Why You Should Spend Your Money on Travel


One of my favorite podcasts is called You Are Not So Smart. YANSS breaks down the cognitive biases and fallacies our silly human brains are prone to believe, using the latest in behavioral research. It’s fun and fascinating and eye-opening, all at the same time.

While host David McRaney has only put out six episodes so far, every single one is pure genius and worth a listen.

Yesterday, I listened to episode six featuring Elizabeth Dunn, an author and psychology professor at the University of British Columbia. Dunn was talking about her book, Happy Money, The Science of Smarter Spending, which looks at ways we can maximize the happiness we derive through spending money.

The secret?

According to Dunn and co-author Michael Norton, we should spend our money on experiences, not things. Experiences – even short ones – can provide a lifetime of fulfilling memories. The things we acquire in life, on the the other hand, quickly become familiar and forgotten to us.

This will come as no surprise to long-term round-the-world travelers, who often sacrifice lucrative careers, comfortable homes, and other luxuries for a life on the road full of unique and awesome experiences.

Think about this: fifty years from now will you remember that cutting-edge mobile phone you bought or that trip to a remote corner of Bolivia, staring out over a dazzling horizon of sparkling white crystallized salt (the first picture featured in this post from Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia).

“Looking back on an experience is a very valuable source of happiness. Our memories can provide us with sources of happiness even when we’re sitting on a crowded subway.” -Elizabeth Dunn

Research confirms that experiences make us happier than material things. Heather snuggling with a baby elephant in Thailand.Research confirms that experiences make us happier than material things. Heather snuggling with a baby elephant in Thailand.
Research confirms that experiences make us happier than material things. Heather snuggling with a baby elephant in Thailand.23-Mar-2012 18:35

Dunn also mentions that experiences tend to be shared with other people. Experiences, like travel, bring us closer to other people, whereas material things tend to be enjoyed alone.

Listen through to the end of the podcast, where David talks about a study Elizabeth Dunn conducted at the Old North Church in Boston, which investigates the connection between being well-traveled and the ability to enjoy visiting new places.

More information about this episode is available on the You Are Not So Smart website.

2 thoughts on “Why You Should Spend Your Money on Travel

  1. Travel Fest

    Tourism is important, and in some cases, vital for many countries. It was recognized as “an activity essential to the life of nations because of its direct effects on the social, cultural, educational, and economic sectors of national societies and on their international relations.” Tourism brings in large amounts of income in payment for goods and services available, accounting for 30% of the world’s exports of services, and 6% of overall exports of goods and services. Mass tourism could only have developed with the improvements in technology, allowing the transport of large numbers of people in a short space of time to places of leisure interest, so that greater numbers of people could begin to enjoy the benefits of leisure time.


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