My husband Josh and I greatly value vacationing together. Through shared appreciation for destinations different than the norm, we've grown closer to each other. We've tested our limits and affirmed our partnership by tackling and overcoming obstacles in places both familiar and strange. As a result of planning for travel and sharing adventures off the beaten path, we've also made a lot of amazing memories.
Never once on our journeys did we purchase a souvenir. And, never once have we regretted it. In place of trinkets, we create memories that last much longer. In fact, we find so much happiness and importance in experiences that we rarely give each other traditional gifts.
As it turns out, considerable research has been done in support of our conclusions. What follows is five reasons why it is important for personal and relational growth to invest in experiences, not things.
1. Experiences last longer in our memories than material items do. In contrast, memories - even the bad ones - become sweeter with time. These memories might fade, but the emotion and sentiment from the imprinted experience becomes a part of us. The result is a ripple effect: the experience expands our lives, builds on who we are, thereby making us more complete people. Our experiences not only become a part of us, they also connect us to others with whom we share experiences. We can try our hardest, but material things (even our mobile devices) cannot become part of us. We are the sum of our experiences, not our things.
2. Since they enhance our character, experiences are a better personal investment than things. Enhancing character is something seldom added to our daily to-do lists, but character is important to think about, especially when you're building a personal relationship. Experiences help us to reinforce and model good character for one another. Experiences also give us defining moments - moments we can forever characterize ourselves by - making us into better people.
3. Experiences are worth the wait. We plan for travel months in advance; as a result, we eagerly look forward to the moment of our departure, much like school children do when anticipating summer break. The work we do in planning - from booking the tickets and the rental car, to reserving rooms, tables, or activities - is totally worth it because it improves our experience. We might brave hours of airport waiting, security checks, and baggage hold-ups, but overcoming all of that will make the trip even more satisfying.
4. Conversely, I can't think of an instance where someone plans a trivial material purchase months in advance. Of course, we should carefully plan the serious purchase of a home, since things like homes will increase our quality of life for the long-term. But, would you really want to deal with a long-term hassle for a short-term product? Take a look at grocery store check-out lines on a holiday weekend, or crowds in Walmart on Black Friday: waiting in line to buy things brings a lot of discomfort, impatience, and anxiety. Personally, I would much rather wait in line for experiential purchase than a minor material purchases.
5. More often than not, the material things we buy go out of style or become obsolete. When we purchase something new, we appreciate it and may think we love it. To us, the new thing is fresh and attractive, and mood-lifting endorphins flood our minds due to the act of purchasing. But, we get used to the once-new objects. We adapt, and the things become boring and forgetful. Think back to something you bought five or ten years ago. How many items that you bought during that time are still relevant to your life? Chances are that the items were forgotten, went out of style, or were replaced by a newer model. Memories can also be forgotten or replaced, but the originals still remain part of us. Like I mentioned in point #1, experiences shape us into who we are, and the ensuing memories become the building blocks of our individuality. If we invest in creating quality memories with one other, we will have happiness for the long term.
Sometimes our experiences don’t seem so good at the time – like when Josh and I got the camper stuck in a volcanic sand trap while we were searching for a campsite in Iceland. We were really tired, hungry, and were starting to get short with each other, and then we got stuck in what we thought was an impossible situation. Miraculously, we were not only able to trial-and-error our way out of that hole, but we also endured another hour of hunting for a camping spot.
In hindsight we are able to recall that evening with pride. We overcame several obstacles together, and are better for it. We saw how we both handled the stressful situation, and the result made us even more connected as a couple by increasing the respect we have for one another. Conquering tricky situations paves the way for potential opportunities to become better people, and becoming better people is the best gift of all.
Josh and I are definitely not the first to discover the benefits of seeking unique opportunities to make memories together. What we have discovered are the tangible benefits of seeking out experiences instead of material things.
Have you ever thought about allocating more resources towards creating experiences? I’d love to know how experiential gifts have improved your life. What you think about giving and receiving experiences instead of material gifts?
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