Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Experiences Trump Things

I love reading the Sunday paper. I do not always have the time, but enjoy the ritual whenever the chance comes my way. I often take over a tiny corner of my local Starbucks and steal some peaceful time skimming by the events and opinions of those who make the written words come to life.

I almost never visit a Starbucks to get coffee "to go". What makes the over-priced coffee a true value is to sit in the inviting atmosphere and soak in the world around me. The experience of sitting and reading is what makes the coffeehouse so inviting.

One of my favorites reads in the Sunday paper is a relatively new syndicated column that appears in the Austin American-Statesman called "Yoder & Son". The piece revolves around money issues that face families and is written by WSJ journalist Steve Yoder and his 17 year-old son Issac. They split the column in a "He Said / He Said" fashion covering the topic of the day from the eyes of a frugal father and a young son just being launched into the world.

This week they wrote the column from their family Christmas trip to Slovakia. Each year the Yoders take an exotic trip, even though they are not "uber-wealthy". Steve began by pointing out that some might be offended during a recession that they were jetting off to Europe for the holiday break, but later pointed out that they do this by not having new cars or a fancier house. It is all about choices. It is all about providing the family with shared experiences.

Issac went on to write about how a lifetime of travel to unique places makes him appreciate experiences more than things. As a parent this touched my soul, as we live in a very materially focused world, and yet kids do get the messages that we send them by the choices that we as parents make.

I can relate to the trepidation about planning such trips in these tough economic times. A friend who received our holiday card (featuring my family in a gondola in Venice from Summer 2008) commented (with a hint of judgement) that we sure seem spend a lot of money on travel. Granted, our last four holiday cards photos have featured my family on trips to France, San Diego, Ireland and Italy. However, our 2005 trip to Italy and France was the first major vacation we had ever taken in over 13 years of being married. (Before we got married my wife had visited Europe and I had been to Asia and Brazil).

I resonated with Steve & Issac Yoder's viewpoint about the importance of travel and creating a library of memories with the family. I hope that my children will grow to have the same appreciation of the world that Issac Yoder seems to have grasped. I will continue to drive my little Mazda Tribute if it means my girls will continue to have experiences rather than things.

Everything we do in life is about choices. Experiences trump things, and thus the money spent on travel can become an investment in the family on multiple levels. I have been very stressed about the money necessary for our scheduled trip to Spain this year and was considering not going. But Yoder made the point of a trip he canceled in 1990 for the same reason and labeled it "the most expensive $2000 he ever saved", highlighting the cost of the experiences they missed. Amen.

If you are raising kids and money is an issue in your house, I recommend you read "Yoder & Son" in your local paper each week. Their prospective is spot on, and they will make you think about how you tackle the tough (and not so tough) issues.

I hope that when my daughters are 17 years old they will understand the choices that we have made for them along the way, and cherish the experience.

Have A Great Day.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen. I read it Sunday and couldn't agree more. When I look back at my childhood, I don't remember many "things" (other than my Evil Knieval bicycle that was stolen when I was 7 and my disco record player with the lights that flashed to the beat). But I remember the trips -- whether an elaborate vacation, spring break at Big Bend or a semi-disasterous trip to the World's Fair in Tenn. I too hope my kids have those types of memories.