Lonely Planet Writer

Smile! Lonely Planet's guide to Happy travelling

We travel for many reasons. Some people do it for strict business needs, others to see their loved ones and most of us for the sheer pleasure of getting away from the mundane and discovering new sights and adventures. The Lonely Planet offices, unsurprisingly, are full of people with hundreds of travel stories to share, so we thought sharing some of them would be an excellent reminder of 'happy' times for anyone who has ever been on the road and experienced those blissfully unexpected moments that linger in our minds after we have come back to our ordinary lives.

Happy revellers in carnival

We asked our staff around the globe what were the memories that brought a smile to the faces when they thought of travelling and these were some of their replies:

For James in the Online team, it has to be "arriving at a place you've never been before and remembering the time when it was just a dot on a map of some far-away country", a sentiment echoed by many: "that twang of excitement, rush of anticipation and sense of freedom" as Sam from the Client Solutions team in Australia puts it, or that moment of "seeing the destination for the first time from the window of my plane" (Gary from the Sales team in America).

There are happy memories intertwined with those unmistakeable "lost in translation" moments, to which Sally from the European Publishing team can attest: "One time I confused 'I'm lost' with 'I've got diarrhoea' while stuck in a paddy field in Laos. I was using my LP phrasebook, shouting to passers-by that I was lost and wondering why they were all in fits of giggles". Or the time Naomi, one of our Publishing Coordinators, found herself in a Turkish bath being given treatment by "a five foot nothing eighty year old woman who squeezed my breasts and exclaimed with delight ‘Çok güzel!’ (Very beautiful!)".

Some of us find joy on the nearly infinite possibilities of travel: for Mark, librarian extraordinaire, it's all about being "free of the everyday" and experiencing "something completely new – or slightly out of joint from how I experience it at home", while others relish the bliss of sharing the travelling experience with the youngest ones - here's what makes Lainey in the US Marketing team happy: "the smile on my kids’ faces and the sparkle in their eyes when they discover something new, particularly when they’ve seen photos about it or read about it somewhere beforehand. Just this weekend we were driving through San Francisco and my daughter saw a big tower and screamed, ‘Look mommy, it’s London!'".

Happy woman in a cafe reading a brochure

There is also a yearning for "the sounds, sights and smells of a foreign city, town or village" (David from the Asia Sales team), or in the case of Steve, Database Master, "the smell of spices and woodsmoke the minute the airplane doors open. You know you’re now in Asia". Although sometimes this authenticity can lead to another type of happy stories, like the time Clifton arrived in Udaipur (India) to find himself "walking past a cow with a very noisy rear end", who then went on to "spray what had been building up inside its stomachs" all over him.

Sometimes we stumble upon those delightful instants almost by accident, like the time Heather from our Comms Team literally "walked into a turtle laying its eggs on a deserted beach one night in the Philippines", and more often than not we are the recipients of those magic moments ourselves. Here's Carla's story:

Anytime I feel like the world is rotten I remember backpacking after college. My friend and I were on the ferry to Greece and we met this lovely Greek couple who insisted we come stay with them for a few days. Well, we were dirt poor and living on roughly 8 euro a day and accepted their offer. When we got to their house it was a two bedroom and they had four kids! We really didn’t feel right about staying, but the couple wouldn’t hear of it and finally we decided that we would stay but only in a tent on their front lawn. I will never forget their kindness and how there are still people out there who genuinely care about others.

Group of people dancing

But speaking about getting more than you bargained for, nothing trumps Stephanie's happiest memento: "the memory of my first big solo trip, where I found both myself and the love of my life". Lucky girl!

And what do some of our travel experts have to say about what makes them happy? Robert Reid, our US travel editor, cracks a smile when he thinks of "the generous, friendly man-hug a North Vietnamese veteran gave me in a dark cave on Cat Ba Island, Vietnam", while for Tom Hall, UK travel editor, it's the thought of "Seeking out great coffee anywhere I go. When I find the right place I tend to find it is in an interesting part of town with hip young people". As it turns out, it doesn't matter how far you have travelled: in the end, all we are looking for to make us happy is great companionship and damn good coffee.

Happy cover

To find out how happiness is created and spread around the world, check out Lonely Planet's new book Happy.