Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Hit The Road, Jack

I have been reading Richard Wiseman’s recent book entitled, 59 Seconds. Which is a, “myth-busting response to the self-help movement.” Well, actually I have been listening to it because I downloaded it for free from the Audible link on our Curiosity Aroused podcast. I had promised myself I would try to read more books but since my livelihood depends on me making little tiny pieces of handmade jewelry, I just can’t seem to find the time. SpidermenBesides, my eyes are usually too freakin’ tired by the end of the day to even look at a book. Audio books are the perfect solution. I can absorb the info and draw and paint, post to my website, run on the treadmill or even witness an epic battle of territorial Spidermen at the same time.

So I have been listening to, 59 Seconds and one of the things that stuck with me from the chapter about happiness was that Wiseman recommended experiences instead of objects when trying to cultivate happiness. In other words a trip to say, TAM8 in Las Vegas is more likely to bring long term happiness than that shiny new car your neighbor just bought. The reasoning is that material objects give you an immediate rush of happy feelings but those good feelings soon fade as the item becomes commonplace and begins to age and visually wear with time. People that place a high importance upon material objects and covet name brands quickly revert back to the mean of pre-purchase happiness when faced with no-longer new items and therefore are more likely to be unhappy and are constantly chasing that new item rush.

Experiences are compartmentalized in the brain in a completely different way. Even a bad experience on a plane ride towards a destination will fade over time while the good time you had at the destination at a dinner with say, The SGU will solidify in your mind and will most likely even become a better experience each time you remember it. Interesting and uncommon experiences will create long lasting, happy memories.

With that information in mind I have recently passed on the option of moving into a new apartment and instead have planned trips to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Dallas and London. I’m looking forward to hitting the road and creating some long-term happy memories!

Do you have any happy memories that have stuck with you from out of town experiences? Is there somewhere special you have always wanted to go? Are you going to TAM8 this year? If so, ya wanna hang out?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. One of my favorite memories is when Ken took me to see “Cats” at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. I wore my full length brown velvet gown that had subtle leopard spots embedded in the fabric. Afterward we had a late dinner at a romantic little balcony restaurant. It was a perfect evening.

    Another was getting to meet, make friends and hang out with everyone on the most recent Amazing Adventure cruise to the Caribbean. Thanks to Jeff Wagg I finally made the really tough decision to quit pursuing a certification as a master herbalist.

    Yes, I’ll be at TAM8. Look for the chick with bright pink hair. Let’s meet up at Drinking Skeptically the night before and we can ALL hang out!

  2. When I was a small child, my grandparents and I were on our way to Oklahoma to see my gramma’s sister. It was early in the morning, and we had stopped in OK for breakfast at a diner. There was a claw machine. Some old guy walked up and gave me the stuffed animal he had won.

    This was before the claw machines were filled with cartoon character knock-offs.

    I was going to go to TAM8, but I had to make an emergency trip to Arkansas to visit sick relative(s). Appearantly, being related to me may be hazardous to your health. Anyways, I had to cancel my registration.


  3. This article is a WIN for me because my husband and I are perpetually having the “stuff” vs. “experiences” argument. We both want gadgets and to travel – he’ll always pick the toy and I’ll always take the trip.

    My favorite out of town experience was in Florida when I was 10…traveling out to sea by boat, feeding seagulls mid-air, then arriving at this underwater sandbar in the middle of freaking nowhere and watching the tour guide “walk on water”. It was magical.

    *pouts* Not going to TAM8. Going to Italy instead, though, hehehe. Tough choices :)

  4. I took a trip – actually, two trips – to London last year. I majored in English in college and overall have always been very enamored of English history, so I heavily anticipated this. Somehow, the trip outweighed my expectations. I’d never taken a trip out of the country (Canada does not count!) so this was really my first experience with how much better experiences are than stuff. I’d probably have been in that group who prefer the latter before this trip.

    This year, in part because I scrounged and borrowed enough to go a second time last October, is my year of poverty so there will be no TAM8. Maybe TAM9 though.

  5. Last Monday, I spontaneously RT’d a ticket give away by @AmandaPalmer for a show 1,5h by train away. This was in the afternoon. In the evening I signed up to and began to mail people there for a place to crash after the show, cause the last train back went way before the show would end.
    A kind soul grilled me a bit and then agreed to host, by this time it was 4am…
    On Tuesday I got on the train, walked around the city a bit, took some pictures, and went to the concert, took lots of pictures and some video, the show was fun, it made me happy.
    After the show there was a signing, and besides the artists, there was the artists fiancé. If you didn’t know, that’s Neil Fucking Gaiman.
    That made me giddy.
    I texted my host cause I remembed him being a fan, and he sped down to get autographs himself.
    That made him happy, and that made me happy.

    The next day I went back home, and the next few days I spent recovering from this sudden break in my routine. But it was so worth it…

    There were a few times when I thought wth am I doing? And then I said to myself, It makes me happy. And that’s good. Now enjoy!

