Why do we head for the shops with such determination as soon as we have money in our wallets? With every new purchase we feel a little happier, but a few days later that satisfaction is often gone without a trace.

It turns out that the main impediment to happiness is adaptation. As soon as something we’ve bought becomes ordinary and unexciting, the level of life satisfaction we feel falls, and we’re forced to search around for the next purchase. This process is repeated again and again.

Look around your place right now. How much stuff do you have that was supposed to make you happy but has gone untouched for months or even longer? Hell I bet some of you have clothes that you have not even worn.

However, research carried out at Cornell University has found a way to break this damaging cycle. Psychology professor Thomas Gilovich has shown that we experience the same increase in happiness when we buy something we want and when we go traveling. But — and here’s the most important point — the amount of happiness we derive from our purchase falls over time, whereas the memories of our traveling experience continue to supply us with happiness hormones for much longer.

It seems to me that shopping doesn’t really push us out of our comfort zones. It is routine. It is kind of mindless; a distraction. It does not take a lot of effort.

Going to various kinds of unusual events, going on trips, learning new skills, even extreme sport — all of these are an ideal source of happiness for each and every one of us. A new device or even a new car will eventually become just another ordinary object we own, or will otherwise become old and outdated.

Every new memory, on the other hand, becomes a real source of joy that stays with us for our whole lives. Maybe this is why people take photos when they travel or do stuff. They want to relive those moments and feel those emotions.


What do you think? Buy stuff or travel?


4 thoughts on “Turns Out That Travel Makes You Happier Than Buying Stuff

  1. Firstly, Mark, nicely written article on a topic which, though not new to me, was enjoyable to read since your analysis was thoughtful. Secondly, I thoroughly agree with allocating far more money to traveling vs buying stuff. I drive a nearly 20-year-old VW Beetle and that is partially so we can have money to go to Europe every year. We live very frugally in other ways, and living well below our means affords us the travel that we find so inspiring and sustaining.

    1. Thanks very much for commenting.I too live VERY frugally as I am at the age now where I want to travel even more and POSSIBLY retire in another country where the cost of living may be lower.Everyone should live below their mean in my humble opinion.

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