A few years ago I took a whirlwind trip to Italy with my son and three of our friends. It was “whirlwind” of necessity. We all had commitments that narrowed our options to one week in August when we were free to travel together. At the end of that time, we scattered in three directions—my son to London, our friends to Sicily, and I (feeling somewhat martyred) back to work in the States.
After I returned to the office, a colleague asked, “Well, how was it? What was the highlight of your trip?” The question was unexpected, and I had to think. The coliseum? Michelangelo’s David? Pisa’s Leaning Tower?
“The truth?” I finally responded. “The most memorable experience was helping Kevin do his laundry in a Venetian laundromat.”
I went on to describe the experience: emptying my suitcase to fill it with my son’s dirty clothes, trudging along the rough stone walks in hundred-degree heat, struggling together to decipher the laundromat’s posted instructions (until we were joined by a helpful American experienced in such matters), chatting with a middle-aged student from China, and sharing a laugh when he pointed at Kevin, now explaining the machines to another new arrival, and said, “Aha! Look! Now he the teacher!”
As I described the day to my friend, I realized it wasn’t what we did—or even where we did it—that made that memory special. It was simply doing it together.
Now, research is showing that experiences make people happier than things. The reason for this? Well, according to researchers, a major factor is that the happiness provided by experiences lasts longer simply because we can reminisce about them.
When we think about how to use our financial resources, it’s often tempting to think, “I’d love to take a weekend away, but instead I really should spend the money I’d use on a new computer (or TV or couch or . . .you name it). That’ll last a lot longer than a weekend in the city.” Au contraire! Your memories of a weekend in the city can last a lifetime. What’s the lifespan of a computer these days?
Look at it this way: Travel is a bargain!