Experience is happiness

Travel Perspectives — By on February 19, 2009 at 7:37 am

I love this blog post that was published recently on Vagabonding. It references a study on happiness which indicates that life experiences lead to greater happiness than do material possessions. Here is Scott Gilbertson’s take on the topic:

According to a recent study, using money to achieve life experiences — like traveling — leads to greater happiness. Spending money on things like traveling, satisfies what psychologists call “higher order needs” — like the need to feel truly alive and part of the world. Spending money on material objects is much less likely to satisfy such needs…

That probably isn’t news for vagabonds. Given $2000 would (you) rather buy a swank new sofa or spend three months in India? Is that even a choice? But what vagabonds might find interesting is that the study results were the same regardless of the amount spent or the income of the consumer. In other words, traveling on a shoestring budget is more likely to bring you happiness than staying in that high paying job that doesn’t leave you time to travel.

So why would living like a pauper abroad bring more happiness than living like a king at home? It turns out that the key is memory, not money. In the scenario supported by this study, the long term happiness comes from the “wealth of memories” the experiences provide. We don’t get bored of memories the way we do objects. Just consider how often you find yourself reminiscing about your amazing new kitchen tile. Not much, huh? How about that weekend you ran with the bulls in Pamplona?

Of course that doesn’t mean you should gut your life savings and leave your family blowing in the wind. Other studies have long shown that debt leads to stress, and stress is not a recipe for happiness regardless of the amazing memories you might accumulate on your way to poverty.

No, the real beauty of this study is that it confirms what travelers have long known — experience is happiness.

Experience is happiness. Sounds like a great motto.

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