Can Travel Make You Happy?

Editor in Chief Julia Cosgrove finds moments of joy in Philadelphia and reflects on AFAR’s 10th anniversary issue, dedicated entirely to happiness.

Can Travel Make You Happy?

In our September/October issue, we explore joy in Norway (above), a country known for national happiness.

Photo by Emma Hardy

On a recent flight to Philadelphia, I was feeling glum: It was my third business trip in as many weeks, and I’d been missing my family since the minute I left my house. I was also sick. But when I landed in Philadelphia, I made a conscious decision to try to enjoy myself.

On a whim I went for dinner at Zahav, recently deemed the best restaurant in the United States by the James Beard Foundation. What followed was a spectacular meal of Israeli small plates: fried cauliflower with labneh and mint, fresh hummus served with wood-fired laffa bread, and a beef kebab that I’m still thinking about today. As my food arrived, I started talking to the woman next to me, who, it turned out, was also in Philadelphia on business and who lived near me in California. For the next two hours, we shared our dishes and talked about travel and the meandering path of life.

I went to my conference the next day, and afterwards snuck in a visit with my best friend from college. I continued my good eating tour with a fiery arrabiata pizza at Pizzeria Beddia, and enjoyed an uninterrupted hour wandering around the Barnes Foundation, where I was transfixed by paintings by Degas, Renoir, and Modigliani. Had my mood improved? Decidedly so. Was I happy? I was.

We’ve devoted this issue—our 10th anniversary!—to happiness, because, well, we know travel makes us feel good. And if you’re reading this, I suspect you feel the same. We sent writers to Bhutan and Norway, two countries known for national happiness, and talked to experts about how you can make your travels more joyful. We also look at how different cultures define the good life.

At AFAR we’ve always believed that when you travel and experience the world, you’re more grateful for what you have, you’re more likely to live in the moment, and your sense of wonder and possibility about your own life expands exponentially. And take it from me: It’s also the perfect antidote for a bad mood.

>>Next: 7 Lessons Learned From the Happiest Country in the World

Julia Cosgrove is vice president and editor in chief of AFAR, the critically acclaimed travel media brand that makes a positive impact on the world through high-quality storytelling that inspires, enriches, and empowers travelers who care. Julia lives in Berkeley, California.
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