    All this said, I’m continually enjoying some of the stuff I bought as well. A good pc, a good keyboard, a great trackman – I looked around for these things. My camera, though I’m eyeing new and better lenses all the time. My TV…. So there is something to be said about good stuff.

  6. When I split up with my ex-wife (the nice way of saying “got left behind like an atheist on rapture day”) I wound up with a handful of books, a few DVDS, a bed, a laptop, and some CDs. I honestly found the process of living a life of scarcity a lot more freeing. The only item I have added to my collection of stuff that gives me joy is my upright bass, because I play it on stage with a friend of mine. By contrast, the number of memories I’ve had from adventures is huge. And now I shall share one of these stories with you.

    The drummer in my old band (his name is Dongo) and I were planning a road trip. He asked where I wanted to go, and I answered, “nowhere in particular.” So he found nowhere. Or more accurately, Etzikom:,_Alberta

    The drive was absolutely fun, with nothing but laughter and foolishness between two men way old enough to know better. And what should greet us when we arrived? The Canadian National Historic Windmill Museum.

    There is absolutely nothing cool about Etzikom, nor is there a shred of cool in the Canadian National Historic Windmill Museum, and that made the trip infinitely cool, which can be represented by a really cool snake eating it’s really cool tail. What should have been (at a guess) about a three hour round trip was a full day of total hilarity that I remember fondly on a very regular basis.

    It’s true, experience is way better than stuff.

  7. Travel stresses me out and is unlikely to lead to happy memories. I have lots of happy experiences to relate about where I live right now like the day my wife and I drank coffee on the porch and watched a magnificent thunderstorm go by. We could smell the ozone.

    I agree with the premise mostly, but certain objects can bring enduring happiness. I bought a pair of pants clips at Ride-on-Bikes in 1974. Each time I put them on I feel a connection to my childhood. I also have a very finely tuned and sharpened Record #7 jointer plane. Its a fine a piece of 1800’s technology as I have ever bought. I have had it for years. It fits my hand just so. I know exactly what it will do each time I pull it out. I can also get a little emotional about my chisels.

  8. 2 years ago, taking the family for two weeks to Loreto, on the Baja Peninsula. The snorkeling, scuba, fish, seals, dolphins and whales. The brown and reds of the land and the deep blue of the sea. Laying in the hammock on a hot afternoon.

  9. TAM7 was my first TAM and, oh, man, was that a memory creating experience. I was having a blast to begin with and then to have been a minor celebrity due to my creation of the Jenny McCarthy Body Count really blew my mind.

    I will be at TAM8 and I would love to hang out with you. Of course, I’m one of the very lucky ones who gets to hang out with you every month as it is. ;)


  10. @davew: I think you have the right idea. It’s more about unique experiences than travel. It’s just that with travel to new destinations you are almost guaranteed a novel experience that will in turn become a lasting memory.

  11. I’ll always have fond memories of visiting my grandparents cabin near the Canadian/US border. It was on a secluded lake with lots fish and wild animals. I think its long gone, but it was a fun place.

    TAM 8 will be my first TAM, and I would love to hang out with you.

  12. I was at TAM 6, missed TAM 7 and TAM 8 will probably be a last minute decision. But if I’m there it’s all about the hanging out!

    Always wanted to go to Rome.

  13. I am very anti-stuff, since I like to pack all my worldly possessions into my 2 suitcases and move across the world… right now I live in Thailand, where people have very little stuff but enjoy the hell out of every minute. Stuff just weighs me down but the experiences I have every day make me feel free.

  14. I hold the memories of my time in basic training. It wasn’t fun but it was something I remember and don’t regret. There were good times.

    When I was 17 my grandfather took me to the Winchester Mystery house and to San Francisco’s Exploratorium and to Disnyland. These were all wonderful.

    I did a two week AT to Montery in California. I still remember running on the beach everyday.

    My trips to Seoul.

    My deployment to Kuwait.

    An AT to Long Island.

    The several drives across the Mojave from California to Texas and back again. The amazing thunderstorms that I saw there.

    Trips to Colorado. What a beautiful place.

    San Francisco. My favorite city ever.

    Paris when I was 18. What an amazing city.

    I didn’t like New Orleans at all. A dirty city. Unpleasant.

    There are so many more places I want to see. And so little time. But I hope to see as many as I have time for.

    I prefer cities to countryside.

  15. I loveeeeeeeeeeee traveling. Love it , love it , love it. One of my cliche’ sayings is LIFE IS ABOUT MAKING MEMORIES. I know … corny.

    Though traveling is a passion of mine, novelty is indeed the key, be it a new place or a familiar place with different people or under different circumstances.

    Though I love experiencing life’s adventures be it on a white water river or be it in a museum, it’s primarily the people that I meet that define my trip. Because of TAM 7 I have become friendly with Jay and Evan of the SGU and because of our shared professions Steve Novella and I have also had great conversations. Without traveling, without meeting, the connection would be different. Because of NECCS I have become friendly with our own Skept Artist , amongst others. In London , I shared laughter with children. In Paris, a fellow tourist lent me money when I misplaced mine, which led to a memorable dinner with her sister and niece. In Madrid, I shared a conversation and dessert with a great young couple, me stumbling in spanish, they stumbling in English. On and on and on , my trips, my everyday life are punctuated by people, by conversations, by laughter.

