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Why experiences are more fulfilling than material goods

Image1 Aug19

Maybe you have spent your working life acquiring the essentials to provide comfortable lives for you and your family - and there is nothing wrong with that. There's the home to buy, and perhaps a car or two to meet the family's transport needs - not to mention a host of appliances, gadgets, furniture and collectables etc.

When you are working hard to earn money, however, it may cross your mind that there is more to life than just the material things.

So, as you approach retirement and look forward to an entirely new chapter, now could be just the time to address those nagging doubts and discover that there is more to life - perhaps it's time to measure the richness of life not only in what material goods you've accumulated but, the experiences you've lived.

Certainly, there are reams of articles and studies that suggest people who have experiences rather than material goods are happier.

Count your blessings

The prestigious Cornell University in the United States runs an entire project on the subject of “gratitude”. Its Gratitude Project highlights findings that distinguish between the sense of reward or achievement we feel when expressing gratitude for the experiences we have compared to the acquisition of material goods.

The Project's 2018 winter newsletter found that a sense of gratitude for the experiences we have might be responsible for a whole range of benefits:

  • it encourages optimism, positivity and determination;
  • you are likely to sleep better;
  • that, in turn, may help to lower your blood pressure and generally improve your biological immunity; and
  • by improving your physical health, you may also keep stress and anxiety at bay.

Travel broadens your mind

It might be a cliché, but travel certainly broadens your mind – and, at the same time, develops your appreciation for the many wonders of the world that all the trappings of money alone are unlikely to bring.

An article in Travel + Leisure suggests that by spending money on experiences rather than material goods may help you really count your blessings - so making you not only a more interesting person but also a better person as your own sense of gratitude is likely to spill over into a greater generosity towards those around you.

Your belated gap year

That might be one of the secrets discovered by the thousands of young people who took a gap year between school and university or the interval between graduating and embarking on a career.

But gap years need not be the preserve of the chronologically young. Anyone of any age stands to experience a sense of wonder and adventure from travelling.

In our newsletter last September we considered the opportunities for taking a gap year later in life and described the wide range of ambitious or more modest travel possibilities available even for those requiring a degree of support and assistance in realising their dreams.

Developing a sense of your place in the world

Travel may also be your way of reconnecting with the wider world by immersing yourself in some of the major issues of the day.

One of the greatest of these is the future protection and sustainability of our planet. Becoming more conscious of sustainability – and travelling in a way that reduces your impact on the environment – may be key to connecting with one of the single most urgent issues of the day and developing your own sense of place in the world.’s Sustainable Travel Report for 2019 underscores just how vital to the international community at large is the quest for making travel an environmentally friendlier experience.

Coral reefs

Bringing home that importance of preserving the marine environment and protecting it against the real dangers of climate change and global warming is the effect on the dwindling wonders of coral reefs.

If you want an experience worth preserving for future generations and a first-hand connection with the issues at hand, why not plan a visit to one of the many still-existing coral beds identified by TripAdvisor?

Retire on a cruise ship

You might even choose to go the whole hog and spend the next stage of your life experiencing the permanent travel offered by living on a cruise ship.

Not only might that be a way of broadening your horizons and dispel any sense of loneliness, it might also prove to be a cost-effective way of making the most of your retirement – as we suggested in a previous newsletter.

Day and weekend experiences

Experiences don’t have to be travel based – there are plenty of days and weekend experiences you can enjoy, from feeding a ring tailed lemur to getting qualified to skipper a powerboat as just two examples. Or maybe you may want to do volunteer work or mentor someone?

Whatever you want to do, having experiences may make you a happier, more fulfilled person than just having material possessions. The world is your oyster!

Any data used in this article is correct as at the time of writing.


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