Many studies in recent years have all come to the same conclusion: more happiness is derived and sustained from experiences than from material possessions. Yet many people still prioritize buying stuff instead of traveling.
The most recent research is by Dr. Thomas Gilovich at Cornell University. Experiences—be it a night out with friends, a road trip across North America, or landing a sweet flight deal on Flytrippers’ cheap flight deals page—are proven to make you happier!
So, when it comes to a brand-new car or your dream trip to Europe, which should you choose?
We have both material and experiential objects in our lives; both of which give us happiness and joy. So, of course, you can be happy with having a pricey car or stuff to fill up your home.
But do these objects keep us happier for longer than our experiences do (whether it is going out with friends, traveling or any other experience)?
Let’s see what science says.
The Value of Objects Fades with Time
Gilovich says, “One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation. We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”
When you buy the latest iPhone, that dress you always wanted, or splurge on a new ride, you can be overwhelmed with joy and ready to show it off to the rest of the world.
But after a bit of time, as Gilovich points out, the joy fades away: that dress gets lost in the back of your closet, you replace your iPhone with another, and that car isn’t as shiny as it used to be (and it also loses 30% or so of its value just by driving off the lot if it’s a new car, but that’s a whole other topic about financial decisions, we’ll stick to travel finances).
In short: the happiness you feel from objects decreases over time.
Experiences Don’t Last Forever
Like objects, our experiences don’t last forever either. But, that’s what makes them more unique. Traveling and connecting with amazing people teaches us to live in the moment because we realize that it won’t last forever.
Eventually, those moments become heartfelt memories that will generate a lifetime of happiness. And oddly enough, it seems that the older a memory becomes, the more joy it can spark.
You’ll never look back fondly at that expensive piece of clothing you bought 5 years ago (I hope). But you’ll always look back to the memories from experiences you’ve had.
In short: the happiness derived from experiences increases over time.
Objects Clutter Our Space and Our Mind
If you are a Netflix fan, you’ve probably heard of Marie Kondo, aka KonMari, who has become an icon. Kondo is a “tidying expert” who has created the KonMari Method as a way to encourage people to live a tidier life.
If you’ve watched her show (which I’ll admit I have, even though I barely watch TV, because my girlfriend wanted me to throw away plenty of stuff haha), you’ve noticed one question she would always ask her clients:
“Does this spark joy?”
As we know, objects often lose their joy-sparking powers over time and become lost in our homes. Holding onto old objects can often lead to a cluttered space. And a cluttered space can lead to a cluttered mind. And that can be stressful.
Kondo says you should only hold onto things of importance or sentimental value. Otherwise, they can create stress in your life. And then you might even end up wanting to spend your rare weeks off doing nothing to relax instead of exploring the world…
An even better way of avoiding stress from cluttered objects is to purchase life experiences—like travel!—over material things.
Traveling has endless positive gains, and, as studies suggest, it can leave you feeling happier for much, much longer.
So, why not?
Social Experiences = Joyful Memories
Can you have a conversation with your car? No. You could carry on talking to it as much as you want, but it would never say a word back.
Humans are social creatures, and we tend to live a happier, healthier life through interaction with other people—like when we travel.
Living experiences and traveling most often happen with other people, maybe even with a few strangers (who could become your friends), which is why everyone should try solo travel at least once!
Perhaps this is why experiences win the race to happiness over material things.
Traveling brings us to unknown parts of the world, exposes us to new cultures, and connects us to friends, family, and strangers in memorable ways.
We can have deeper, more meaningful connections with people than we can with our objects. We’re able to converse, share good times, hop on a plane, get lost and find the way, and explore together.
I think that’s one crucial aspect of our humanity that bodes well in creating long-lasting happiness—even when it’s only a memory.
- Happiness from experience is stronger and longer-lasting
- Objects lose value and joy-sparking powers over time
- Memories spark more happiness over time
- Clutter can cause stress
- Connections create deeper, more meaningful experiences
- Travel makes you happier
If you want to travel more (and you should), Flytrippers has a lot planned to help you learn how to make this dream a reality, and not just by spotting great flight deals. Sign up today for free and stop just dreaming of traveling more—actually do it:
On a final note, I’ll insert this post we shared a while ago about how to travel.
It really can be that simple.
Basically, if you want to be happier, get out there, and travel your butt off! Save those dollars you usually spend on your iced coffees or on those clothes you don’t really need and book a trip to someplace you’ve always wanted to go. Take your friends and/or make new ones along the way. It’ll make for more vibrant memories and make you smile when you look back.
What are some of your favorite travel memories that still bring you happiness? Tell us in the comments below!
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Travel Hacking: Free Travel (really)
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Featured image: Happy traveler (Photo Credit: Athik Bana)
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