The Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations – Jaime Kurtz

(Reviewed by JD Jung)


What is happy travel? According to Jaime Kurtz, an Associate Professor of Psychology at James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, it is “travel that is pleasurable, meaningful, and engaging. “

Sounds nice, but there can be lot of obstacles to this, some beyond our control and some self-inflicted. Kurtz relates how psychology can help us obtain happier travel experiences. The Happy Traveler combines this with actual tourism studies to help us keep things fresh and cultivate a sense of wonder as well as handling those major annoyances.

But how do you know where to go? There are so many travel options. We need to not only learn about destinations, but also understand a lot about ourselves, that is, our travel personality. She discusses how we can do this, as well as providing a URL to help to figure out our comfort zone.

As I was reading I was thinking, “But what happens when you’re traveling with someone else and can’t make all of the decisions?” The book later addresses that: how to pick a travel partner and more importantly, how to travel with a spouse or family member.

Yes, the book goes into many case studies, but Kurtz realizes that they are conducted in controlled environments . While they provide valuable insights-which I found fascinating—they may be flawed. She sums up ideas in “The Twelve rules for happy travel”, but the ideas presented throughout the book are really only suggestions. So many psychologists/ authors see things as black and white, and dictate “must do’s.” I appreciate that she realizes that we are all different.

Though I found the entire book useful and engaging, the last part really left an impact on me as she provides ideas for successful re-entry into life back home. What have you learned about yourself, the positives and negatives? How can we live like a traveler in our daily lives?

The Happy Traveler is a must-read for not only both the novice and seasoned traveler, but for everyone who wants to add depth and fascination back in their lives. After all,

“Anticipation, awe, savoring, flow, deep connection, and treasured memories are not only the stuff of vacations. They are the ingredients of a well-lived life.”

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