We live in a consumer-oriented world where our happiness and success is said to be reflected in the things we own. That’s why shopping can be such a thrill, whether it be a new house, boat, car, or just another trendy outfit. Shopping for someone else is just as big of a thrill, and there tends to be a lot of pressure to give the perfect gifts. But what if you didn’t need to spend all those hours shopping? What if you didn’t have to worry about gift receipts and returns?
Spend money on experiences, not things.
A recent study by San Francisco State University found that those who spent money on experiences rather than material items were happier and felt the money was better spent. Overall satisfaction with the experiences actually increased, whereas satisfaction with “stuff” eventually went down over time. That’s why we’re forced to buy a new smartphone every couple of years. Things don’t last, but memories do.
For me, it was finding a plane ticket to California in my holiday stocking when I was six. I had a lot of first experiences on that trip, from that initial jolt of thrill as the plane took off to the strange sensation of sand between my toes. To this day, I still treasure that time spent with my family, experiencing a world of new culture through the eyes of a young girl. While there’s nothing wrong with giving actual gifts, experiences bring the longest lasting joy. Here are a few examples for adventure gift ideas:
- Rather than following the norm and giving a newlywed couple something on their registry, which they’ll eventually forget who they got it from, buy them an annual National Parks pass.
- Whisk your special sweetheart away on a European vacation for a romantic anniversary celebration.
- Instead of money, congratulate your college graduate with a trip to an international destination of their choice, such as Australia, Asia, or Latin America.
- Buy a loved one a backpack for their birthday, and give them a subtle nudge towards the idea of a hiking adventure.
The worth of travel is more than just a monetary value.
The fact of the matter is that the gift of adventure is giving more than an experience. Adventure brings us the gift of life, and it can become a tradition passed down for generations to come.
Adventure can make us feel more cultured. It helps us develop into the person we were meant to be by opening our eyes to new experiences. It doesn’t have to be mountaineering, camping, or swimming with sharks; the thrill of adventure can come from learning about the architectural history of an ancient city, or seeing the ocean for the first time, or trying new food in a different country.
Adventure also teaches us a lot of life lessons, such as the importance of patience and going with the flow. Sometimes plans change, and you might have to make last-minute decisions. Adventure teaches us how to be prepared, and even sometimes shows what it feels like to be ill-prepared.
If you’re feeling lost, or there is a void in your life that you can’t seem to fill, what you might need is a little adventure. Adventure can heal a broken heart. It can bring acceptance into the life of someone who’s been struggling with a hardship. It can teach us how to be alone, how to make decisions for ourselves,and how to be independent. It can also force us to meet new people and forge bonds with friends that we never thought we’d have.
Spend your money on things that will maximize your happiness in return. Whether it be a sunrise yoga class in Bali, a whale-watching boat ride around the San Juan Islands, climbing on the famous granite walls of Yosemite, surfing the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean in Costa Rica, or discovering the geological wonders of Southwestern Utah, if it’s a new experience, it’s an adventure. Not to mention, we have a multitude of other adventures to pick from.
If you’re on the fence between a shopping spree and a plane ticket, think about which will last longer in your memory. The bottom line is that the perfect gift cannot be wrapped.