Seung-Ha Cho, a South Korean travel photojournalist I recently met, often travels to Canada for work and family reasons, and says he loves photographing skiers there. “They’re my favourite category of people to shoot,” he smiles. “They are so passionate about their sport, they don’t care about the cold or snow or blizzard or avalanches. They’re out there, morning after morning, skis in arms, single-mindedly focused on their craft.” He often shoots in Banff National Park and the ski hamlet Lake Louise, hill-stations also preferred by his Canada-based sons, avid skiers themselves. “The equipment is expensive,” he admits, “but my sons save up for months to go skiing in the winter.”
Experiences have begun to count as much as goods when it comes to luxury expenses. According to a new study of 1,000 affluent persons by the Boston Consulting Group, more and more of the world’s wealthy have switched from buying fancy things to buying luxury moments. USD 770 billion out of a total USD 1.7 trillion luxury spending market now comprises luxury experiences. Additionally, the report says, experiential luxury has grown 50 per cent faster year on year than sales of luxury goods.
I’m a case in point myself. Last summer, on a family trip to Singapore and Bintan, I indulged far more money on boat and cable-car rides, amusement parks and high-tech adventure sports than on shopping. When my brother pointed out that I could have bought myself a lot of bags, watches or gadgets in that amount, I replied, “I’d rather spend on experiences than stuff. The bag or phone will outlive its use in a couple of years, but the kids will remember these moments all their lives.”
Pursuing one’s passion or splurging on offbeat experiences is not about money. It’s about a state of mind. How much emphasis do we put on ‘what people think’ versus ‘what we think’? How important is it to us to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ versus fulfilling our own dreams and doing what we really need to do with our lives? How many millions do we need to make and spend – how many cars, how many stamps on our passports – before we can heave a sigh of contentment and say, “Boy, what a great life”?
Or can we, gasp, do all that even without a single rupee in the bank? Can we do that by simply following our bliss?
High-rise apartments, pricey jewels and designer shoes are not the only emblems of a charmed life. Being free to pursue what consumes us is the truest luxury of all.