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I read recently that, according to a Netherlands travel study (plus followup research conducted by psychologist and consultant Shawn Anchor), anticipation of an upcoming trip gives travelers the greatest satisfaction on the happiness scale.  It’s nice to have reinforcement, but I don’t need research to tell me that people look forward to vacations!  I hear every day from people thinking about signing up for a tour, or already on the roster.

I’ve known for years how much our participants look forward to each trip – and how disappointed they can be if it doesn’t muster the minimum number of passengers to operate.  Our tour programs offer such unique experiences, with such depth of immersion of a particular theme, that the people who want to experience these once-in-a-lifetime journeys REALLY want to do them.  Our challenge is to match our uniquely-themed tours to the right travelers.

The articles* also stated that the two strongest inhibitors to travel-related happiness are managing details and not feeling safe.  These are of course, the very things that we handle so you don’t have to!  We also take care of the three largest contributing factors to returning from your excursion with higher levels of happiness and energy: “advance planning, traveling far from home and creating or cultivating social connections on the road.”

I love this last part, because I have always felt that meeting new people and traveling with others who have common interests form an integral part of a successful tour.  The camaraderie fostered by the tour director, and the fact that we all learn from each other also contribute greatly to the happiness factor (that part wasn’t in the study; but it’s certainly been my experience).

There were a lot of other statistics in the article, along with some musings on just “what is happiness?” that I recognized from growing up the daughter of a psychologist.  We won’t go there.  You know what it is when you feel it.

None of the above was new to me, though I love having my own philosophy endorsed.  Weissmann, however surprised me with an interesting twist:  “What I enjoy about travel is that it is life accelerated. It can transform us in a surprisingly short amount of time, illuminating our understanding of culture, history, geography and landscapes, art, gastronomy, language and politics.  It awakens areas of our brains…we didn’t know existed.”

Music to my ears!  That old “travel with a purpose” drum that I’ve been banging for years has a new champion!  Even his phraseology was familiar: “meeting local people and having an informed guide”, “exploring and discovery”, “authentic experiences”.  Our motto, Journeys of Exploration and Discovery, isn’t just window dressing!

It’s our job to take away the stress (something referred to as “seamless travel” in another trade article) and to provide you with a once-in-a-lifetime experience you couldn’t create for yourself.  Well, maybe you could, but it would take a lot of time and cost a fortune.  Most importantly, it wouldn’t be anywhere near the fun experienced when you travel with a group of people who, like yourself, are just as excited and eager to learn about the adventure ahead.  Whether you are following in the wake of Lewis & Clark or witnessing a unique roundup of pre-historic bison in the awesome Black Hills of South Dakota – every step of the way is shared with new friends and local experts who lend insights to the sights.

If you haven’t signed up yet for an excursion to the past but have been eyeing a particular departure, why not trade in that feeling of yearning for one of anticipation, which leads to a terrific experience, which leads to happiness!

See you on the trail!

* Two opinion pieces, March 24 and 31, by Arnie Weissmann, Editor in Chief of Travel Weekly

This month’s Trail Talk is sponsored by


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Shebby Lee is a historian, writer and tour operator specializing in the historic and cultural heritage of the Great American West. She is a frequent presenter at numerous history conferences and trade association meetings and is a regular contributor to ABA’s Insider online magazine. Her early training was in the theatre and she served a tour of duty as an entertainer with the USO. She is also an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy.

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