Travel Perspectives – Experiences Over Stuff
Travel has taught me about myself, helped me grow into a stronger person, and opened my eyes to so many wonderful experiences. It’s not just about the sights, the passport stamps and the souvenirs. Andy and I have been talking a lot over the past few months about how we want our lives to look and planning for the future. We certainly want travel to be a big part of our lives, but it goes deeper than that. One of the things we’re trying to focus on is the idea of experience over stuff.
Think before you buy
Stuff can be nice. We definitely like having our home, and having a home requires at least some amount of stuff. But we make a big effort to not buy things unless we really need them. Our rule is, unless we have a real purpose and need for something, we don’t buy it. It doesn’t mean we’re turning into complete minimalists, but it means we think before we buy.
When I first moved in with Andy, he was finishing up some renovations on the apartment, and we needed to buy some new furniture. One of the issues we had was storage space. German homes don’t have closets, which means most people buy a freestanding wardrobe. We haven’t bought one yet because our clothes fit in the drawers under our bed. If we bought a wardrobe simply because we should have one, it would just turn into this empty space waiting to be filled. So rather than buy a piece of furniture that would lead us to buy stuff to put in it, we just didn’t buy that piece of furniture.
We both have this ability to relate almost any purchase to travel expenses. That wardrobe probably would’ve cost around 300 euros. For that money, we could pay for three to five nights in a moderate hotel somewhere in Europe. Or we could spend about 16 or 17 nights in Southeast Asia. Is a piece of furniture worth giving up those experiences? For us, traveling and experiencing another culture is worth more than furniture.
Travel light, travel comfortable
Experience over stuff also means we don’t need to stay in fancy hotels. I like comfort just as much as the next person, and I don’t plan on staying somewhere horrible simply because it’s cheap. But I also don’t need to stay in a luxurious five star hotel. It feels like more stuff, and it distracts from the culture we came to experience. We don’t need luxury in our travels, just something comfortable, clean and safe.
Minimizing the amount of stuff we have also means traveling light. I do whatever it takes to travel carry-on only, mostly because having a lot of luggage feels like a huge burden. I don’t need more clothes for a longer trip, I just need somewhere to do laundry. I want to continue traveling carry-on only, and I want to work on lightening my load even more. It’s such a liberating feeling to not be lugging around a ton of stuff.
Making memories instead of buying souvenirs
Most of my memories are attached to experiences, not things. I hardly ever shop when I travel because I don’t need those trinkets to remind me of my trip. The few souvenirs I have bought over the past few years have a specific use, like the colorful bowl I bought in Istanbul that now holds foreign currency from our combined years of travel. I’d much rather spend my money on a wonderful experience, like snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef or a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia.
I want to continue to travel for the experiences and to be awed by the beauty around me as if it was my first trip overseas. I want to keep collecting memories and not be held down by too much stuff. Those memories and experiences are so much more important than having more possessions. This isn’t really a new thing for either of us, but our future plans, which we hope to reveal soon, involve more focus on experiences over stuff because that’s how we enjoy life and get the most out of travel.
January 28, 2013 @ 9:55 AM
Great post! Completely, agree about trading in souvenirs for memories. Trinkets just collect dust, but memories are the real reason to travel to begin with. It is also so liberating to streamline your life. Stuff just weighs you down.
January 28, 2013 @ 4:44 PM
Thanks Jenna! I’m glad you agree, those memories and experiences will stick with you longer and mean so much more than a souvenir. Stuff weighs you down in many ways.
January 28, 2013 @ 10:30 AM
I agree with you totally Ali. The flat that I live in at the moment is like your house in Germany in that there are no built in wardrobes. I have two free-standing wardrobes that I have bought to put my clothes in but I have recently realized that I have too many clothes to fit in them so I have folded some clothes and put them on top of one of the closets for now. It’s made me realize that I have more clothes than I have space for and that I really don’t need to buy anymore, regardless of the bargains I can find on the internet. I do have a need for more furniture to update what I have but I’m going to buy that furniture at bargain basement prices, not at standard retail.
