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  • The Curious Traveler

Happily Ever After?

Two professors from the University of Colorado embark on a research study to uncover people’s perceptions of those who acquire things versus experiences.

Can Adventure Travel Make You Happier?Is a hot new sports car or an Italy walking tour going to make you happier? That is exactly what two professors are setting out to discover. You think the car will make you cooler? Perhaps even more admired? Don’t bet on it. if people even catch a whiff of triumph or braggadocio from you they will most likely think of you as insecure, self-centered, judgmental, and less likable.

However, spending your disposable income on a walking trip to Tuscany, Botswana safari, or cultural tour to Bhutan, may likely lead people to think of you as humorous, open-minded, friendly, intelligent and caring. In other words, according to CU Boulder professor of psychology Leaf Van Boven, if you want people to like and admire you then spend money on experiences and not things. Van Boven says that “people form impressions of us based on how we pursue happiness. When people observe others behaving in materialistic ways and reflecting the belief that having materials things makes them happier, they make an inference that those people are materialistic and therefore not very social.” Religious leaders have been preaching experiences over things for centuries. Buddha’s Second Nobel Truth is that “attachment” is the cause of all suffering. Aristotle concluded that doing and being are a straighter path to happiness than having. The researchers make note though that the intentions behind the trip are important in how it is viewed by others. “Did they take the trip so they can come back and tell everyone they know that they went on this great trip, or because they truly wanted to go out and commune with self and nature?” asks Margaret Campbell associate professor of business. “It’s not the act itself,” Van Boven says “but the meaning we put on the act.” It has to do with whether one’s motivation is “intrinsic” – engaging in an activity or purchase for its inherent value – versus “extrinsic” primarily doing something in search of status or admiration. The researchers admit that some of the information gained from their study doesn’t always fly in the real world. In our materialistic society they don’t expect all people to immediately turn in their Gucci for a Peru hiking trip in pursuit of happiness, but Van Boven does preach the mantra of “more fun, less stuff!” We at Boundless Journeys couldn’t agree more.


About Boundless Journeys Boundless Journeys is an award-winning small group adventure tour operator. With a diverse collection of locally guided, small group itineraries and Private Collection trips around the world, Boundless Journeys offers “The World’s Great Adventures.” The adventure trips for 2-16 guests are active, ranging from leisurely cultural explorations and wildlife safaris to challenging trekking tours in remote regions ― with plenty of easy to moderate walking and sea kayaking in between.


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