Happiness comes from experience. I don’t mean it’s something you must learn over time —
it’s something you do. We all want to feel good, and often we pursue the bright, shiny
object in search of happiness. Our culture gives us the message that more money buys
more happiness. Buy a bigger, better TV with surround sound, upgrade to the latest must-
have tech toy, bring home a new car. These things help ward off the imminent sense of
FOMO (fear of missing out). We want what we want, and we want it now.
So we get more stuff. But are things what we really want? Would you rather have a Lexus
LC500 coupe or be happy? I know. You want both. Truth is that new car will bring a surge of
instant gratification, pride, and Wow! factor. But the intoxicating thrill fades, and we find
ourselves searching for the next new thing. Imagine yourself a few years down the road.
What will stand out more in your mind, bringing the car home or the time you and your
sweetheart drove it down the coast, shared a bottle of pinot on the beach, and watched the
What makes us happy? This question has led to some fascinating research. It turns out
happiness doesn’t come from what we own, but from what we experience — and the
experience lasts a whole lot longer. Researchers Gilovich and Kumar have shown that once
basic needs are met, buying more things doesn’t add to our happiness.
We know experiences feed us, but still we are drawn — or pulled — to purchase things.
Pchelin and Howell make the point that people prefer experiences but spend money on
things because they think doing so is a wiser investment. Things are concrete. They give
you proof of what you bought. They look like a better value. But the question becomes:
what are our investment goals? The old saying “you can’t take it with you” rings true.
Traveling, outdoor experiences, shared moments — you can’t put them in your living room
or garage, but studies show they have more lasting happiness value. We are social
creatures by nature and we like to share. It’s the shared connection that pushes the needle.
Not only do you experience something with another person, later you get to talk about it
with other people. Going on about your new car may not be welcome conversation, but we
all love to share our stories about what we did last weekend or where we went over
An experience very rarely leads to buyer’s remorse. If things go wrong and a product you
bought fails to perform, you’re stuck with a concrete reminder. On the other hand, when a
tsunami hits the week of your long-anticipated Hawaiian vacation, it makes for a fun story.
Unlike purchasing a thing, purchasing an experience leads to treasured memories.
So, research — and intuition — tell us that it’s the experience not the thing that brings
more lasting happiness. Maybe you dream of owning an island vacation home. In a
Forbes.com article, The Secret to Happiness? Spend Money on Experiences, Not Things, Ilya
Posin suggests a practical alternative: Rent what you would buy and use your leftover cash
for creating experience. It makes more sense to rent a vacation home than buy one. You
don’t have the hassle of repairs and maintenance. Same goes for RVs, boats, horses, and so
much more. When you rent, you just show up and have a great experience!
Part of the reason experiences pay off more than purchases is that we look forward to
them more. Buying something you’ve wanted for a while is cool, but the outcome is
predictable. While waiting for an experience, however, you ponder how it might turn out.
The possibilities are as broad as your imagination — fun, romance, adventure. You get to
roll the idea around in your mind and savor it. So what are you waiting for? Start planning
your next experience now. Consider a getaway to the Sonoma/Napa Wine Country. Gather
your family and friends, choose one of HB Experience’s deluxe vacation rentals and notice
how sharing an experience brings you the happiness you’ve been looking for.