Experiences, Not Things

I got sidetracked this morning by one of those list challenges … a list of 100 Places to Visit Before You Die.  Though it was America-centric, as someone else had already pointed out, we'd seen 43 of the 100 places listed. Table Mountain did not make the list, nor did Antarctica though it's probably as accessible nowadays as the Galapagos. I was a bit disconcerted that Walt Disney World Resort was on it, but nevertheless I was pleased  we'd visited as many places as we had. Then, of course, I started wondering how we'd get to the places we hadn't seen yet. easter island

Before departing the USA on Nine of Cups, we agreed that we wanted to visit every one of the 50 US states first. We called it “50 by 50” … 50 states before we were 50 years old. A visit couldn't be just landing in an airport passing through. Preferably, we had to travel in the state and have a meal before we could classify it as a visit. We did it, and though I'm sure we missed more than we saw, we've at least experienced, albeit sometimes in a cursory way, every American state plus Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands. We've since done several cross-country trips when heading back to the USA and we look forward to our road trips as much as our ocean passages. I mean how could you not be thrilled by the world's biggest jackalope or the Spam museum … neither of which were on the 100 Places to Visit Before You Die list, by the way.

grand tetons

So often, for many people, visiting a place is no more than ticking off a “been there, done that” list. Traveling by boat does allow us the opportunity and privilege of doing more than saying “Yeah, we stopped there for a day en route to somewhere else.” That said, I'd still rather visit a place, even briefly, than never visit at all, which relates to the topic of this blog post: Experiences, Not Things. After taking the travel challenge, I followed an associated link to a Fast Company article which showed that in the personal happiness department, spending money on experiences trumped buying stuff.

Basically, money can buy happiness to a certain extent. It depends what you choose to spend it on. When you buy stuff … whether it be a new diamond ring, a fancy car or the latest computer gadget, the novelty wears off after having it around awhile … once it's there and familiar, you hardly notice it. Experiences, whether they be an exotic adventure or travel to the city or a visit to the local art museum, stay with you and become part of you. You are the sum of all your experiences … not your stuff. In the long run, experiences increase the happiness quotient longer and more fully than material purchases do. That said, there are certain purchases, like my Canon camera for instance, that help to preserve each memorable experience, and as such, continue to provide happiness.

When we were in Tierra del Fuego, we had the chance to go to Antarctica for 12 days aboard a small research vessel. Though the trip cost was deeply discounted because it was a last minute thing, it was still over $2,000 apiece. We hemmed and hawed at this huge expenditure. This would really put a dent in the budget. In the end, we decided to go for it and though later we gave up some restaurant meals and “stuff”  to mend the  budget deficit, we've never regretted it for a moment. It was other-worldly … a trip of a lifetime and the memories are still vivid in our minds.


So by default, I guess we've made the right decision ... at least for us. We cruise and travel around by sailboat with minimal room for stuff, but lots of capacity and opportunity for unforgettable experiences. Sometimes when we're disappointed or frustrated with boat life or repairs, it's good to remember what this life has given us … and then plan a road trip.