So I am with you and Andy. I have in the last week set up a strict budget and I intend to get ahead in my bills and save up enough money to last six months. Once I’ve done that and achieved that milestone then I will plan and take my first trip overseas which will be really exciting.
Experiences will always outlast the stuff that we buy. Memories never become obsolete in the course of time but material things always will. We get one shot at this life. It’s up to us to live it to the full while we can.
And thank you so much for the reminder that we should 🙂
January 28, 2013 @ 4:51 PM
Thanks Matthew! It’s amazing how much stuff we can accumulate without even realizing it. I’m glad you connected with my post. I love that you set up a budget for yourself to save money for a trip! As I’ve told you before, if you want any help planning your trip, don’t hesitate to email me. I’m so excited for you to finally take a trip outside of Australia!
January 28, 2013 @ 10:55 AM
Right on the nose with this one! I’m all for collecting experiences, but I like the luxury hotel experience every now and then. Sometimes it’s good to splurge! But I hardly ever buy souvenirs for myself, or if I do, they’re usually things I need regardless, but now they’re tied to the travel experience making them that much more special.
January 28, 2013 @ 5:23 PM
Thanks Adam! I do enjoy a nice, comfy hotel, but I’ve learned I definitely don’t *need* that. So I’d rather not spend money on it, unless it’s really part of the experience, like staying in an over the water bungalow in Bora Bora, which was amazing. You’re right about the souvenirs, it’s nice to get something useful and have the added bonus of the memory tied to it.
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
January 28, 2013 @ 2:31 PM
I agree wholeheartedly with everything you’ve said here. When we first started our Big Trip back in August, I told myself I could buy a small trinket here and there (mostly jewelry) to have as keepsakes of the trip. The last time I bought anything for myself was back in September. I’ve realized that I don’t need that stuff to remember this trip and the places we’ve been… so much better to save our money for those truly amazing experiences that are unforgettable!
January 28, 2013 @ 5:32 PM
Thank you Steph! I actually bought myself a nice ring in Greece a few years ago, and then I lost it a month later at my 10 year high school reunion. (Alcohol may have been involved.) You’re so right, you will cherish those memories and experiences so much more than anything you buy along the way.
January 28, 2013 @ 3:03 PM
We’re the same…we spend all our money on travel! Ok, and DVDs…
January 28, 2013 @ 5:40 PM
Yeah, I’m not saying we’re super strict with it. We certainly buy the odd movie here and there, but we try to always weigh our decisions against travel spending. Plus those movies are helpful for Andy when he’s freaking out on an airplane!
January 28, 2013 @ 4:50 PM
I have been feeling the same way for quite some time, but unfortunately, my husband still loves to meander over to the souvenirs and still wants to buy something for the kids(his mom, his staff, the dog sitter) almost every time he gets a chance. Hopefully one day soon he will “get it”. I figured out a while back that the trip or destination was my “gift” and I tuck it away gently in my mind and my photographs!
January 28, 2013 @ 9:13 PM
Haha my husband is the same way, still feels the need to buy presents for everyone back at home! Hope he gets it soon too!
Looking forward to reading your posts about turkey, as I am hoping to go there soon!
January 29, 2013 @ 2:25 PM
Maybe he will, but if not, just chalk it up to everyone being different!
Just search “turkey” on my site and you should find all the posts about Turkey. Great country!
January 29, 2013 @ 2:19 PM
I guess trinkets and souvenirs are just more important to other people. Everyone is different. But I love that you view your trip as your gift and save the memories and photos!
January 28, 2013 @ 9:11 PM
Wonderful post! I have recently been hit hard by the travel bug, and am currently saving all of my pennies for future trips! I just started a travel blog, would love for you to check it out! Thanks! Any feedback would be greatly appreciated! I am a brand new travel blogger and don’t really know much about anything, haha.
