In December 2017, I visited my uncle, grandfather, and other family in the People’s Republic of China with my mother, who lives in California. It was my first trip outside the United States, and we did a lot of traveling to many different sights with family.
We had planned this trip months in advance, in part to get a low airfare. It was a logistical challenge because my mother lives in the San Francisco Bay area, and because I was still grading my students back at the University of Central Florida over the Internet, because we left during finals week to get a much lower airfare. Although traveling and visiting each tourist site was expensive, the memories will last a lifetime.
We often hear that Millennials prefer spending on experiences instead of products, and research says experiences make us happier. At the same time, a cluttered desk or room can be stressful and anxiety-provoking. As a shutterbug, I took many thousands of photos which help me remember the experience, but as someone who is frugal and who despises clutter, I refrained from purchasing any souvenirs. In the digital age, it is wonderful that we don’t have to deal with the logistical problems of physical film and printed photographs, except for what we choose to print. One can literally travel the world from a suitcase, collecting no souvenirs or other baggage but accumulating plenty of experiences and digital artifacts which can be physically manifested (i.e., printed) at will.
The opportunity to travel requires time and money. In many ways, the money part is easy, but the time part is hard. Saving money in advance is critical, but so is being willing to take a step back from work and other obligations to enjoy the experience. Experiences like travel, going to concerts, or participating in classes, conferences, or workshops are intangible, because there is no physical product left behind like a car, television, or Rolex watch after the money is spent. But, they are ultimately more valuable. A reliable car is important too, but consider spending money on experiences rather than driving a flashy car to make yourself more happy and fulfilled in the long term.
At the same time, saving for an experience is a great way to get in the habit of saving and having something to look forward to. I certainly look forward to traveling again in the future.
Five photos in this post were captured by me, and the two I appear in were captured by my great aunt and uncle.