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Experiencialism: What is it and how it can lead to a happier life

Experiencialism is probably something you’ve come across already, but might not have seen it called this.

Experiencialism is the thought that experiences make us happier than possessions. If you have a Pinterest account then you’ve probably already seen a billion quotes and posters with this message!

If you’re an experiencialist you prioritise experiences over things. You’re more likely to spend your money on a weekend break rather than upgrading your TV or buying a designer handbag. 

I think most of us would call ourselves experiencialists, or everyone who reads this blog anyway! I’m sure we’d all rather have a holiday than a handbag, right? But it’s still easy to be swept up in consumerism and forget that it’s the experiences that make up our lives and make us the people we are today. It’s easy to get side-tracked and go back to mindlessly spending money on unimportant things, leaving us with little time or money for experiences. It’s also easy to forget that we do need to prioritise and plan experiences. OK, sometimes experiences just happen (like an impromptu beach BBQ that leads to an all-night beach party that wasn’t planned but was the highlight of the summer) but most experiences are planned, booked and paid for months in advance.

I came across the term experiencialism when I began diving into the world of minimalism.

Minimalism is the belief we can be happier with fewer possessions. If we remove all the clutter and crap from our lives, we’ll feel calmer and more fulfilled and we’ll have the headspace to focus on what really matters.

Minimalism is the belief that material objects can only make us temporarily happy. We buy more to feel the adrenaline rush of a new purchase but it quickly subsides.

Our capitalist economy depends on our materialistic values and our obsession with ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, but many people are turning their back on capitalism and living a simpler, more minimalistic life.

Discovering minimalism was a game-changer for me. It’s not a lifestyle I’ll ever 100% adopt and if you met me and came into my house you definitely wouldn’t think I was a minimalist, but it honestly has changed my life and the way I think about everything. 

It sounds crazy now but I’d really never thought about the fact that if I bought less, I could work less. If I worked less, I had more time. If I had more time I could do more of what makes me happy. And isn’t that what we all want? More time to do what makes us happy?

And what makes most of us happy? Well….experiences make us happy.

 

Experiencialists are a bit different to minimalists because, while they do adopt many of the principles of minimalism they do still buy things just because it’s fashionable or fun. Experiencialism is not about turning your back on consumerism completely, it’s about mindfully purchasing things that you need and will genuinely make you happy. But the link between minimalism and experiencialism is mostly about cutting back back on purchases so you have the time, money, energy and head space to have as many experiences as possible.

Now some of you may be reading this and thinking this isn’t new. It’s probably something many of you have done your whole lives, just without putting a label on it.

And yes, I’m sure that’s true. But for those of you who are new to this, it’s useful to put a label on this concept so you can do further reading and research. 

And if you’d like to read about this a bit more then I have six books I highly recommend.

 

 

1. Time and How to Spend it: The 7 rules for richer, happier days

Time and how to spend it - books about experiencialism

 

Time is the most precious thing we have and this book is about treasuring every moment of our short lives. We live in a time where most people have more time and more money than ever before, yet why do we always feel so stressed, busy, rushed and like we have no time to do the things we love?

There are 7 ‘rules’ to help you make decisions in order to spend your time well. The author, James Wallman, talks about the fact that experiences make us happy and we should be aiming for a life filled with experiences. 

But how do we make that happen and how do we decide which experiences are worth pursuing? 

This book has the most scientific evidence and support from authoritative voices suggesting experiences are what make us happiest.

 

Who should read this? 

Anyone who wants to get more out of life should read this book! If you’re one of the many Brits who spend most of their leisure time working, scrolling, doing chores or staring at a screen instead of getting out there and living your life to the fullest, then I highly recommend this book!

 

Travel Hack Tip

I recommend listening to this on Audible. Some sections are a bit long-winded and it’s easier to listen to it rather than read it! Also, the first chapter is where all the juicy, thought-provoking stuff is so I enjoyed going back to this chapter and listening again.

 

 

2. Stuffocation: Living more with less

This book is also by James Wallman and it is SOOOO good.

We live in a world where many of us have more ‘stuff’ than ever before and we buy all this stuff because we think it’ll make us happier. But, shock horror, all this stuff isn’t making anyone happy. Actually, ‘stuff’ is just making us work harder to pay for it and we get stuck in this cycle of working all the time -> feeling miserable -> buying something to make us feel better -> working harder to pay for it.

