Pack up your vans … and smile, smile, smile


Anticipation adds to the feeling of happiness for grey nomads.

It's something that every grey nomad has done, and every wannabe grey nomad is doing to some extent or other… planning for the incredible adventure that lies ahead.

Before the endless sunsets, campfire camaraderie, spectacular scenery and all the other joys of life on the open road, there are the tours of caravan yards, the research, the mapping of possible routes, the working out the budget, and it seems we love it!

Indeed, happiness expert, Harvard Professor of Psychology, Daniel Gilbert, says anticipation can sometimes bring more pleasure than the event itself simply because it is unsullied by reality. "The person who buys a cookie and eats it right away may get 'X' units of pleasure from it," he said. "But the person who saves the cookie until later gets 'X' units of pleasure when it is eventually eaten, plus all the additional pleasure of looking forward to the event."

One study found that people who just thought about watching their favourite film actually raised their endorphin levels by 27%.

Experts have also found that people who devote time to anticipating enjoyable experiences report being happier in general than those who don't. So, perhaps all of those wannabe grey nomads get¬ting frustrated about a delay in hitting the road because of family commitments, or budget issues, or a hold-up in taking delivery of a van should sit back, dream about those star-filled Outback skies, and simply savour the prospect of eventually setting off on the Big Lap.

But that's not to say they should delay things too long! One of the pieces of advice that grey nomads most consistently give to those thinking about it is: 'just get out there and do it before ill health or other circumstances stop you'.

And it's important to remember that other research has shown that people tend to regret 'not having done things' much more than they regret things they have done. It seems later on in life it is often harder for us to remember why we didn't do things than why we did do them. Happiness experts say it is often just because we were just scared, but years later that irrational fear fades and we kick our¬selves for not taking risks.

"Planning is fun and there are always excuses to delay heading off if you are looking for them, but sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith," said grey nomad, Roscoe D. "I may have made a few mistakes in my life … but loading up the caravan most definitely wasn't one of them."

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