January 29, 2013 @ 2:24 PM
Thanks Jessica! Saving for travel is a great feeling! I’ll take a look at your blog 🙂
January 28, 2013 @ 9:40 PM
I agree, but I still like finding unique and one-of-a-kind pieces that don’t take up too much space. 🙂
January 29, 2013 @ 2:58 PM
I’ve seen some of yours that you posted pictures of on FB, and they look really special. Much better than mass-produced keychains!
January 28, 2013 @ 10:29 PM
Love it! I don’t own a car, no living room furniture and use an air mattress… but I do have more luggage than most people. *laugh* Ali, I get kick out of how you see money – I do too and often think as I pull out a cigarette – one year’s worth = a round trip ticket to Asia! in hopes that’ll get me to quit.
Hasn’t worked yet :-/
January 29, 2013 @ 2:59 PM
You sleep on an air mattress? Wow, that’s hardcore. I have too much luggage too, especially since I’m such a big believer in carry-on only. Keep trying to beat smoking with traveling! You can do it!
January 29, 2013 @ 12:57 AM
Truth!! Even before we sold it all in November we were long past the accumulating phase. If I was going to buy something it usually had to replace something that was done. I find it’s much easier to not buy travel souveniers now that we don’t have a house to put it all in!
January 29, 2013 @ 3:00 PM
I’m sure that does make things easier! I’m not sure I could handle the whole not having a home thing, as I do like the comfort of home. But travel is such a priority to me that filling our apartment with unnecessary things just seems silly.
The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen)
January 29, 2013 @ 3:56 AM
Good thoughts, Ali. I agree. We find our friends look at us and wonder how we’re able to travel so much, and one of the major reasons we can and they can’t is because of how we choose to spend our money — or not spend our money. We don’t spend the money on houses, cars, and tech gadgets that they do. If only they realized if they did that, they could travel, too! It’s definitely about setting priorities. And for some people, travel is just not a high priority, and that’s fine. It’s just not for me.
January 29, 2013 @ 3:03 PM
Thanks Ellen! I know what you mean. I know people who buy expensive clothes every month, always have to buy the newest electronics, etc. and they never understand how I can afford to travel. I just make it a priority and put my money there instead of the things they buy. It’s ok to have different priorities, and certainly travel won’t be everyone’s. But it is one of my top priorities!
Is "What If" Stopping You From Traveling?
January 29, 2013 @ 8:12 AM
[…] Your vacation could turn out to be really fun and filled with amazing experiences. […]
January 29, 2013 @ 12:51 PM
I’ve been moving more and more toward this way of thinking. I find myself weighing whether I really need X I could spend that money on a flight somewhere.
January 29, 2013 @ 3:04 PM
Comparing the money you would be spending on stuff to what you could spend it on instead, plane tickets, hotel, whatever, is a great way to keep yourself from buying too many things you don’t need. All about prioritizing.
January 31, 2013 @ 3:30 AM
Super like the words ‘experiences over stuff’, really what we all should be adopting as our motto!! Lovely read. Have a nice day Ali 🙂
January 31, 2013 @ 2:47 PM
Thank you so much, Arti! It’s definitely a motto I believe in, glad it resonated with you. I hope you’re having a great day too!
Jade Johnston - OurOyster.com
February 1, 2013 @ 5:45 AM
I so agree! I know people who are super jealous of my travels, and who are “trying to save” to travel but never seem to get anywhere with it…. but then again… these are the same people buying the latest smart phone the moment it comes out, etc, etc. Or going out and getting super drunk at night clubs…. Also by having less stuff means we can rent in smaller apartments and pay less rent so that its even easier to save.
February 1, 2013 @ 1:33 PM
Thanks Jade! It’s all about priorities and knowing what the trade off is. For some people, having those gadgets is more important that travel, whether they want to admit it or not. I just don’t get that rush from a new TV or an outfit like I do from booking a trip and exploring another culture.