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Buy Great Experiences, Not More Stuff

India never fails to amuse me.

That is an actual photo from a hotel I recently stayed at in Delhi. I stared for a bit as the gears in my brain slowly churned, trying to figure out why anyone would desire imported toilet paper. Do Indian trees make paper that feels like shards of glass? Is there some sort of prestige involved in importing your toilet paper from another country? Who does this actually impress?

As my brain struggled to comprehend why anyone would spend more money on something so frivolous, I began thinking about the things I buy and what value I get from them. I have bought a lot, but I generally try to live a minimalist life. The reason for this is because long ago I discovered the value of spending money on experiences instead of things.

Generally speaking, the modern lifestyle values stuff. Having the latest gadgets or fashionable clothes feels great, and many fun conversations start simply because of them. It’s pretty rare that getting a lot out of something you already have will elicit more than a compulsory “that’s nice.” This isn’t very satisfying, and it’s easy to see why people get caught up in trying to always have the latest stuff.

Instead of focusing on having cool stuff, focus on having great experiences. Telling the story about befriending the Japanese punks on the street in Tokyo and going on a crazy adventure all night will never get old. For the same cost as that fancy new car that will quickly become obsolete as you pine for a new one, you could go around the world several times, gathering friends and stories that will only get better with time.

Just to be clear, there is a time and place for new things. Don’t keep wearing that ratty shirt with holes in it, and don’t try to squeeze another month of life out of that mp3 player that randomly turns up the volume and shuts down all the time. However, don’t focus on always trying to replace what you have. There are some things that I’ve had for a long time, like my camera, that have had numerous new versions appear, but I know and enjoy the one I have. When something new comes out, really size it up to see if you care about the new features. Every now and then, like I discovered with the Kindle, it becomes completely worth it.

Notice that each of these things serves the purpose of being a tool to experience more in life. With the camera I will have memories to share and experience again. With the Kindle I can discover new views on life and find new adventures through books and the internet around the world. Objects are wonderful things, but they are just tools on the way to experience.

Life is about buying new experiences... and new underwear.

That’s a photo of my friend Matt, who went skydiving for the first time this weekend. There are other more flattering photos, but this one really captures the feeling of that moment after you pull the ripcord and you are hoping for dear life that the chute opens and you start slowing down. Sheer faith, fear, excitement, and hope all rolled up and squeezed tightly into one split second that seems to stretch on forever. It takes a lot of guts to go skydiving, and this moment is the reason why.

When people talk about skydiving, they talk about the freefall, the wind, the feeling of sitting in midair being able to see beautiful views you could never see elsewhere. But it’s really all about this moment; that second in time when all your fear and self-worth gets tested. You stop caring about what you look like and what other people think. Anything that may have stressed you out before stops mattering and you start living fully in the moment, if only for a second.

At the end of the day, do you want to tell people you did some amazing things with amazing people, or that you bought some really cool stuff?

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  1. Ahmed Riaz says:

    There’s a lot about that is ‘Wellbeing’. The idea being that when they asked a number of people (It’s a gallup book) they found that the memory of an experience was more valuable than the acquisition of a purchase. Our memories of things is what makes things valuable.

    Objects too I think can have memories created about them but only when they have meaning associated with them. Like with your kindle it’s always going be the day the world changed books forever.

  2. Chris Dame says:

    I completely agree. People look to objects for quick fixes of well-being, but it’s the memories that really provide happiness.

    That’s a great link, as well. It’s great that they are taking the bigger view of all the aspects of happiness. It’s too often that people become focused on just one aspect, letting they other sides fall apart. Well-being needs to be balanced to work long-term.


  3. […] It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, but who you do it with. I’ve mentioned buying experiences, not stuff before, and it is even more true when giving […]

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