I have washed my backpack exactly twice. Once after a horse drooled onto it in Kyrgyzstan and then when I accidentally squashed half of a banana onto it. Two unforgettable experiences.
How much do I adore my backpack? 99% of the time. That 1%!?… Goes to the moments in the airport bathrooms. Those poor toilet paper holders never know what hits them.
Obviously, I have cleaned „my” apartment more than two times. Though it’s great and cozy and protects me from the rain, but then again no horse can drool onto it. That’s its flaw, it is rooted, it is subjected to one location.
„If you want to have a happy and content life with all the hard earned money then… you shouldn’t buy things,” says dr Thomas Gilovich, a pscyhcology professor at Cornell University.
A backpack and an apartment are both things. Is one of these more of a thing than the other?
Buying new things gives you quickly a feeling of content, but it also vanishes as fast as it came. Why? There are three reasons.
- We get used to the new things. What’s new and interesting at first is now boring and ordinary. Let’s say you bought new curtains for your apartment. First week passes by you constantly admiring how the sun gleams through your glorious curtains. Then arrives that Thursday when you don’t even notice that something is different until your friend comes over and compliments your curtains. „Hell yeah, they are new!“ pops into your head again.
- Our expectations have no limits for growing. The moment we get used to the new thing, we start looking for something better. „I will be happy when I save up 1000 euros.” You work. You work hard. And you have it, 1000 euros on your bank account (new baseboards?). A tiny rush of dopamine. Happiness. „But that 5000 euros… that would be something,”new roof tiles flashing in front of your eyes, what else to do than to continue struggling and working hard.
- Things encourage comparing yourself with others. My apartment in the city center is well located until my neighbour buys a better flat into the heart of the city.
Know your enemies, it’s said. Gilovich brings out one of the main happiness killers – adaption. New kitchen furniture excites you for a while, but after that it is just a furniture. Not so thrilling anymore! So, where is the trick here? You see, our brain thinks that the joy of the new things lasts as long as the things themselves. Each girl would say that they would not be able to wear the same dress for five consecutive events; each guy would change his computer to a new one when the chance given.
Is it logical to think that when we invest our money into the things we can see and touch, then they will also provide us constant feeling of happiness like it did at the beginning?
Yes, at least according to our brain…
As it really doesn’t play out like that, then there has to be a better option to throw your money at. What gives us longer lasting feeling of happiness, than a new phone, juicer or jeans? Experiences.
Because the experiences become part of us, part of our identity. We are not part of our things, part of our clothes or a watch, an apartment or a car, but we are a set of everything that we have done and experienced, places visited and people met.
So, new shoes or a blouse won’t change who you really are (even when your friends pat your shoulder and praise your ego). Here comes the question – what does change you? Sledging down the hill you didn’t dare before. Biking through your country. Meaningful conversation with someone you appreciate.
„Our experiences contribute to us more than material things,” says Gilovich. You can really like your things, you can even think that they are part of your identity, but they are still apart from you. Whereas your experiences and learned skills really are part of you.
So, why did I choose a backpack over an apartment?
When you open the door to your apartement, you see the hallway or the living room. A backpack opens the door to the whole world – exactly to those experiences that make us happy.
Backpack doesn’t have roots, it is not location reliant, it lets you to go and sit on more couches than your own. It allows you to stare out of the window one time your home street, another time big city lights or mountain tops. It allows me to meet people who would never otherwise end up in my apartment.
With a backpack the world is like one big apartment.