This book goes into detail about the origins of consumerism and how marketers get us to think we desperately need all this ‘stuff’. When consumerism is broken down and simplified, you actually feel like a bit of an idiot for falling for it.

 

Who should read this?

Anyone who feels like they’re stuck in the rat race and would like to get out.

 

Travel Hack Tip

Get this in paperback. It’s the kind of book you can dip in and out of or pick a chapter at random. It all makes sense out of order so you can pick what takes your fancy.

 

 

3. Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life

Ikigai is a Japanese word that means your reason to get out of bed in the morning or your reason to live. It’s ‘your thing’. We don’t have a direct translation in English, perhaps because we don’t prioritise finding ‘your thing’ outside of the workplace. 

Your thing is also referred to as ‘your flow’ and this is also mentioned in Time and How to Spend It. Your ‘flow’ is when you’re doing something that you become so engrossed in that you completely lose track of time. It could be knitting or gardening or cooking or doing crossword puzzles or jogging or writing. Whatever it is, it seems to be linked to living a long and happy life.

This book isn’t directly linked to experiencialism but it is about finding experiences outside of your career that make you happy.

 

Who should read this?

There’s something comforting about this book. It’s a nice, easy read for anyone who wants a happier life without any tough, macho messaging. A happy life is slow and simple and this book emphasises that.

 

Travel Hack Tip

Get this in hardcover. It’s a beautiful little book and looks nice on a coffee table.

 

 

4. Be a Freerange Human: Escape the 9-5, create a life you love and still pay the bills

This is the first book I read about lifestyle careers and it all about building a flexible career that fits around your life, rather than fitting your life around your job. After all, our lives are more important than what we do to pay our bills, right?

And if you want more incredible experiences in your life then you may choose to work for yourself so you have more freedom.

 

Who should read this?

This book is a great source of inspiration for any budding entrepreneurs looking for both practical and encouraging information.

 

 

 

5. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever

OK, this book might not have anything to do with experiencialism and I know I recommend it ALL the time but it really is that good. This is the first book I read about minimalism and the first time I realised I’d be happier with fewer possessions.

The life-changing ‘magic’ in this book is actually just the advice to get rid of all your junk. So simple, so obvious yet so effective! And also not quite as easy as it sounds so the examples in the book are really helpful.

Having fewer possessions has not only given me more space in my home but also given me so much headspace. ‘A tidy home is a tidy mind’ and all that…

Since reading this book I have fewer possessions but I also buy less stuff because I know what I need. And because I buy less stuff I have more money. And because I have more money, I work less meaning I have more time for experiences. Winner winner.

 

Who should read this?

Anyone who feels overwhelmed by choice. Anyone who feels like their home is permanently messy and this clutter and mess leaves them feeling anxious and stressed.

 

Travel Hack Tip

This is another one I’d recommend buying in paperback because you can dip in and out of it. There is also a Netflix show based on the book but the overall message isn’t as clear as it is in the book.

 

 

6. Ultimate United Kingdom Travelist: The top 500 experiences in the UK

Or any book that inspires you and gives you ideas for new experiences! I’ve just ordered this book (I don’t actually have it yet!) because I know for the next few months, possibly even the next year, most of my experiences will be in the UK. I’m planning to make a bucket list with 100 experiences I’d like to tick off over the next few years.

If you’re looking for more things to do in the UK then check out my UK blog post archives for more ideas!

This Van Life book is one of my favourites. I’d love to buy a van for some road trip adventures and every time I flick through the pages of this book it reminds me of that dream and urges me on to make it happen!

 

 

I hope this post about experiencialism has given you something to think about and some interesting books to read. If you have any other books you’d recommend then please do let us know in the comments! 

Monica is the founder and editor of The Travel Hack. She began the blog in 2009 when she left the UK to travel around Asia and Australia for two years. She's now a full time blogger and has travelled around the world in search of the best holidays. Monica lives in Wales with her growing family and now also blogs about travelling with young children!

Comments

  • June 24, 2020

    Thanks for the great post on experiencialism Monica. I totally resonate with what you’re saying. For me, my ‘moment’ of moving towards minimalism was when I moved abroad for the first time for a new job. I realised how much I had wasted on insignificant things in my apartment that either collected dust and served no purpose or had completely forgot I had even bought. That was my lesson on how hard earned money would never go into things that I don’t need. Even with birthdays in the last few years I’d rather pay for someone’s spa treatment or a great lunch etc than something material.

    I have not read any of the books listed above, but I definitely will need to look into it! Thanks for sharing!

    reply

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