Money, Solo Travel and Happiness: how to shake it.
The loud sort, the coins, don’t seem to cut it these days.
After all, how far can you go on loonie, toonie, euro and pound coins? And in the US: dimes, nickels and quarters? And the bills, well, they’re as hard to come by as ever.
But it seems that it’s not about how loud or quiet your money is. It’s not about how much you have clinking (literally or figuratively) in your pocket.
It’s about how you shake it.
First happiness theory simplified – then how it applies to solo travel.
Let’s start with a quick synopsis on the money and happiness issue. As with most research, the results are affected by the questions asked. In the case of money and happiness, the questions researchers have typically asked were about things and how the human brain adjusts quickly to their enjoyment. That research reveals that the “new” thing, though really exciting at first, can quickly become ho-hum.
Recent studies look at money and happiness quite differently. They look at spending money in ways that the brain won’t adapt to or take for granted easily. According to an article in US News and an interview of the authors of Happy Money (which you can see at the end of this post), the key is to buy experiences instead of things and spend it on others in addition to spending it on yourself.
Choices and solo travel – before you leave.
Buy experiences rather than things. The authors of Happy Money, cite travel specifically when they suggest buying experiences rather than things. I would add that solo travel takes the value even farther. I experience great happiness when I successfully meet a challenge on my own. Whether it’s negotiating a new transit system (read Age Brilliantly: never mind the gap) or meeting a physical challenge I have not undertaken before (read Falling in Love in The Lake District) I have found great happiness from these experiences – happiness that is injected into other parts of my life as I live with greater confidence.
Be spontaneous. The brain loves surprises. Surprises make one happy! As a solo traveler, you have more opportunities to be spontaneous than most. Take advantage of that and, without any preparation or planning, at the very last minute, go somewhere for the pure joy of it. Skyscanner has a function within its flight booking engine that allows you to put in “anywhere” rather than a specific destination. When you do, it produces all the possible destinations from your airport in order from least expensive to most expensive. Surprise yourself with a low-cost mystery trip.
Enjoy the anticipation. In the interview, the authors describe the excitement of a child before Christmas and the denouement after the gifts are opened. The point: there is often as much if not more happiness in the anticipation of a trip as there is in the traveling. So, go ahead, dream, research, do whatever builds anticipation for you.
Pay now, travel later. Credit cards are tools. They are not money. So while you may pay for your trip on a credit card, pay off the card before you leave. This approach to money not only relieves painful money woes after a trip (which often negates some of its joy) but also makes the anticipation of the trip that much sweeter.
Choices and solo travel – on the road.
And here are some of their principles that apply to solo travel as you are actually traveling.
Make it a treat. Regardless of your budget (whether you have lots to spend or very little) it’s worth treating yourself. Buy yourself an unnecessary gelato. Splurge on a fine restaurant. As long as it is out of the norm and considered a treat by you, you will gain more happiness from the expense.
Buy time. There are times when my splurge is a taxi. Upon arriving in a new city, I may take a taxi to simplify life and to make better use my time. This leaves more time for the fun side of travel.
Share your wealth. The research also points out that happiness comes from sharing your good fortune. Whether it’s volunteering or giving generously to the people who clean your room, you will gain happiness by sharing.
So that’s it. Happiness is not about how much money you have but how you spend it. And solo travelers, by our nature, can get more happiness from our travel expenditures than most.