To be completely honest, I wrote that post to try to make sense of what I was feeling at the time, the restlessness mixed with the feelings of withdrawal from a life of almost constant travelling. My two-year London anniversary is coming up this summer, and it’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere since 2005. I haven’t even left the UK in two and a half months, the longest I think I’ve gone in a while without being abroad.

Writing that post really helped me, and the comments that came with it really helped me. As a result, the past couple of months in London have been some of my happiest yet; I’m a lot healthier in mind and body. I write daily now, and I’ve even started jogging. I know, I know. Who am I?! 


Seoul, South Korea

That being said, I am never going to deny that some of the happiest days of my life have been while I was on the road. So today, in honour of International Day of Happiness (don’t roll your eyes), I thought I’d post some of the reasons I personally feel happy when I travel. I’d love it if you could contribute why travelling makes you happy in the comments.

Travelling makes me happy…


…because of its never-ending ability to amaze me, to pique my curiosity. It seems that no matter where I go, even if I’ve already been there or if I think I have an idea of what I’ll see when I arrive, I am always surprised. I love the newness travel brings: new cultures, new faces, new customs, new landscapes.


Machu Picchu, Peru

…because of all of the wonderful people I meet. While beautiful destinations certainly appeal (especially if it includes a beach), I travel mainly to meet and interact with people. My favourite moments on the road have all occurred in the presence of others, either locals or fellow travellers.


Bhaktapur, Nepal

…because it overloads my senses in the very best way. I live in one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world and sometimes I realise I’m tuning everything out, because I’m used to the glittering lights and double-decker buses and accents from all over the globe. When I travel, I become hyper-aware of everything around me: the sights, the sounds, the smells. I love that first day in a new city, when you just wander around and take it all in.


Yangon, Myanmar

…because of all the delicious food I get to eat. Be it a local beer, an infamous sandwich, or a selection of treats from a street market, I always try to sample the cuisine of any place I’m in. And yes, that includes the things I may not always want to try; I can’t say that I particularly wanted to eat snake hearts when in Vietnam, but I’m happy that I at least had the opportunity to do so.


Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia

…because it makes me feel engaged, interested, and fulfilled. I like who I am when I travel, I like how I go with the flow, how I’m open-minded, how I laugh with my head thrown back. I’m not saying I’m totally different in London, but travelling seems to unlock a part of me that I love to embrace.


In the Himalayas, Nepal

…because it makes me learn about myself. There’s that incredibly cheesy cliché that “you have to get lost to really find yourself”; I don’t necessarily think it takes a backpack and a plane ticket to India to really discover who you are, but travelling certainly brings some aspects of your personality to light. Are you organised? Punctual? Curious? Do you like cobblestoned European cities or secluded mountain hikes? If there’s an emergency and you’re halfway around the world, can you handle yourself? I love that travelling has made me realise things about myself I didn’t know until I was thrown into situations I wouldn’t have (or couldn’t have) experienced at home in Canada.


Buenos Aires, Argentina

…because it has made me realise that no matter what, I’m going to be okay. Travelling has made me incredibly independent. If I want to book a trip to Africa by myself, I know I can do it. If I want to move to a new city where I don’t have any connections, I know I can do it. Travelling has made me a much more self-sufficient and ambitious person than I could have ever dreamed of becoming ten years ago.


Bangkok, Thailand

…because it represents how special my life is. I often read about travellers who hate when people tell them, “You’re so lucky, you get to travel all the time”. I get the sentiment behind their aggravation, but I personally don’t mind at all when people say that to me. In fact, I try to say it every day to myself, because, yeah, I’m lucky. I’m really lucky. Like other full-time travellers and travel bloggers, I worked hard to get where I am, but a lot of people on this planet work very, very hard and barely get any holiday time, if at all. And even with that holiday time, a lot of people cannot afford to travel to far-flung destinations. I’m well aware how amazing and enriched my life has been because of travel, and I am thankful every day for it. There are very few people who get to choose what they want to do with their lives, and I’m one of them. I’d say that makes me pretty damn lucky. It also makes me happy.


Silvia, Colombia

…because it reminds me, at the end of the day, that we’re all in this together. The one thing I’ve learned from all of my travels and from all of the experiences I’ve had with others around the world is that we’re all alike. We all dream and love and laugh. We all take pleasure in the small things: meals with friends, a sunny day, an unexpected moment of happiness with a stranger. Travelling has made me aware of how inconsequential so many things are, be they material items or moments of frustration or sadness. It has helped me to let go of the small things that used to bother me so much, and instead introduced me to the idea of embracing each day with a smile and an open mind. Essentially, travelling makes me happy because it has taught me to be happy*.


Tayrona Park, Colombia

Why does travelling make you happy?

