Happiness Secret: Experiences vs. Things

Posted by davidjsinger - October 9, 2013 - Be Happy, Be Present, Family, Friends, Giving, Happiness, Mindfulness, Parenting - 4 Comments

Last summer I went whitewater rafting with my wife and a couple of wonderful friends who had very graciously invited us to stay with them at their upstate New York time share.

We departed the lodge at 7:30am and arrived at the rafting place around 9:00am. It was a long drive that turned out to be extremely worthwhile.

I have rafted, kayaked, and canoed many times. This was one of the three most memorable.

The first time that I remember was my first rafting experience. My parents took our family, during a trip to Colorado when I was about 13 years old. The water was rough and it left a lasting picture in my mind that I forever associate with the words “white water rafting.”

The second experience that sticks in my mind was one of the trips I took down the Delaware River, which is driving distance from where I live (in the New York area). My brother and I were with a group of friends. We were all in our twenties. At one point, my brother and I had gotten out of the canoe for a swim, which is not an unusual thing to do. We had a small problem when the speed of the water picked up more suddenly than we had anticipated, which caused the canoes to leave us behind. Our friends were unable to come back and get us, so we had to ride the rapids on our rears (as we had learned many years before), feet forward, with toes pointing out of the water. It was a bit scary, but not horrible (fortunately).

This past summer’s rafting experience is memorable because it was the biggest rapids that I had ridden since that first time when I was a kid. That made it exciting and fun. Being on the water, doing something that we rarely spend our time doing, especially something  that made it impossible to think of anything else at the same time, was fantastic. (And not having our cell phones with us enhanced our ability to stay in the present moment.)

The other thing that it did for me was to reinforce something that I have written about in my newsletter: the value of experiences—of spending your money on experiences rather than things. When I wrote a piece about the value of doing vs. buying, about experiences vs. stuff, I received a great deal of feedback from readers agreeing with what I had said. Here are some of the comments:

“I couldn’t agree more. I have always felt that doing was always better than buying. That’s why I travel so much with my family and entertain constantly.”

“Great post. When you ask anyone what they remember / treasure about their childhood, it’s almost always the family vacations – not the iPad, car model, or new clothing. You remember experiences—not stuff.”

“I loved what you wrote: I’ll never forget skiing, times at the beach, and the camping we did as a family.”

“Fantastic. Yes, experiences vs. things is the way to go. Experienced a BBQ cooking class at a Culinary Studio tonight with my daughter, and am headed to a Madonna concert with my wife tomorrow.”

It’s clear that the best gifts we ever get (from others and from ourselves), the ones that produce the most lasting happiness, are experiences, not “things”.

Please, once again, join the conversation with your comments…

Best regards,


P.S. While there are some better pictures of the raft, I thought I would share this picture of me getting a face full of water. (The photo was taken by a photographer who works with the rafting company.)

  • bagsteve

    Yes it’s amazing how time off can havesuch a lasting impression – it’s stepping out of whatever the normal routine is during that time period that seems to make time stand still for years later – even though at the time the vacation goes fast and then back to work or school!

  • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

    So true Steve. Thanks.

  • Don

    I learned a few years ago that experiences are much more important to me than things. I look forward to hanging out with friends playing board games much more than simply going out and buying things. It wasn’t always this way, it was certainly something I needed to learn.

  • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

    Board games is a great point Don. We have a group who rotate dinners at each other’s houses. We used to play board games but whether we do or we don’t, our get togethers are all about the experience of being together, not about buying. Thanks for your note.
    All the best, David