“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.”
– Bo Derek
Derek, in one way or another, may have been onto something. We’ve all heard the term “retail therapy,” but is it the experience of going out and shopping that makes us feel better or the items themselves? Numerous studies say it’s the former, lending credence to the idea that money spent on experiences, not material possessions, provides us with more life satisfaction.
“Experiences are always in our memory bank to draw upon whenever we are feeling down. On a gloomy day, one can always reflect back on a pleasurable time: a trip, family gathering, activity,” licensed professional counselor Patricia Bubash told The Culture Trip. “Certainly, going on a shopping trip gives us an activity, a re-focus from whatever is causing gloomy thoughts or depression. But as soon as that purchase is made and brought home, the experience is over. We are back to where we were. The joy of the ‘buy’ is short-lived.”
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that retail therapy does in fact work to relieve sadness. In particular, the researchers found that the opportunity to have choices and make definitive decisions to purchase items gave consumers a sense of control after uncontrollable, sadness-evoking events. However the study’s authors note, as Bubash did, that the experience of relief from sadness may be temporary for any number of reasons including increased debt from shopping. So, while shopping may give one more control in the moment, it may actually result in a loss of control in other aspects of consumers’ lives.
So if shopping offers a short-lived burst of joy, what will give us a lasting one?
Though happiness isn’t necessarily a measurable thing, satisfaction certainly is. A study by researchers at Cornell University reviewed years of research on whether people derive more satisfaction from purchasing material things or experiences. Overwhelmingly, the results pointed to experiential purchases being more gratifying for consumers because of enhanced social relations, more opportunity for personal growth, and less competition in terms of social status.
Consequently, the thinking goes, an adventure in the Brazilian rainforest will have much more of an impact on your identity than say, a multi-thousand dollar Birkin bag. Each has its value, of course. But adventure is clearly the better investment when it comes to gratification.
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Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.