The Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations by Jaime Kurtz
In THE HAPPY TRAVELER, Dr. Jaime Kurtz explores a variety of different ways to improve your vacation. I thought at first the book would be tips like how to pack better, or things like that. It’s more of tips on how to change your outlook, and how to match your travel choices to your personality. This is explained in the section, “Why Knowing Your Travel Personality Is Essential to Happy Travel.” The author explains that what makes a great experience for YOU is not at all what makes it great for others. That is, “Your perfect travel day is totally personal.” We want an experience that “feels right to us. “
One thing I really like about this book. At the end of each chapter is a nice summary of the key points covered in the chapter. These are called “Happy Travel Tips.” (This seems obvious, but many non-fiction books fail to do this—so kudos to the author and editor for thinking of this.) I found it useful to actually read these ending travel tips FIRST, and then go back and read the chapter details.
When planning your travel, figure out where you stand on the allocentrism-psychocentrism spectrum. This is a fancy term for the style of experience you want: outdoors hiking, or sitting by a pool reading a book. Travelers who embrace “psychocentrism” want structure—they want to escape and relax.
One funny section is called, “How Vacations Are like Colonoscopies.” The author cites an actual study that showed that people tend to remember certain things from their experiences. For example, how the trip ended up, or key events in the trip. The idea is, to plan ahead to make sure you set-up those experiences. (I’ve never replayed the highlights of a colonoscopy, or considered the procedure similar to a vacation experience, but I get the idea.)
My favorite section was, “The Art of the Staycation: How to Live Every Day like a Happy Traveler.” The author gives some ideas on how to use these same travel tips to make your everyday life like a great vacation. I never thought of this concept. Great idea!
Finally, I was delighted to discover an excellent roundup of all the concepts in this book. This is called, “The Twelve Rules for Happy Travel.”
1. More time away is not always better.
2. When planning a trip, map out how a typical day might look, from beginning to end.
3. Let the anticipation build. Planning and researching are part of the fun.
4. End on a high note. Craft a special last day or evening.
5. You bring yourself—your personality, anxieties, and habits—with you on your trip.
6. Anticipate the fact that no matter how beautiful or exciting the location, you will get used to it after a couple of days. Plan to vary your experiences.
7. Go deeper: get the backstory on the people you meet and places you visit.
8. Use technology selectively and with intention.
9. Traveling with others is intense. In the best and worst ways. Consider travel compatibility before booking.
10. Coming home can be shaped into a good thing.
11. Location matters less than your attitude in that location.
12. With attention and motivation, you can be a happy traveler even while at home.
So all in all, I thought THE HAPPY TRAVELER was a useful read, with some meaty ideas on how to improve my travel. I would have preferred less discussion of the academic research, but I understand why the author discusses the studies. Dr. Kurtz clearly understands this field, and proves it with the numerous studies cited. I am looking forward to reading her prior co-authored book on happiness: Positively Happy: Routes to Sustainable Happiness (The Positive Psychology Workbook Series)
Advance Review Copy courtesy of the publisher.