*If this post seems particularly hippie-dippy/cheesy/has-she-been-smoking-the-good-stuff, I apologise. I’m puppy-sitting today, and I’m in a freaking fantastic mood. 

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Emma March 20, 2015 - 7:33 pm

This is such a wonderful post! I’ve only recently started traveling, and there countless reasons why it makes me so happy, but overall I think it has to do with the simple fact that I’m leaving my everyday, routine life in search of new sights, smells, memories, feelings, etc. I feel like that sounds super cheesy / cliche as well, but the best comparison I can think of is that traveling makes me feel like a kid in a candy store, and the world is that candy store.

About a month ago I visited Berlin for the first time, and I just remember walking around with a cheek to cheek smile on my face, amazed by everything from the currywurst, to the history, to the people, to the sights, the museums, the beer (oh, the beer!), the nightlife… I mean, it was one hell of a candy store and I definitely helped myself to all the candy I could get my hands on.

There’s something about traveling that reminds you how big the world really is, yet how it still connects us all together… I think that thought alone makes me the happiest 🙂

Brenna Holeman March 20, 2015 - 9:28 pm

Thank you so much for your comment, Emma! I love your last line, I totally agree with it. I’m so excited that you’re starting to travel a lot more… Berlin is just the beginning! 😉

Jodie Young March 20, 2015 - 7:37 pm

I love this post and totally agree with all of the reasons you said, especially about travelling making you someone you like who has an open mind. I think that is the number one reason I love travel.

Brenna Holeman March 20, 2015 - 9:24 pm

Aw, thank you so much Jodie!

Jennie March 20, 2015 - 9:16 pm

I completely agree with everything you’ve said in this post! You have perfectly summed up why I travel, and all the incredibly positive things it brings.

I can never understand why some people just don’t like to travel. Of course, I understand why its not always possible, and of course security has its benefits too, but travel just brings so much to my life. I feel like i’ve learnt so much from travelling. I think back to the person I was 5 years ago and I’ve changed so much, and I know a huge proportion of that is down to travel!

A really enjoyable read, than you!



Brenna Holeman March 21, 2015 - 11:48 am

Sometimes I understand why people don’t like to travel – it can be overwhelming, and getting stuck in an airport is enough to make even the calmest person lose their cool. However, I know that I will always love to travel, and I’ll continue to do it for the rest of my life. I’ve also changed so much… who knows how I’ll change over the next decade!

Thanks a lot for your comment, Jennie, I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.

Ashley March 20, 2015 - 9:43 pm

I love this post, and was smiling and nodding in agreement as I read it! I agree with every reason you stated, especially how travel never ceases to amaze and how it makes you hyper-aware. I love the sense of freedom I feel when travelling and I love how each day is different and exciting- regardless of what you are doing.

Brenna Holeman March 21, 2015 - 11:46 am

Aw, thank you so much, Ashley! I love that sense of freedom, too.

Hayley Simpson March 21, 2015 - 2:10 am

I resonate with all of your reasons, Brenna. I also think travel makes me happy because every day is different – you don’t know who or what you will encounter and that is what excites me.

Brenna Holeman March 21, 2015 - 11:45 am

Totally – I love that. Thanks for your comment, Hayley!

Nadine March 21, 2015 - 1:09 pm

This was a beautiful post; and I really loved what you had to say about how travel makes you recognize that your life is special, and that you are, indeed, lucky to get to do what you do. I hope no one ever takes for granted how hard you have worked to form the kind of life that you have, but it’s also true that not everyone is in the position to shape the kind of life that they want. I try to remember that all of the time (but often it is so hard! That’s why I loved your words so much).

I traveled a lot years ago when I was in college, and then it took me 10 years to get back at it again. But now that I’ve had a few eye-opening and incredible experiences, I want to do it all!! I think someone already commented on this, but I love the openness of travel, the feeling of freedom- whether it be from a trail in the mountains or on a street in a crowded city. I feel so much possibility when I travel: that anything can happen. That I can meet anyone. That I can see anything.

Thank you for this post!

Brenna Holeman March 22, 2015 - 6:11 pm

Thank you so much for your comment, Nadine. I think it’s perfectly natural to take a break from travelling – I’m doing it at the moment, at least for a couple of months – but I love that I know with certainty that it will always make me happy. I want to do it all, too! I totally agree with your last lines; the possibilities that travel brings us are amazing.

Béatrice March 21, 2015 - 9:33 pm

I love your blog posts and your facebook updates, as well as shared articles. I agree with a lot of what you said. I am also very lucky that I am in a profession, teacher, that gives me so much vacation time. I wouldn’t have it any other way! I travel often by myself and I value the lessons and experiences. I am off to Nicaragua in a week on a solo trip for two weeks. It couldn’t come at a better time. Traveling alone is an opportunity for me to reconnect with myself, to appreciate and love myself, to remind myself that I am strong and brave. Life is beautiful and full of amazing opportunities! Thank you for your post. Great comments too!

