For those of you who have been following my trek across Africa, you’ve seen the proof of my amazing adventures. I’ve seen animals roaming open ranges that up to now, I’ve only seen in zoos. I have experienced new sounds and smells, tastes and visions that I’m well aware are once in a lifetime.
This journey has given me many gifts, and it has reminded me of the importance of experiencing new things. And sure, the setting doesn’t hurt. But while so many of you have been following along and sharing some of my firsts through photos and conversation, it’s important for us all to remember that you don’t have to travel the world in order to experience new things.
Why is it important?
Experiencing new things makes us happy. Even science agrees. Dr. Thomas Gilovich, who has conducted extensive research on the link between money and happiness, says, “One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation.” In other words, repetition dulls the euphoria.
A psychology professor at Cornell University, Gilovich states that while buying things can make us happy for a while, once we adapt to these things, the happiness fades. His suggestion – which I whole heartedly support – is to spend your time and money on experiences rather than things. Rather than dropping hundreds or thousands of dollars on electronics, cars and gadgets, he says you’ll get more happiness from visits to art museums, cultural events, outdoor activities, travel or learning new skills.
“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Gilovich. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”
Being able to travel to exotic locations, like I’m doing right now, is a blessing. But believe me, this trip isn’t my norm. Most of us have limited budgets and time, however that doesn’t mean we have to limit our ability to try new things. There are so many experiences out there just waiting for us to embrace. Here are some of my top suggestions:
- Go to that festival or cultural event that you consider attending every year but then ignore.
- Camp out in your own back yard.
- Eat out at an exotic restaurant across town.
- Take a completely new route to work.
- Get to know that neighbor down the street that seems so nice.
- Buy someone flowers and leave them anonymously on their doorstep.
- Write a hand-written letter to a relative or dear friend. And send it.
- Learn choice curse words in five different languages.
- Take an art class just for the fun of it, regardless of your level of talent.
- Have lunch with an old friend and reconnect.
- Get to know someone who practices a vastly different religion, and ask them heartfelt questions.
- Research a special location and plan a visit.
- Enroll in a yoga class, or any other meditative practice that peaks your interest.
- Grab a friend and have a Surprise Night Out – just get in the car with no particular destination in mind and see where it leads you.
- Try out a new recipe.
- Deliver cookies or other goodies to someone that would least expect it.
- Learn a new sport.
- Join a book club or other group that catches your eye.
- Visit a new local park or attraction.
What’s new with you?
Investing in new experiences (rather than new things), can change your perspective and bring new life to an old routine. I’ve listed some of my own ideas, but I’d love to hear about yours. What are some of the new things you’ve done that have left a positive imprint in your life? And do you have any other ideas to add to the list above? Please leave your suggestions or stories below.