By: Stacy Thompson
I once read an article about a study by Cornell University psychology professor Dr. Thomas Gilovich in which he noted “One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation.” Meaning, although buying material things will provide initial happiness and excitement, the feeling fades through time as one becomes accustomed to the new object and then seeks to move on to the next material thing. (Anyone else singing Madonna’s “Material Girl” in her head?) To contrast, Dr. Gilovich’s study indicated that over time, those who spent money on experiences noted increased satisfaction and reported that the experiences became an ingrained part of the person’s identity, and in general fostered greater happiness.
I have traveled not only early on in childhood (moving around with my Army Dad) but since settling in Columbia, my parents have continued to place a premium on creating experiences for us individually and as a family. As the real world has taken over (i.e., jobs, mortgages and other responsibilities), I still believe that breaks from reality through travel are an absolute must – which is why I have for several years repeated to my mother my new mantra, I will never say ‘no’. Yes, it’s a double negative, but it is nothing but positive!
Below are some of the experiences that have become a part of me (the international version), and a short list of excursions I highly recommend as additions to your bucket list:
- Antarctica – Truly one of the most remote, untouched and amazingly beautiful places on Earth. The coldest, driest, highest and windiest of all continents also boasts fascinating villages of tuxedoed, flightless birds that captivate for hours!
- Brazil – Became my second home when I moved there in high school and again during graduate school. I’ve studied there and worked there, but can attest to the fact that there is no place better to actually LIVE. The people are full of love, music, dance and true appreciation for taking each day as it comes.
- New Zealand – Trapped in a rental car with your parents for two weeks??? To some it may sound like the perfect nightmare, but for me it was beyond a perfect dream, particularly when that place was the land of the Kiwis. It boasts a gorgeous countryside, charming natives and just enough thrill-seeking (bungee anyone?) to keep you on your toes.
- Zambia – A nation within the last continent I had to touch to reach all seven, but the one that touched my heart the most. No touristy stops during my time there, but the dedication of the missionaries living there and the lives they constantly impacted will stay with me forever.
- Nepal – Not simply my most challenging trip ever, but one where the people made the adventure even more meaningful. My mom and I hiked on foot from Lukla (the most dangerous airport in the world. Google it, you won’t be disappointed) to Kalapathar, the overlook to Base Camp of Mt. Everest. It took over two weeks to complete the “Mother of All Bonding Experiences.”
Don’t ever say ‘No’ – and may the sum total of your experiences be beyond anything money can buy!