I just spent most of the day helping my sister move into her new house. I owed her, because she once stored all my stuff (and my wife-to-be’s) in her basement while I went on my first round-the-world trip. But man does she have a LOAD of stuff. A dozen of us took four hours to move it all. Does one person really need all that? Does anyone?
When I interviewed Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, we spent a good bit of time talking about how most people can’t imagine long-term travel or living abroad because they are such slaves to their possessions. They’ve built a cage around themselves of debt, material goods, and jobs they can’t afford to step off of even for a week. Staying at home, surrounded by your increasing pile of stuff, is no way to live. Time to revisit this excerpt from Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune:
A study of 1,500 women by the Marshfield Clinic found that the fewer vacations women took, the more likely they were to suffer from insomnia or depression, to be stressed out, and to be dissatisfied in their marriage.
What’s worse, if you’re working too much and are too stressed, your memory deteriorates. A study in the journal Aging and Mental Health found that people with the highest reported stress performed 11 to 14 percent worse on memory tests than those under less stress, regardless of age group. You may find that when you finally get to retirement age, you can’t remember what it was you wanted to do!
In the world where economics and psychology meet, there’s a principle called “hedonic adaptation.” The premise is that a salary increase or financial windfall will produce a temporary boost in spirits. After a while, however, your ability to adapt takes over and you get used to the new situation. You probably raise your spending in some way, buy something extra, or increase your monthly bills. Soon, despite the added wealth, you feel no better off than before. This can continue for decades, as a kind of “hedonic treadmill.”
There is hope though. Most studies show that best cure for this pattern is to spend your spare time doing something that is active, not passive. Exercising your mind and body in different ways, making a point of trying activities that are enriching or challenging.
Savvy entrepreneurs and CEOs know that the ground-breaking ideas rarely hit them while they are in the office or burning the midnight oil at home in front of a computer screen. They need to get away: to walk in the woods, to bike through unknown lands, to stroll in a new city. Our mind needs a jolt on a regular basis. It needs to be challenged. If we are to be more than boring creatures of habit, our assumptions need to be rattled by the unfamiliar. As guidebook publisher and PBS television host Rick Steves says, “Travel is freedom. It’s recess, and we need it.”
My sister is a schoolteacher, so she does manage to get away for a while each summer, but she still needs to have a yard sale pronto and then make a trip to Goodwill! How about you?