Meik Wiking is the best-selling author of The Little Book of Hygge (HarperCollins) and the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, a think tank based in Copenhagen. His newest book, The Art of Making Memories: How to Create and Remember Happy Moments (HarperCollins), is out October 1. Here, he shares his tips for cultivating joy while on your next trip and after you’ve returned home.
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1. Go to a new place every year
“Travel is about being brought out of your routine,” Wiking says. “It’s experiencing new things, new culture, new food, new people. And that’s the quick route to [making] memories: novel experiences. There’s nothing wrong with going back to the same place over and over again. But if we want a trip to stand out and be memorable, we have to seek out new experiences.”
2. Leave your comfort zone
The right kind of stress can help cement moments in our memories. As Wiking explains, “People remember emotions. When they do something that frightens them a little bit, it gets the adrenaline pumping.”
3. Engage all your senses
“Experiences that stimulate several senses have a better chance of making a memorable moment,” Wiking says. “Listening to stuff, smelling stuff, and tasting stuff—they are crucial memory triggers. Recording sound from a special place can help us remember it.”
4. Go ahead, buy that souvenir Objects that remind us of a time and place relieve our brains from having to remember everything. “It’s good to ‘outsource’ some of our memories—the photos, the soundtrack,” Wiking says. “Souvenirs are an easy fix. And I don’t mean a tacky Eiffel Tower; it can be a really nice vase you bought in Paris.”
5. End your trip on a high note
Psychologist Daniel Kahneman developed the Peak-End Theory, which posits that we remember experiences by their most intense moment and how they ended. “So you might want to finish on a high,” Wiking says. “For some, it might be [eating your last meal] at a luxury Michelin restaurant; for others, it might be skydiving.”
6. Reduce the risk of digital amnesia by printing your pictures
“Photos can trigger your memory five, 10, 20 years down the line. Pick the top photos—the happiest memories, the best experiences you had—and bring them into print.”
7. Don’t be afraid of things going wrong when you travel
“Struggles are always annoying when we are in them, but they also make better stories, because we fought to get through them. That doesn’t help when you are in the situation, but five years down the line, that’s the story you tell.”
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Lyndsey Matthews Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.