    Travel just shakes up the dice and allows for a greater number of possible interactions. I have never had a bad trip, because even the worst moments become funny, or at least make for a decent story, as time passes by.

  16. Yes, I’m going to TAM, yes, I wanna hang out, and I disagree about the whole objects not bringing one happiness thing. This is something I’ve thought about a lot. I know you’re not supposed to get happiness from objects, because I have been taught that by society. Except I do. Not just from new things, either. I love the stuff I have. I hang all my jewelry that I never wear up where I can see it, and it makes me happy. I think it’s because I love being surrounded by beauty, and I love things that work well and make my life easier through convenience. So I’m materialistic. So sue me.

    As for happy memories, most of those have to do with driving or walking on beautiful days or being around certain people, listening to them tell funny stories.

  17. My primary pleasure in life is reading books. Books give me the best of both worlds – I love the objects (the sound of the pages turning, the heft of a hardback, the smell of an old volume) and I love the experience of the story. Is that a cop-out?

    Well screw it, it’s true.

  18. I was thinking about this just the other day. I think that one of the main differences between the European lifestyle and the American lifestyle is precisely the difference in their stuff vs. experience priorities. Not being either European nor American but having lived for long periods in both places, I see that Europeans almost always rather have an older car or a smaller apartment and go on their 30 day vacation somewhere nice. Most Americans will go for the nicer car.

    I used to be more stuff-oriented, but the past few years in Europe have definitely changed my mind. I can hardly remember the stuff I’ve had, my car is old and my apartment small, but having been to Kenya, Vietnam, Nepal, India, Morocco, Cambodia, etc, etc, will always stay with me. Remembering these trips brings a smile to my face every time.

    Even some of the bad stuff can make good memories. My favorite trip was the first time I went to Kenya. I spent one week on safari and one week in Nairobi hospital. Still, it was a trip full of beauty, adventure, and a love story worthy of its own movie (if only it had ended better).

  19. We have “stuff”, if you include books and music in that category. And many bookcases from IKEA. But, unlike my sister, I have never felt the need to accumulate objects with names on them, like Louis Vuitton and BMW.

    I like travel; the Biophysicist isn’t all that keen on it anymore. I’d like to get back to England; the train ride to Cambridge always gives me a feeling of coming home.

    My family was peripatetic when I was young – we lived in the Middle East, in France, and England, then the States. Travelling about has always felt more ‘normal’ than staying in one place for any length of time. I’m very good at packing. Went to university in England, Canada and both coasts of the US.

    Best experience ever, despite the mud: Woodstock. 2nd best: Newport Jazz Festival that same year – we camped out on the Navy base, bribing the Shore Patrol with coffee. Went to a party thrown by George Wein [perk of then-husband being jazz reviewer for Boston After Dark.] Awesome music, great fun.

  20. A few years back, my wife and I vacationed at the Grand Canyon. One afternoon we were walking from our ‘cabin’ to Grand Canyon Village, a short walk on a sidewalk amid tall pines, and just before we got to the main camp building, I caught something out of the corner of my eye that drew us to a dead halt. About eight feet away from us there was a young elk, maybe half grown, and she was eating the greens from a bowl-like dip in the yard in front of the building. We stood there silently watching for over ten minutes as she took her time, thoroughly ignoring us, and got every morsel that she wanted before meandering off. My wife named her — I am under pain of Noise not to share that name — and a few days later, we bought a little elk plushie from the gift shop, and gave her the same name. Our favorite toy, with one of our best memories.

  21. This AI seems to speak to me :) I am firmly in both camps – I love great stuff, and I love experiences, especially while traveling. Because we live in a motorhome, we travel a lot. We spent the winter in Malibu this year (first time in 10 years), and thoroughly loved it – and got to hang with Surly Amy :). TAM7 was our first, but I think it is safe to say we will never miss another. It was amazing.

    SkepChiCamp in Chicago was also unbelievable – a mini-TAM which provided a lot of Q&A intimacy. I am also very much looking forward to SkepChiCon in MN before TAM this year. And then TAM London. Whew!

    In the past, we have spent many fun winters in Jamaica, swimming with dolphins, snorkeling, sailing, para-sailing, and cooking on the beach.

    TAM London will be our first European trip together, It should be terrific. so much to see and do. Amy, will you come with us to Stonehenge?

  22. “I see that Europeans almost always rather have an older car or a smaller apartment and go on their 30 day vacation somewhere nice. Most Americans will go for the nicer car.”

    If Americans got 30 day vacations maybe we would feel differently. When the quick jolt of happiness is all that seems to be available, well isn’t that better than none at all?

  23. Terry Pratchett has written a lot of great lines, but one of my favorites has always been from “Thief of Time”:

    Against one perfect moment, the centuries beat in vain.

    That’s why I travel – I’m after my own oodleplex of perfect moments. So far, so good.

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