I’d Rather Spend My Money on Travel Not Things

It was my 24th birthday last weekend (urgh I’m getting old!) and everyone asking me what I wanted for my birthday really got me thinking. Each time I heard the question I found myself saying ‘nothing’ and really meaning it.

I wasn’t trying to do that humble type thing where people say they don’t want anything but secretly expect loads of lovely surprises, I just genuinely didn’t really need or want anything. 

Recently I’ve come to realise that the most important things to me are experiences, not material possessions. I’d far rather use the money someone would spend on buying me a gift on a travel experience instead. Pretty jewellery? No thanks, I’ll take an amazing travel experience instead.

I’ve realised that I just have too much stuff. I have too many clothes, too many pieces of jewellery, too many pairs of shoes, too many books. I have too much of everything and this isn’t even the stuff that makes me happy.


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British trend forecaster James Wallman has created a new term for what I’ve been feeling – ‘stuffocation‘ – and I think it’s perfect. I’ve definitely been suffering from stuffocation recently.

I decided to fight back against the stuffocation and get rid of a lot of the stuff I had kicking about my house. I found myself throwing out and giving away more than half of the shoes I owned. I’ve gotten rid of books that I still had from the first year of my university course (5 years ago!) and even from whilst I was still at school. Why on earth did I have so much stuff?!

I think that for a large part society teaches us that the more ‘things’ we have the more successful we are and therefore the happier we should be but this isn’t necessarily true. Surely a truly rich life should be full of experiences and enriching events rather than a bunch of stuff that you have little use for?


Time online recently published an article on precisely this and stated; “The connection between our stuff and our self-esteem is a two-way street: If we become less materialistic, our well-being will improve. If our well-being improves, we tend to be less materialistic.”

In the past material possessions definitely did make me happy but since travel has become such a huge part of my life I’ve come to see that this is what’s most important to me.

Having more things does not equal more happiness, at least not for me. I’d rather spend my time and money finding something more meaningful to replace material possessions and a lot of the time for me that means travel.

I might see my friends and note how fabulous one of their handbags are or how pretty someone’s hair is since they had that expensive new cut and colour and for a few seconds wish that was me, but I know in reality these things wouldn’t make me happy in the long run.

I’ve learnt most of my major life lessons through travel and the experiences it brings. I’ve learned to be more confident, to stand on my own two feet and that I’m more resilient than I ever thought possible.

Does anyone on their deathbed really think ‘gosh I’m glad I had so many things in my life’, almost certainly not. I’m sure one of the things people on their deathbed regret most is not having had enough life experiences and I’m determined this won’t be me.

6 Responses to I’d Rather Spend My Money on Travel Not Things

  1. Lisa - Wee Wanders

    This is a great article Emma and I totally get where you are coming from! I am in the process of getting rid of loads of my “stuff” in order to raise money for my travels…and it feels so liberating!

    It makes you realise how little “stuff” you actually need and the things you remember, like you say, tend to be experiences not random purchases.

    I like to purchase carefully, things that are beautiful that I will treasure and hold on to things that have sentimental value rather than generic items that only weigh me down.

    • Emma Gray

      I’m glad you agree, Lisa. I’m totally with you on the whole buying beautiful things that will last you for years thing. Much better than just buying loads of random junk!

  2. Vasudha Aggarwal

    Totally agree with you !! Experiences are a very important part of life.

  3. Brittany

    I wish I would have realized this when I was your age :-) Only now 10 years later am I starting to understand that I’ve wasted tons of money on a bunch of stuff I didn’t need, donating it or slowly selling it off at a 1/5 of what I paid for it :-( It is also interesting to see amongst my friends as I try to explain that I would rather spend money on travel than wasting it on a expensive night out. Some understand … some don’t.

    • Emma Gray

      Yes, it’s definitely interesting to see what people think is most important. Each to their own I guess.

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