Experience vs. staff – investing for happiness
Buying is good for you, but not all buying
I must confess to loving shoes and beautiful clothes. Don’t get me wrong, I am not crazy about them, and my collection does not reach a hundred pairs of hills, but I will, now and again splash out on a new temptation. But that’s about it – I am not that bothered about bags or scarfs, and can last only about five minutes wondering about in a beauty shop – crèmes and make-up leave me bored to death, despite admitting to myself recently that I can probably no longer go without…I own one laptop and one telephone, both of which get replaced only when they about to die, do not get the point of an iPad (when I already have a laptop) or iPod, (when I can store the music on my telephone), whilst my interest in the progress of television technology had lasted up until around the time the TVs turned flat. So I guess (with the exception of shoes and clothes), I find myself caring less and less about stuff or “stuffocation”, to use the recent Psychologies term, yet more and more about experience.
Experience is a different game altogether. I love sharing a good meal, both at home or at a restaurant, and will always be tempted to choose whatever is new for me on the menu. My weirdest culinary experiments included not only every known kind of raw seafood, but also a chicken tartar – yes, it is possible to eat a chicken tartar served by specially certified Japanese restaurants, provided the chicken itself is incredibly fresh (we are talking hours here). I would never refuse a massage or a spa, in fact, will actively seek it out. Once the actively seeking out bit had brought me somewhere I can only describe as a bathhouse aqua park on the outskirts of Tokyo, where, surrounded by hundreds of locals, I slowly realized that I was the only (a) European, (b) sole, (c) 6 foot tall woman to be there… I love any shade of travelling – whether hours of air miles away or just to a new part of the same city. And given that my budget is not unlimited, the older I get, the more I find myself prioritising spending money on an experience vs. anything that one can buy and consequently keep. Just yesterday, faced with a six hours stopover in a Beijing airport on a way back from a work trip, I figured out how to get out without a visa (easy, provided you have an onwards boarding pass), find a driver (a lot more difficult because Chinese taxi drivers do not speak English) and travel out of the airport for an hour. I actually ended up getting a rather expensive chauffer driven car, just to make sure it was clear where I was going and at what time I had to be back. And here I was, standing on the Great Wall of China at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning with (almost) no tourist in sight, admiring the mountains and the 600 long years of history as far as I could see. What bag or even a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo could ever compete with that?
The delightful part of it all is that positive psychology research is in full agreement. A recent book by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton “Happy Money” shows clearly that spending money on the experience brings about a lot more happiness than spending it on stuff. So the next time you are tempted by a new fashion item, spend a minute wondering if this is the best investment for your own self.