Why Catching Flights Instead of Feelings Makes You Unhappy

Author: KDanck 

Bucket list items.

Beautiful sights.

Instagram filters.

Catching flights and not feelings.

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All in an attempt to chase happiness. To create those Instagram worthy moments. But travel without connections….travel without relationships…. This is a recipe for unhappiness and unfulfillment.

With the right trip, the right story, or the ability to make others jealous, we convince ourselves that we are happy. We remain unsatisfied in our relationships, appearance, or finances, since nothing we are or own is enough to fulfill us. “Research shows that people who focus their energy on materialistic and superficial pleasures end up more anxious, more emotionally unstable and less happy in the long-run (1).”  Relationships are what make us happy, not a vacation.

In 1938, scientists began tracking 268 Harvard sophomores in an attempt to understand what leads to a happy life. Scientists continued to expand their research to include the children of these men (Harvard only had male students at the time) and other control groups (including wives and other demographics). They tracked these men and women throughout their lives to find the common denominator in what leads some people to be fulfilled and others not to be.  “The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” said Robert Waldinger who is the director of the study and professor at Harvard Medical School. “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation (2).”


We are familiar with the idea that relationships better our well being, but we still struggle to form deep connections.  We protect ourselves from the hurt relationships can cause with the artificial sense of security found in social media likes or one way tickets.  Travel is a great tool that can be used to strengthen our connections, but can also be used to avoid the pain, loss and rejection that can be a result of letting others in.  We  “catch flights instead of feelings” and post the perfect photo looking for validation in our followers and not our friends or family.  

As the research shows, our relationships with our friends, parents, siblings, children, and significant others have a profound effect on our happiness. If these are toxic, our careers or greatest achievements will not satisfy us. If our relationships are healthy, we thrive and we are happy.

As Robert Waldinger points out,  “loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism (2).” When we use travel as a means of escaping feelings instead of deepening connections, we are setting ourselves up for failure. So as you travel, remember to spend that quality time with your loved ones and those you meet. The shared experiences, not the photos or souvenirs, add to our happiness.  It’s time, we allowed ourselves to catch both flights and feelings.


(1) Mark Manson, “Stop Trying To Be Happy,” Mark Manson, June 23, 2017, accessed August 02, 2017, https://markmanson.net/stop-trying-to-be-happy.

(2) Liz Mineo, “Over nearly 80 years, Harvard study has been showing how to live a healthy and happy life,” Harvard Gazette, September 26, 2017, , accessed October 26, 2017,
https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/ And be sure to check out the TED talk also featured on this page

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