The Excitement of Anticipation

Here I am, visiting a tranquil green courtyard at the Parador de Granada in Spain. See that peaceful look on my face? I'm probably daydreaming about my NEXT getaway!

For many of us travelers – me included – the only thing better than actually being in a new destination is the joy that comes from planning to get there. While traveling through southern Spain earlier this month, I stumbled across an “International Traveler” article in the International New York Times from “The Getaway” columnist Stephanie Rosenbloom, in which she explores the notion of whether anticipating a vacation can actually make you happier than being on vacation.

Turns out there’s something to it.

Ms. Rosenbloom says she first tackled this topic in 2010, when she wrote about a psychological study examining the “connection between anticipation and happiness.” In it, researchers in the Netherlands interviewed more than 1,500 people and found that the 974 vacationers felt most happy before embarking on their trips.

As Ms. Rosenbloom writes in her May 11th column: “But what I really wanted to know was whether the pleasure derived from anticipation is something that just magically happens after you book an airline ticket. Or can it be consciously increased by, for example, talking with friends about the trip, making an iTunes playlist or learning the local language? Turns out, there is an art to anticipation….”

For most of us Americans, vacation days are precious, far too few and far-between. Unlike Europeans, who enjoy frequent ‘bank holidays’ and long weekends that start on Thursday and last through the following Tuesday, we don’t often get away from work. That’s why holidays like Memorial Day are such a big deal. You can palpably feel the anticipation for these much-too-rare occasions days before, with folks excitedly talking about their plans for the upcoming holiday.

When I’ve got an actual trip on the horizon, centered around a holiday or not, I love diving into the details. For me, poring over maps, flipping through guidebooks, and perusing web pages and websites about my next destination is sheer bliss. Who knows if the trip itself will live up to the hype or not? All I know is that I’m never happier than when I’ve got an e-ticket and passport in hand.

As Ms. Rosenbloom also writes: “Another advantage to delving into relevant books and photos before a trip is that it provides novelty as an antidote to everyday routines.” Who among us can’t use one of those?

Whether you’re talking to friends who’ve previously visited the place you’re going (or sampling local eateries that feature the cuisine you’ll soon be eating), imagining the experiences before you have them can make the real ones that much richer. And once you’re back, reminiscing about all the great meals you had, the fascinating sights you saw, the intriguing conversations you had with locals living in the place you visited? According to Ms. Rosenbloom’s column, researchers found “anticipating the future delivers more happiness than reflecting on the past.”

In that case, guess we need to get busy planning another trip. Here’s wishing you safe and joyous Memorial Day Weekend travels…and enjoy looking forward to the great time you’ll have once you get wherever you’re going!


About Maureen Jenkins

Maureen Jenkins is a food/travel writer and communications professional who's visited nearly 35 countries and territories, lived in Florence, Italy, and recently spent a year living in a charming village near Paris, France. The self-proclaimed 'urban travel girl' talks travel, food and wine – abroad and in Chicago – in "TCW Travel Connection.” Read more of her thoughts on living globally at