A Culture of Unnecessaries

Is a culture of “unnecessaries” dictating your life?  And if it is, can you change it?  That’s the gist of an interesting piece I stumbled upon this past week.

The author theorizes that big business creates a culture where five-dollar lattes are viewed as a reward for going to work and scarce evening and weekend time lulls us into spending more to enjoy our limited free time.  We reward ourselves with consumer goods, entertainment experiences, and special vacations.  He contrasts how much easier life was while backpacking (and spending less) than while working (and spending more) which brings across natural parallels to the life of a frequent flyer – a life designed around having “a lot more money and a lot less time”.

He goes on to note that other things go out the window in such a proposition – time for exercise, time for quiet leisure pursuits (reading, meditating, writing), or other simple pleasures.  He points out that “the perfect customer is dissatisfied but hopeful, uninterested in serious personal development, highly habituated to the television, working full-time, earning a fair amount, indulging during their free time, and somehow just getting by.”

I find myself wondering – does this apply subconsciously to our vacation decisions as business travelers?

I know that in the days before I traveled for business, my travel urges could be satiated with a weekend trip somewhere, sometimes by car, often involving a budget air carrier or mid-range chain hotel.  My tastes were simpler because the trip was the reward.

Now that I travel over half of my year, I don’t view something along those lines to be my reward anymore.  Vacation needs to involve something different than what I can do during my normal work travel – a more exotic air carrier (in business or first class, of course), a hotel that is a step up from where I normally stay, a special experience.  And as that occupies my spending, it becomes easy to forget whether I am traveling experience a new place – or traveling to treat myself to something I feel like I’ve earned.

It’s as if we frequent flyers are sleepwalking through vacation as well – too busy focusing on the tangible consumable to enjoy the experience.

It’s food for thought… and something I’ll be pondering over the coming weeks as I contemplate whether I can step out of the culture of unnecessaries or whether my lifestyle is designed for me.



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