Experiences are the only things that you truly own in life

Karl Teel

“Money can’t buy me love.”

We’ve all heard the famous Beatles lyrics both as a song and in numerous philosophical meanderings. People also try to buy happiness with “things.”

Recently, the term “The Experience Generation” has been getting tossed around a lot. The term is used to describe the trend of seeking fulfillment in life via experiences rather than attempting to find fulfillment in acquisition of more “things.” Countless studies verify satisfaction with life has far less to do with spending power, and far more to do with life experiences and relationships. I see this more and more among society and it’s refreshing to see such a positive trend.

I’ve also had a chance to reflect upon it as I was handling the estate of my recently deceased mother. Furniture, kitchenware, holiday decorations, and personal items of all sorts that once mattered to her are now trivial items seeking a new home. I doubt she’d really miss any of it. Every happy picture of her had nothing to do with a new sofa or car. They were all about experiences: travels to neat places, family gatherings, reunions, vacations, or even a picnic with friends at a state park. It’s kind of wise when you think about it — experience is the only thing you truly own.

Experience ranks high in many aspects of life. You don’t want a rookie surgeon “practicing” on you. You don’t want your jet flight to a vacation destination piloted by a first-time solo aviator. People don’t hire managers who simply studied textbooks on managing people: They want people who’ve experienced working with and leading workers.

Relationships don’t even exist without experience. Hollywood is replete with movies on the aging parent who realizes he has little if any relationship with his children and now that they are tied up in their own world, it seems too late to fix it. You can’t sell experience, and you can’t buy it. It only exists if it is real.

Best of all, experience comes in many price ranges. For a few well-heeled travelers, the lure of a private citizen space ride can be had. No doubt, it’s an A-list experience. On the other hand, for a few dollars in gas, or perhaps a state park entrance fee, there are bargain experiences too numerous to list. Believe me, we tout at least two dozen new ones every month and have been doing that for decades.

I remember biking the C&O Canal listening to birds chirping away, pulling over at one of the many scenic overlooks on Skyline Drive, visiting the Amish Country, strolling through the monuments in D.C., or catching a free concert in the park. All had almost no expense, but memories that have held for decades, offering me a “happy place” to go in my mind.

I remember once taking a son and a friend of his waterskiing. The friend claimed to know how to do it, but it soon became painfully obvious he had no ability at all. His claim was based on video games.

You can’t fake experience. Those chores will wait. Any money spent? Well, my “experience” is that the memory will be around long after the extra cash is forgotten. Like the Nike motto says, “Just do it.”


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