If my mom’s English was good enough and she read this post, she would probably not talk to me for a long time. My mother-in-law lovingly called us “traveling fools.” And I get it. I am sure their generation in general grew up on different values. House, car, furniture, jewelry and savings were all of paramount importance and a natural way of showing your status in life, your progression, your achievements. Don’t get me wrong, all of this is still important (and I wish more people could afford all the material pleasures of this life without sacrifices and budget planning). However, my generation is starting to progressively shift towards a different mindset – where experiences matter more than things. The priorities are shifting from collecting things to collecting experiences.
My husband and I are just another couple with average income making most of our lives and creating memories that will last a lifetime. Given the choice and budget constraint, I’d rather drive a Honda, but vacation four times a year, than say no to travel and spend the next 10 years paying off a 100k Mercedes to show my status. We also agreed early on that we’d rather splurge on a date night at a 3-Michelin-star restaurant than spend money on exchanging gifts.
You might call me an addict, and you might be right about that. Although, I prefer to call it passion. Either way, the symptoms are clear: I feel like I’m suffocating if I stay in one place for more than three months; I need regular weekend getaways (near or far); I plan my vacations one to two years out; I do meticulous research and prepare detailed itineraries for every trip; CondeNast Traveler, Culture Trip, National Geographic and Travel + Leisure have turned into my bibles; I also frequent websites like booking.com just to daydream of the wonderful destinations around the world.
So, why do I choose to invest in travel versus things? The reasons are simple:
BROADEN MY PERSPECTIVE
As Mr. Twain once rightly pointed out, travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Two-year diplomatic assignment in Haiti opened my mind on a totally different level. You might see the hardship of developing countries on TV, but until you experience it first-hand you cannot truly appreciate the every-day struggles of people who live there. Thankfully, our living conditions in Haiti were nothing like those living in an absolute poverty. However, I started appreciating even the simplest things like paved roads, traffic lights, grocery stores, movie theatres and shopping malls – basically, everything I took for granted before.
MEET NEW PEOPLE
Seeing the main sights of the destination is not enough for me. It honestly blows my mind how some people live in a foreign country for years and don’t have any local friends. I don’t think you can really learn anything about the country or its culture without interacting with locals. Multicultural engagement is a key to understanding the beauty of this world, and having so many friends scattered around the world makes me feel rich. Besides meeting locals of the host country, travel also gives opportunity to interact with other nationalities and learn a little bit about their culture. Remember, every person that you cross paths with during your travels has a story to tell.
EXPERIENCE NEW CULTURES
Whether it was a luau night in Hawaii, climbing The Great Wall of China, overnight in a Buddhist temple in Japan, diving in St. Kitts, sumo tournament in Tokyo, or dune-bashing in Dubai – the possibilities of immersing into local culture at your new destination are endless. The thrill of seeing first-hand how people of other nations live and experiencing the same things that make their hearts tick is incomparable. As you trot the globe in pursuit of new smells, sights and sounds, the extent of your understanding of the world around you and of new cultures that are different from yours opens your mind and enriches you.
UNCOVER THE CULINARY GEMS
It’s no secret I love good food and I always make an effort to try local cuisine everywhere I travel. No matter how much people try to recreate food, it never tastes as good as in its original country, simply because the local produce and spices cannot be replicated anywhere else. Khachapuri will never taste as good as the one cooked in my mom’s kitchen in Tbilisi, Thai food will never be as good as that in Thailand, or Indian as mouthwatering as in India. I still remember our mind-blowing food tour in San Juan, when we savored the local specialties while touring the beautiful cobble-stoned streets. Our latest favorite was sampling Sichuan cuisine in the most unassuming little eatery in a random Chinese village on our way to the Forbidden City. It was cheap, simple, yet so moreish.
TO NOT LOOK BACK AND WONDER, WHAT IF?
Life’s too short, and at the end of the day, the only “things” that will stay with me forever are all the adventures and sweet memories I made with my loved ones. I don’t want to put off anything that I can do today, this month or this year. I don’t want to look back in regret and say I wish I went there, or done this. Honestly, I don’t think this travel bug will ever go away. I will always have that itch to pack my bags and book a flight to next exotic destination. I don’t think there is right or wrong answer to living your life. Doing what feels right now is probably the best answer, because we don’t know what tomorrow holds.
What are your thoughts on travel vs. things? Which one would you pick if you had to choose?