by Suzanne Solsona
Without thinking too much about it: What is your most vivid, cherished memory of childhood? Your teenage years? As an adult?
I would wager a significant sum of money that your favourite memories centre around something you did, rather than something you had. Or, if it does involve a thing, memories about what you did with that thing and who you were with at the time that stands out in your memory. For me, my favourite childhood memories involve times spent with friends and family playing outside, or games like Memory or Solitaire.
I would play cards with my Grandma Andrews for hours. Building forts outside in snow drifts with my brother and breaking ice on the ?lake? in the vacant lot across the street are memories that stand out in my mind. As a teen? I don?t remember what I got for my 13th birthday, but I distinctly remember what I did for my 14th. My dad and stepmother took me out to a fancy French restaurant where I had creme brulee’ and then we went to a Sting concert. As an adult, riding upwind on my kiteboard or jumping with it for the first time, getting married (five people total in attendance), and giving birth to my two sons are what stand out (and not necessarily in that order).
All of them? Experiences.
In today’s world flush with consumer goods, toys and gadgets instantly available for purchase with a click or a tap, it is understandable how people — me included — can get caught up in the interweb of ?things,? consumerism and the urge to ?Buy!Buy! Buy!? We are bombarded with messages all day, and those messages become more prevalent and urgent around the holiday season. Buy this (either for yourself or as a gift) and you will be loved and happy. The newest version of smartphone, tablet or luxury vehicle will make your life complete. Or maybe not.
It seems to me that what truly makes us happy is connectedness. Positive connections with ourselves, our friends,family and environment are what keep us thriving. Academics* have, not surprisingly, concluded that spending money on experiences rather than material objects tends to make people happier.?
The idea is that ?stuff? doesn?t often foster and deepen relationships and your connection to the earth, but experiences do. It is that sense of adventure and belonging that grounds us and truly makes us happy, I hope you will consider giving the gift of experiences to your loved ones this holiday season. Or, if you do choose to buy a thing, it is an object that encourages a future experience together with that person. For example, last year my husband and I gave our sons climbing harnesses for Christmas. Yes, they were ?things?, but without us taking them climbing, the harness meant nothing. In actuality, giving them the harnesses were a promise of future experiences together climbing outdoors at the local rock or at a climbing gym. Here are some of my favorite ideas for gifting experiences:
- membership to a museum or science centre
- passes to a climbing gym, parkour gym or similar indoor space for cold or rainy days
- tickets to a play or concert
- tickets to a sporting event
- a ?coupon book? with coupons for activities such as going to the swimming pool, the skating rink or out for ice cream or a movie with friends
Some of my favourite ?things? to give that encourage having experiences together include:
- camping gear (sleeping bag, headlamp)
- hiking gear (good shoes/boots, backpack or hydration pack)
- sporting equipment such as skis, skates or a SUP board (on my wish list 😉
- board games that the whole family can play (our favourite is Pictionary!)
At the end of the day, it is our experiences and memories that have a lasting effect on our well-being. Wishing you all a happy, healthy and adventure-filled holiday season!
*We?ll Always Have Paris: The Hedonic Payoff from Experiential and Material Investments? by Thomas Gilovish and Amit Kumar, Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 2014.
Suzanne Solsona is the co-founder of MyMayu, a company on a mission to get kids outside in the proper gear. A former lawyer and mama to two young boys, she loves to travel, read and spend as much time outside with her family as possible.