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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Going for the title of World's Happiest Person

Is it more important to HAVE stuff or to DO stuff?

As someone who moved to the other side of the world with nothing but two suitcases, my answer to that question should be clear. Who needs things when you can have a round-the-world plane ticket?

(Full disclosure: My mom had to send a box to Korea full of spring and summer clothes.)

(Full disclosure 2: Allie describes herself as a "materialistic hippie." I'm closer to a "materialistic nomad" than anything.)

So a new study from San Francisco State University really caught my interest this week. It concluded that "in the long run, experiences make people happier than possessions.":

That's in part because the initial joy of acquiring a new object, such as a new car, fades over time as people become accustomed to seeing it every day, experts said. Experiences, on the other hand, continue to provide happiness through memories long after the event occurred.

... Another reason for increased happiness in experiences, the researchers found, was that people felt a greater sense of vitality or "being alive" during the experience and in reflection, Howell said.

"As nice as your new computer is, it's not going to make you feel alive," he said.

I'm definitely not without materialistic tendencies. My iPod and MacBook are absolutely necessary, there are way too many clothes in my closet even here in Seoul, and I have a compulsive scarf-buying habit. Without a public library, I've become a regular patron of What the Book -- but justify it by buying only used books, thereby "saving" money.

As a 23-year-old, I have my entire life to settle down, buy a house and collect stuff, but who knows how many years I'll be able to travel freely with nothing to tie me down.

Settle down? Not for a few years. At this moment, there's nothing to make me feel bad about spending money on trips to the Philippines and Australia later this year, or making plans to visit friends abroad in the fall, or pondering another overseas job in 2010.

Carpe diem and bon voyage!


  1. Very true... things get old, break and get lost. Experiences are memories forever that never get old, break or lost... unless you start to loss your mind... then you are kind of screwed :P but there is always pictures and lucky for you your blog :)

    I'm so happy you're getting to experience all these wonderful things! I miss you tons and cant wait to plan our mini adventure in the fall... even if it's only to Disney Land :) hehe. Love you!


  2. Does it count if I live vicariously through some of your experiences?


  3. Preach! That is a great post. After this whole London experience, I have never felt more in tune with my actions, beliefs, and ideals. Every day is an adventure - time to plan the next one!

    Wow, that was really cliche, but who cares!

  4. This was nice to read while volunteering in El Salvador with a lost check card, finicky computer software and basically Third World poverty.

    Seriously. Sometimes we need reminding why we really do these things.

  5. Why would you feel bad? Please! Enjoy your youth. I wish I had this kind of knowledge and sense of adventure when I was your age. I have it now and LOVE IT! It is part of the reason I don't want to settle down. Yes, I am older and I guess kids and a husband are the natural progression, but right now, nope! I want nothing to do with that kind of responsibility. I want to travel so much and develop my career.
    Forget what people say and do what is right for you!