Research shows that most of the pleasure derived from traveling is experienced in the planning and anticipation of the trip.*
Planning a vacation involves imagining what you will feel like on the trip—whether relaxed and romantic, adventuresome and athletic, or knowledgeable and worldly, etc. When we imagine how we feel on the trip, the parts of ourselves that have been neglected come alive in hopes of being more fully expressed.
The fantasy of travel
Fantasies are deceptive in that they highlight the pleasure, novelty, and magic of what is possible, and leave out the disappointment, discomfort and difficulty you might experience during the trip. When you picture the warm breeze and swaying palm trees at the beach, you rarely imagine the frustration with airport security, flight delays, hotel cancellations, weather, noise, unexpected expenses, disappointments and bad moods. Fortunately, memories of our past tend to highlight the highs, and with some imagination and a sense of humor we can turn the misfortunes into opportunities for telling entertaining stories.
What fantasies reveal
Fantasies often reveal to us what we may be missing in our lives—literally or metaphorically. They sometimes substitute the literal object for the quality that we could benefit from developing in ourselves.
For example, someone who is very practical and goal-oriented may fantasize about sitting by the ocean and doing nothing but feeling the warmth of the sun. Someone who has a regimented daily routine may dream of adventure and spontaneity. Someone who feels his or her life is too provincial may imagine taking in the art, culture and history of foreign countries.
Using the fantasy to improve your life
We can gain a fresh look at our life by recognizing what is motivating us to take our fantasy trip. We don’t have to wait for the trip in order to begin integrating the sought-for qualities within ourselves. If we are seeking romance, for instance, we can try to do things with more excitement, passion, and love every day.
Instead of waiting until a two-week vacation, we can use our imagination to look for ways to add a little fantasy vacation into our every day life. The desire to have adventure, feel romantic, relax, or feel strong can deepen through being aware of those needs and desires. We can try to live the life we desire all year round by bringing some of those qualities into our daily life in addition to going on a fantastic vacation.
An intense anticipation itself transforms possibility into reality; our desires being often but precursors of the things which we are capable of performing.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD
* Research by Jeroen Nawijn from Erasmus University in Rotterdam and NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences and his team, who are published online in Springer’s journal Applied Research in Quality of Life.