Brenna Holeman March 22, 2015 - 6:12 pm

Thank you so much for your comment Beatrice, and for all of your support! I totally agree with what you said about solo travel. It’s such an important part of my life and I’m so glad for all that it has taught me. Have an amazing time in Nicaragua!

Melanie March 22, 2015 - 3:43 pm


So, I live vicariously through your posts at the moment and it makes me happy just hearing how happy travel has made you. Because of certain things happening in my life at the moment I cant travel long term but I know one day it will be possible. I read your blog to show myself that my dream of travel isn’t unrealistic and that anything we really want in life is possible with patience, sacrifice and hard work. It is through your blog that I found my true purpose in life and I want to thank you so much for that. So keep doing what you’re doing. Keep inspiring people! 🙂


Brenna Holeman March 22, 2015 - 6:15 pm

Oh wow, thank you so much Melanie. This just totally made my day! We all have to take breaks from travelling or put it off sometimes… I’m doing it at the moment (for a few months, anyway) because I have other commitments like my degree. I know that I’ll do more long-term travel again soon, though, and it’s so great to hear that you have the same plans. It makes me so happy that I’ve had some small part in inspiring you. 🙂

Once again, thank you so much for this comment… it really encourages me to keep blogging and writing and trying my best to inspire others to get out and see this big old world.

Jacquie March 24, 2015 - 5:11 pm

Aw, all of your happiness made me feel so great, like there’s hope in life!! I’m going to send you an email too but I wanted to post here as well.

PS Love that picture of you in Seoul!

Brenna Holeman March 30, 2015 - 4:00 pm

Thank you so much, Jacquie! I owe you a long email… 🙂

Paige March 25, 2015 - 2:31 am

Love, love, love this post, Brenna! I just got back from my first solo trip across the U.S. to visit my best friend and my cousin’s family in Seattle. Even though I stayed within my country and had loved ones waiting to host me on the west coast, the rush I felt when my plane took off from Boston was so amazing. In a way, the trip was the first time I’ve given myself a week of “me time” in awhile, to plan my days in an exciting new place and allow myself to forget about work and school and just “experience” for awhile. Maybe it sounds silly, but for anxious, obsessive planner me, the trip was a huge step! I love the vulnerabilitly of it all, of feeling open to experience. Probably a very tame trip by the standards of most true adventurers, but the knowledge that I can get on a plane and just “go” is so freeing to me! Only problem is, now my feet are itching like never before! Haha.

Brenna Holeman March 30, 2015 - 4:01 pm

It doesn’t sound silly at all! It sounds amazing. 🙂 That’s so great that you had such a good time and felt that you learned a lot. There’s no such thing as a tame trip, ha ha… you can have adventure anywhere!

Thanks a lot for your comment!

rebecca March 27, 2015 - 1:49 am

some awesome words and inspiringly fun photos! love your work – as always 🙂

Brenna Holeman March 30, 2015 - 4:00 pm

Thank you so much, Rebecca!

Zalie March 30, 2015 - 11:26 pm

I loved this post! I think I would have to agree that one of the main reasons that travelling makes me happy is all of the amazing people that you meet on the road. It seems to make all of the wonders that you get to see all the more wonderful and it is great learning about new people and where they come from 🙂

Brenna Holeman March 30, 2015 - 11:37 pm

I totally agree, Zalie! I travel for the people. 🙂

rebecca April 7, 2015 - 5:12 pm

Hi there, I really enjoyed reading your past updates and most recent post 🙂 I have just started on WordPress since I am just beginning my travels – not only to keep my own recording of the journey, but also to read other people’s recommendations and insights. I am 23 and my first post lists the places I will be visiting. Thank you for your post!

Kymberli April 12, 2015 - 6:49 pm

Reading this made me smile a big, bright, genuine, full tooth smile. I am so happy for you that you are living your dream. It proves to me that living a life of travel and writing truly is possible. I won’t take that final leap while my mom is still around as my dream currently is to spend as much time with her as possible.

That being said, mom and I do a great deal of travelling together. In the last year we have been to Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama and Aruba. In addition, we have spent time in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Florida. We are currently planning trips to Catalina, Astoria, Vancouver, Victoria and a cruise through the Mediterranean!

Travel allows me to live a life of adventure. I love new sights, foods and especially the people I meet. I have made many wonderful friends all over the globe and look forward to seeing them again someday!

Jennifer October 24, 2019 - 6:53 pm

…because it has made me realise that no matter what, I’m going to be okay.

Because it makes me realize how truly little I need to be happy. Food, shelter, and a million things to discover. The best parts of travel are the immaterial, or at least the (paid for) experiences versus the paid-for material items.


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