Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays and other gift-giving holidays often have us wondering, “What would our spouse most want to receive?” At least within our budget. Sadly, most of us can’t recall the vast majority of gifts we have given or received. Ads bombard us with the message that the more we buy, the happier we will be. But there’s a better way. Research shows that spending on experiences rather than on things brings the most happiness.
The gift of travel is a great way to make lasting memories. My memories of fancy dinners in expensive restaurants pale in comparison to a long-ago simple Parisian picnic with my husband featuring baguettes, cheese and wine. Beach memories are another favorite. Having toes in the sand seems to lower stress levels and increase playfulness. I smile when I think of our beach rental houses with kids and not much on the agenda. Although it was more than 20 years ago, lounging in a hammock in Hawaii is the image I conjure when I need to relax.
Many people think they can’t afford to travel. Yet they spend hundreds of dollars each holiday on gifts that are soon forgotten. Many airlines offer credit cards that allow you to gain frequent flyer miles for spending a minimum amount. We have used them to take two overseas adventures for four people. Adventures can also be found much closer to home, such as in state parks where lodging and camping are very reasonable.
Travel allows us to try new things together—food, cultures, activities, adventures. Experiencing new things has been shown in research to be good for keeping our marriages strong.Whether your idea of fun is a pub crawl or foodie tour, learning to surf, reading a new book together, or taking dance classes, find something you’re willing to try.
Things don’t always go as planned when traveling, but these hiccups create challenges we can overcome together and become part of the memories we can laugh at later, like the very “rustic” lodge we stayed in while white water rafting with friends, or the seafood beach picnic that attracted hundreds of seagulls. Vacations (with kids or as a couple) allow us to have large chunks of time to focus on one another and away from our many screens and devices. Travel helps us experience nature in new ways and relax our minds and bodies away from the daily stresses of life.
Planning a trip takes time and effort, but from looking forward to the trip to the positive memories left behind, it’s worth the effort and creates more lasting happiness than buying more things. Forbes magazine suggests investing in experiences, such as dining out, a trip to the spa, or buying things for other people are a better investment in long-term happiness than buying things for ourselves. Going to a concert instead of buying a new outfit, or choosing to rent a boat instead of buying one are examples of investing well in experiences.
“Nine times out of 10 you’re much better spending money on experiences and other people than on yourself. You’re much more likely to have genuine, fulfilling happiness as a result.”–Forbes contributor Ilya Pozin
What are the trips or experiences do you remember most with your spouse? What is your favorite travel memory?
Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 20 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.
Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.