There is no doubt that American culture is a consumerist one. A flashy, high-end lifestyle is widely praised, to the point where people will purchase assets to portray an image of class with money they do not have, leaving them drowning in debt. And yet, I hear people around me saying “money can’t buy happiness,” from people who appear to be attempting to purchase and consume their way into being happy.
The majority of the desires I hear from those around me are material ones – the best new car, the best new phone, designer clothes or other ways to feel high class around others. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for all these luxuries and would certainly enjoy indulging in them if I had unlimited money but I often think to myself what else I could be using with the money that I have.
For example, I have an iPhone that is four years old. The home button no longer works, apps freeze and crash and I have to recharge it four times a day. Obviously, at this point a brand new Samsung phone is very tempting after dealing with such faulty technology for four years, and if I really wanted to I could purchase it. Even though I can technically afford the hefty price tag, thinking of the other things I could get with that sum of money keeps me from buying it.
Money is sought after because of the freedom and all the options it provides for one who has it. Money provides simple things such as food, shelter and safety from disease, as well as every luxury society has to offer if one holds enough of it. Among the seemingly endless material things that seem so desirable and flashy, it seems it is often forgotten that money provides complete freedom. Not just freedom to take a weekend vacation a couple towns over, but freedom that opens doors to the whole world.
Wealth allows for autonomy and freedom to explore and travel the entire globe, which is such a daunting concept that it seems far less real than the material luxuries that are obvious in everyday life. It is far easier to just stay in the comfort zone of a small bubble of the world and focus on achieving things that show the image of success and prowess. But I wonder how so many people, even I sometimes, could forget about the vast expanse of the world and the ability to explore it.
There is a global transportation network available that connects every continent of the planet, and with a few hundred dollars in hand nearly every person can get on a plane and end up thousands of miles away, and it is hard for me to understand why those who have the money wouldn’t take advantage of such a privilege. Most people around me resort to buying things instead of buying experiences.
To me, the opportunity to see the world is too grand to pass up. As a college student, I am likely as free as I will ever be, and I hope to spend every available penny trying to reach that goal. There is always an easy excuse to not go on a grand adventure to the other side of the earth – it sounds like something hypothetical and unattainable. But for many people, letting go of some societal standards would make it completely possible.
It can be argued that every reason for an affluent person to not explore the world is an illusion – and I wholeheartedly believe that. The truth is that it’s simply easier to stay in one comfortable place and enjoy simple pleasures, or expensive lavish ones. And although simple pleasures in life are important and valuable, I believe the privilege that is granted to many people is worth far more. Even though I undoubtedly get intimidated by the vastness of the world, I can’t wait to explore it.