Travel has taught me about myself, helped me grow into a stronger person, and opened my eyes to so many wonderful experiences. It’s not just about the sights, the passport stamps and the souvenirs. Andy and I have been talking a lot over the past few months about how we want our lives to look and planning for the future. We certainly want travel to be a big part of our lives, but it goes deeper than that. One of the things we’re trying to focus on is the idea of experience over stuff.
Think before you buy
Stuff can be nice. We definitely like having our home, and having a home requires at least some amount of stuff. But we make a big effort to not buy things unless we really need them. Our rule is, unless we have a real purpose and need for something, we don’t buy it. It doesn’t mean we’re turning into complete minimalists, but it means we think before we buy.
When I first moved in with Andy, he was finishing up some renovations on the apartment, and we needed to buy some new furniture. One of the issues we had was storage space. German homes don’t have closets, which means most people buy a freestanding wardrobe. We haven’t bought one yet because our clothes fit in the drawers under our bed. If we bought a wardrobe simply because we should have one, it would just turn into this empty space waiting to be filled. So rather than buy a piece of furniture that would lead us to buy stuff to put in it, we just didn’t buy that piece of furniture.
We both have this ability to relate almost any purchase to travel expenses. That wardrobe probably would’ve cost around 300 euros. For that money, we could pay for three to five nights in a moderate hotel somewhere in Europe. Or we could spend about 16 or 17 nights in Southeast Asia. Is a piece of furniture worth giving up those experiences? For us, traveling and experiencing another culture is worth more than furniture.
Travel light, travel comfortable
Experience over stuff also means we don’t need to stay in fancy hotels. I like comfort just as much as the next person, and I don’t plan on staying somewhere horrible simply because it’s cheap. But I also don’t need to stay in a luxurious five star hotel. It feels like more stuff, and it distracts from the culture we came to experience. We don’t need luxury in our travels, just something comfortable, clean and safe.
Minimizing the amount of stuff we have also means traveling light. I do whatever it takes to travel carry-on only, mostly because having a lot of luggage feels like a huge burden. I don’t need more clothes for a longer trip, I just need somewhere to do laundry. I want to continue traveling carry-on only, and I want to work on lightening my load even more. It’s such a liberating feeling to not be lugging around a ton of stuff.
Making memories instead of buying souvenirs
Most of my memories are attached to experiences, not things. I hardly ever shop when I travel because I don’t need those trinkets to remind me of my trip. The few souvenirs I have bought over the past few years have a specific use, like the colorful bowl I bought in Istanbul that now holds foreign currency from our combined years of travel. I’d much rather spend my money on a wonderful experience, like snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef or a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia.
I want to continue to travel for the experiences and to be awed by the beauty around me as if it was my first trip overseas. I want to keep collecting memories and not be held down by too much stuff. Those memories and experiences are so much more important than having more possessions. This isn’t really a new thing for either of us, but our future plans, which we hope to reveal soon, involve more focus on experiences over stuff because that’s how we enjoy life and get the most out of travel.