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Can Money Buy Happiness?

Confucius didn’t think so. Neither did Gandhi nor Mother Teresa. Of course, taking a vow of poverty kind of takes money out of the equation. (Confucius didn’t actually take any vows of poverty that we know of, but as a teacher he probably still qualifies.)

My point is that it’s not necessarily the having of money, or even the spending of it that brings happiness; it’s what you spend it on. You could choose to spend it on things – which tend to go out of fashion, or break, or become lost or stolen. But the stress of worrying about them being stolen can even outweigh any pleasure you derive from those possessions.

Or you could, as suggested by Jan Chatzky in a recent article in AARP Magazine, spend your money on experiences – which can never be taken from you, and will pay dividends in the future as you recall the pleasure derived from those experiences. And what better way to make memories than with travel? I would take it even a step further and suggest that it’s the people you share the destinations and experiences with which will forever be associated with that trip.

Let me give you an example: our Lewis & Clark  journey begins in St. Louis, a modern, vibrant mid-western city.  A typical tour program might include a city tour, a visit to Busch stadium, a ride to the top of the Arch, and probably a nice dinner in a trendy restaurant. I’m not even doing the Gateway to the West full justice, since there are dozens more options available here. But in our quest to go where history happened, we begin at Historic LaClede’s Landing, the very spot where the Corps of Discovery shoved off on their epic journey back in May of 1804. Along the way, we hear authentic period music, “meet” some of the men of the Corps, learn how to load a keelboat so it won’t tip (it isn’t easy), and sample foods which they ate – but with more trimmings – on their 28 month journey. Although we read from the journals every day, there are even times when we read a journal entry on the very spot it was written. These are goose-bump experiences which connect us to our past and create indelible memories.

Meaningful experiences don’t have to be history-related, of course. Factory tours, cooking demonstrations, anything “behind-the-scenes” is both instructive and entertaining. But without the entertainment component it’s just wasted time.

Still, it is my opinion that everybody loves history – they just don’t know it because too many of us were forced to memorize dry and dusty lists of dates and battles at some time during our school years. As Albert Einstein famously stated: It’s a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.

History is just stories, after all. And to make those stories come alive, they must be about people – not just what they did but why, and how they felt about it.

Why not take a vacation of historic proportions yourself? Be a part of one of the greatest wildlife shows on earth on a Kenya Safari, learn of the ecology and geology of the most dramatic and diverse tidal environment on the planet, the Bay of Fundy, and experience her Maritime history, culture and hospitality. Or thrill to the sight of pre-historic bison as they are rounded up in an Old West tradition in the Black Hills of South Dakota. You can find all these and hundreds more on our website and begin having some goosebump experiences of your own.

See you on the trail!

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Shebby Lee is a historian, writer and tour operator specializing in the historic and cultural heritage of the Great American West. She is a presenter at numerous history conferences and trade association meetings and is a regular contributor to ABA’s Insider online magazine.  Her early training was in the theatre and she served a tour of duty as an entertainer with the USO. She is also an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy.



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