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Traveling: The New Materialism?

It's not what you have, but what you experience? That's what they tell me anyway.

By Brian AnonymousPublished 6 years ago 4 min read

This is a bit of a controversial topic that I wanted to write about for a while but never got around to it. I have had countless debates with my friends about it and never came to an agreement. Yes, buying tangible things and buying travel experiences are fundamentally different. However, I don't think they're so far apart. As I've grown up and started earning an income, luxuries started to become viable. New cars, houses, and vacations started to become attainable to me. I've had my fair share of material purchases and vacation experiences. For me, I would have to say that I don't think I gained more satisfaction from one over the other. I believe it all comes down to perception and personal preferences.

During my university days, I remember it was the big thing to protest against large corporations and not be over indulgent with purchasing material possessions. The fear was that I would live for what I had and not for what I can experience. I was surrounded by people that wanted to travel the world and have worthwhile experiences. This is probably still the case today. I largely ignored this ideology and purchased things like crazy.

The turning point was when I felt guilty that I had bought both a car and house while others were jobless or barely able to pay their bills. I went on a series of travels to see the world and got to check out places around the world.

When I reached China I had a bit of a revelation. I looked around and noticed the horrible social-economic imbalances. It was kind of a reflection of the state the world is in today. Here I had the money to go wherever I wanted to while there were beggars burnt and missing limbs, trying to scrape by. I felt like a jerk walking by these panhandlers. It felt particularly bad because I'm a son of Chinese immigrants. That could've been me on those streets. Coming back to my native country to see such things really brought me back to earth and realize how good I have it. Should that be a reason to go travel though? Isn't that an egotistical reason for checking out foreign countries?

The argument of not buying too many material possessions is that it can become egotistical in respect to having items represented as trophies. I find that can be the same for traveling. Some of us just want to go places because we've heard from some person that it was great. There are instances where someone we look up to has been to a location and so we want to go as well. In these cases there is no real vested interest other than the fact that someone else had a great time there. It can come off as the person showing that they can do it too. Traveling shouldn't feel like a competition but sometimes it does.

The conversation I have with others that come back from their travels are sometimes very empty and monotonous. Yes they've seen something nice in this foreign land, and maybe there were a ton of parties there. Some destinations are design particularly for those reasons and there's nothing wrong with it. Rarely do I have an understanding that the place had any real significance to them. It almost feels like they got a tattoo of a foreign language and they think that they understand what the words say. There's nothing wrong with this but it sounds oddly familiar when someone tells me about their collection of whatever they're collecting.

In both cases buying material possessions and traveling, people seems to need a sense of validation. We need to show pictures and tell stories about it. This is understandable. Experiences aren't as satisfying unless you can share them with someone else. That's kind of a great thing about both traveling and having things. There's always a sub-culture of people or community for whatever you're into.

Again, I don't think either are bad. You should spend your money on whatever makes you happy. I just think that people that think traveling is more fulfilling than buying things should reevaluate their opinion. You can find happiness in everything.

Although I think the two are similar, I believe that society kind of needs to go towards traveling for leisure simply because it's the way the future is moving towards. Space is the major issue. People just don't have space for all their material things anymore. There are concerns with the environment. One can argue that tourists cause a lot of pollution though.

Society has changed and I see a lot of the changes will reflect in the way people collect things. What is of interest now will be super niche in the future. I doubt 20 years from now there will be a demand for the original Super Mario Brothers game on the Nintendo Entertainment System . The game will probably already have a virtual download version and the generation that grew up with it probably already have it. Technology will also make a lot of things non-desirable. Meanwhile travel will always be different because cities continuously change over time.


About the Creator

Brian Anonymous

I have tons of opinions that change constantly. I watch a lot of movies and play video games. There are some articles on my struggles with languages and dance as well.

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