Travel To Grow

Understanding The World Through Travel

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Apr '10

Material Vs Experience

In today’s world there’s an incredible amount of importance placed on material possessions.

Success today is often measured by how nice your watch is, how fancy your car is, and how big your house is. Sure we look at success in other areas of life like health or relationships, but when it comes to money it’s the things you own that matter right?

This article is not going to suggest you give away your possessions or that you should be happy with less money, or talk about how success should be measured by a balance of all areas of your life or any of that stuff, but it’s going to focus on how you spend your hard earned money. Should it be spent on material possessions or experiences?

Lasting value

Let’s say you need a new car, and your deciding whether to buy the expensive awesome car that would completely excite you and impress all your friends, or the cheaper yet still reliable car that’s not that great looking but will more than afford you a sweet vacation to Thailand on your next holiday.

Some would argue that buying the nicer car is a better choice due to the lasting value of the car. The trip will come and go, but the car will last for years to come. The trip might be far more enjoyable in the short term, but the car will have a lasting value on your life.

I think these people are dead wrong.

Firstly a new car does have a certain excitement about it. The feeling of owning something so nice is great and even just taking it for a test drive can be exhilarating. The thought of rolling up to your work parking lot with such a nice vehicle can be exciting and the feel of the ride is something you can cherish. But… none of this new car excitement lasts. Within a month or two all that is special about the car slowly fades. It’s no longer exhilarating to drive, your friends have gotten used to seeing you with the vehicle, and just as that oh so special new car smell fades, your love and excitement for the vehicle will diminish because us humans have that special ability to adapt and become accustomed to our surroundings.

What about the trip? The benefits of that only last as long as you’re in the other country right? As soon as you return home you might as well have never taken the trip… because it’s over.  Again, not true.

The truth is when you travel for real the benefits from your travels last. Not only do you have countless memories, interesting stories to share and new friends made along the way…  But the lessons you learned and the experiences you grew from truly stay with you and actually become part of you in a way a new car never could. So far in my brief travels I’ve had some experiences that have changed me that I’m sure I will never forget as long as I live.

A new car may change a person’s perception of you. But an amazing travel experience will actually change you as a person causing much longer lasting value.

Impressing others

Another reason people choose to spend their money on material things rather than possessions is so that they can achieve a sense of worth by impressing others and being ‘better than the Joneses.’

The only reason a person would buy a fancy watch rather than an equally good looking and functional cheaper watch is to feel a position of higher status and show off what they can afford to others. There’s no denying that to an extent this can work for some people. It can conjure a bit of respect or admiration or even envy from others, but these are surface deep impressions.

This surface level respect can work well with strangers, people who don’t already know you will be able to quickly tell by looking at you what kind of monetary success you have… but do you really care about the opinions of strangers? If you are a successful person by your own measures do you really need the approval or admiration of a stranger to make you feel successful? Does this surface level respect really mean anything?

As someone gets to know you they will really only be impressed by who you are as a person not by what you own. If your current friends only like you based on how much money you have or how nice your watch is then you need some new friends who would like you as a person even if you went bankrupt.

People often believe the only way for a man to pick up an attractive woman is to show off how much money he has. While this is true for some women, you have to ask yourself are they really the women you want to attract? Do you want to be with someone who would leave you if you happened to lose the money she was attracted to in the first place?

Impressing strangers with possessions on a surface level might feel good, but it’s truly meaningless. What really impresses people is your personality, the things you believe in, your ethics, your morals, your values, and who you are as a person. A material possession can never change who you are but an experience can and is therefore far more meaningful.

Expensive tastes

Some people just have expensive tastes. They need the brand name clothes, the designer perfumes, the fancy restaurants, the expensive wine… These people could be spending their money on so much more rewarding things.

I personally don’t understand why someone would want to buy a nice outfit to go to a fancy restaurant to eat an over priced (yet often tiny) meal and drink expensive wine in a stuffy atmosphere when you could instead head out and… for example… watch some live music and have some laughs in a feel good pub…  and do it at least 5 times for the same amount of money. Besides the money factor the experience of a fun place rather than a classy place is also so much more involving.

If its romance you’re looking for, then pack a rocking picnic and eat it in a beautiful park, buy your own bottle of wine and watch the sunset on your roof with some nice music. Bring some candles down to the nearby lake and order some delicious Chinese takeout. The thought and effort put into these experiences make them so much more valuable, and special and create a lasting memory connecting the two of you in a way spending big money on a fancy restaurant never could.

Choosing experience over material

Choosing experience over material isn’t all about travelling. There’s many ways you can choose experiences over material possession wherever you live. Instead spend your money taking musical instrument lessons, go to a live sporting event, go skydiving if it’s your thing, take the family to the theme park, watch a comedy show, hell – learn how to fly a plane if it interests you! Whatever it is as long as you’re moving from having something to doing something you’re moving in the right direction.

While you’re out there having an amazing experience it may hit you… as it hit me when I was sitting with friends on a warm night in one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand with soft music and laugher all around me… that it’s in experiences where true happiness can be found, and while in these experiences you realize you don’t need any material thing to make you happy.

Often people treat life as a race to accumulate as much expensive stuff as they can before they die. If you die with all the designer fashion, a few nice cars and even a big mansion… well… you still die, and you can’t bring any of this stuff with you.

If there is an afterlife (in which I strongly believe) then there is only 1 thing we can bring with us… our only true and lasting possession in life… who we are, our consciousness. So it makes sense to spend our money in this life experiencing the world, learning from it and growing from it, because in the end our life and our experiences are the only lasting things we truly own.

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  • veganarchist

    I believe what you're talking about has a term associated with in psychology. It is commonly referred to as “The Law of Affinity Returns.”

  • Devin Licastro

    Oh really? I haven't heard of that sounds interesting… I tried to find it with a google search but with no luck, do you have a link you can share about it?

  • veganarchist

    I cannot do that; I stumbled it upon while talking to my English teacher about something similar. On a side note, I'm a friend of your brother Zack. I've read every article I could ever since he has told me about it, great read!

  • Devin Licastro

    Awesome, glad to have you as a reader!

  • Devin Licastro

    Awesome, glad to have you as a reader!