Young people, listen to your elders: Travel more now or you might regret it.
Thinking back on their lives so far, one in five boomers say that one of their biggest regrets is not traveling enough, according to a survey of 2,000 baby boomers conducted by survey company Censuswide on behalf of British Airways, which has a vested interest in encouraging people to take more trips.
Those 65 and up say the same thing: Research into the lives of 1,200 older people over a 10-year period by Karl Pillemer, a professor of human development at Cornell University, found that elders often regretted not traveling more while they were young. “Based on my studies, I can almost guarantee you one thing: If you don’t do it now, you will wish you had traveled more,” Pillemer writes. “To sum up what I learned in a sentence: When your traveling days are over, you will wish you had taken one more trip.”
Many say that they didn’t travel enough when they were young because they were busy doing other things. Roughly one in four boomers said that they haven’t traveled overseas enough because of work commitments, the Censuswide survey found; many others stated that child care considerations were a factor. “Individuals are busy in their studies and work in order to fulfill the goals of life [like buying a home and car, for example],” says India-based psychiatrist Seikhoo Bishnoi, who does online consultations worldwide; in working towards these goals, they miss opportunities to travel.
People may regret not traveling more in their lives because they feel like they missed important experiences, didn’t expand their horizons enough, were too risk-averse in life and did not escape enough from their everyday routines, says Rick Breden, the president of psychological testing and behavior analytics firm Essentials. “Most of the time regrets center around what you didn’t do, not what you did,” he says. “You regret not trying something” including taking interesting trips, he says.
And they may intuitively understand that travel can boost happiness, according to some research. Indeed, at least two studies show that low-stress vacations (those in which you aren’t dealing with a lot of logistical and scheduling issues, delays and other travel mishaps) that allow you to relax can make you happier. “A positive, well-managed vacation can make you happier and less stressed, and you can return with more energy at work and with more meaning in your life,” writes Shawn Achor, the author of the Happiness Advantage.
Still, travel has its downsides. A stressful vacation can leave you feeling worn-out and no happier than before you jetted off, research shows. Plus, travel is expensive. According to a 2015 survey of 1,000 adults by FatWallet.com, 42% planned to spend upwards of $1,500 on vacations per year. “Individuals often don’t take the time to travel due to financial pressure,” says Miller.
And, of course, many people regret other things, sometimes more than not traveling enough. Respondents in the Censuswide study noted that losing touch with friends was a bigger regret than not traveling enough, and Pillemer’s research revealed a number of other regrets among older people including that they worried too much while they were young and chose the wrong mate.
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