Live It Rather than Own It: How We Embraced the Experience Economy

A divers body just below the surface
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

If you have noticed a change in your spending habits the past few years – welcome to the 21st century! The age of the so-called experience economy is here! The lust to buy things and achieve happiness through ownership is slowly waning. Instead, it is giving way to a new philosophy of minimalism. Of course, people are still spending money. However, data shows an interesting twist in the narrative – one that might usher in a new era for our society.

Global trends

Although you might not have noticed this gradual change, figures don’t lie. Statistics show that while our overall spending has increased, our material purchases have plunged. Symbols of security, like furniture, appliances, and cars are becoming less and less popular. But even personal purchases, like shoes, clothes, and luxury items seem to be declining. By contrast, experiences – such as vacations, entertainment, and eating out – have been steadily trending up. Dismayed by drops in sales, brands are now resorting to new marketing strategies to try and create a strong experiential component to their products, in order to cash in on the new trend.

Carpe diem

People have finally clued in, on a deeply personal level, to the fact that time is the only true currency. Once this realization hit, they started trading their hard-earned money not for stuff (which might physically outlive them, but only makes them happy for a hot minute), but for ways to reclaim time, and make it worth spending. One of the most prominent trends this has given rise to is immersive travel. Out with old-fashioned package holidays, in with authentic experiences! Instead of storming through half of Europe in a fortnight, travelers are now staying longer at a single destination, in search of genuine local flavor. They crave anything that might bring them closer to the true essence of their destination. That is why activities like safaris, authentic cooking courses, cage diving with sharks, and perfume-making classes are selling like hot cakes.

The wellness industry

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the wellness industry has been one of the trailblazers in this revolution. After all, wellbeing is rarely about ownership. With our collective health on the line, people have been embracing wellness guidelines more than ever before. The population has been increasingly viewing the wellness industry as the key to physical and mental wellbeing. During recent years, this has translated into a rapid growth in wellness tourism.

Leading wellness experts at the Global Wellness Summit are now predicting that the so-called transformational experience is nowhere near slowing down. In fact, we can expect further expansion of the wellness travel market. With stress taking its toll, people are looking to work less and enjoy themselves more. Unlike conventional travel for pleasure, wellness tourism is less about the destination, and more about how the entire experience transforms our body, mind, and soul. Instead of conventional sightseeing trips, bucket lists across the globe now contain items like Yoga on the beach in Bali, or forest bathing in the Pacific Northwest.

Ultimately, our shift from having to being is not surprising at all, especially in the era of social media. While it might be in poor taste to brag online about your new diamond earrings, posting photos of your experiences has become the norm. Seeing others advertise their happiness makes us want to join in (or compete). The good news is, that the experience economy is making us genuinely happier than before. Unlike material goods, purchasing experiences leaves us with longer lasting feelings of satisfaction. Buying stuff creates clutter. Buying experiences creates priceless memories.