Going On Adventures Makes People Happy, Smart and Attractive

I originally wrote this for Africa Geographic.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been thinking about gift giving a lot lately. Maybe because the holidays are upon us. Maybe because as I’m writing this, it’s Thanksgiving in America and I am thinking about what I am especially thankful for. Or maybe it’s because I’m reminiscing about my family vacation in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe this past summer

©Jessica Lohmann: um no, I did NOT jump the world’s highest bungee bridge (Bloukrans Bridge Bungy)

The plane ticket to Johannesburg was our family Christmas present last year. I felt like an excited child doing my Snoopy dance in the living room after receiving the flight confirmation. Africa, here we come!

It was by far the most amazing vacation I’ve ever experienced!

©Jessica Lohmann: Who doesn’t love elephants?

But it’s over and now I’m back home, wondering what to get my family for Christmas this year. For decades, I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of stuff in our home (seriously, our garage can’t handle anymore!) and limit buying physical presents because frankly, we don’t NEED them! And I’ve tried to convince my computer engineer husband that my flip phone is just fine. But that didn’t work either.

However, last year, we managed to do it and I want to keep that groove on!

Experiences, Not Material Things, Make People Happier

©Jessica Lohmann: pppfffttt — a beautiful lioness at Plettenberg Game Reserve

Why have so many people given up their corporate career to become travel bloggers? Investing in experiences actually makes you happier, according to Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University. Going on adventures even makes you smarter, stronger and more attractive. Listen up.

Memories are priceless. You enjoy talking about them, not about your things. It’s what bonds us with our loved ones. It’s what brings us together and that’s what Christmas is about, not buying presents.

Give the Gift of Adventure this Christmas

©Jessica Lohmann: Yes, Penguins live in South Africa (De Hoop Nature Reserve)

Of course we won’t ever stop buying presents because the act of giving is amazing. It makes you feel good to bring joy to others.

But this year, when you think about Christmas presents, think about what you can experience together with your loved ones. Where are you going on vacation next year?

Do more of what makes you happy, how about a trip to Africa?

©Jessica Lohmann: There’s no sunset like an African sunset
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Originally published at africageographic.com on November 28, 2016.