GIVEN THE OPTION to pay off student loans or spend some time traveling around the world, it seems as though many millennials would pick the latter. Debt be damned, right? Not quite, though recent data shows that millennials value experiences over things, indicating they’re more interested, for example, in traveling than they are in paying off debt or even investing in houses. This is a huge contrast to other generations, when buying a home was Step One, and travel maybe never even entered the equation at all.
One study done by Harris Group found that 72 percent of millennials prefer to spend money on experiences than material items. Think more music festivals, fewer designer watches. Another study that was done by AirBnb found that, in China, millennials put travel at the top of the priorities list, followed by buying a car and then a home. In the US, savings is the top priority, but travel comes in higher than buying a home. In the UK traveling and savings were equal…but both still came in higher than buying a home.
Some of this increase in the interest in travel can be attributed to social network sites like Instagram, since they have completely changed the type of exposure that we have to the rest of the world. Seeing that other people like us can visit far-off locales relatively easily normalizes travel; not only does it inspires us to also do it, but sometimes kicks up the feeling of competition as we try to avoid the dreaded FOMO. We still try to keep up with the Joneses, it seems — it’s just that they have a little more wanderlust than they used to.
Interestingly, this is changing the way that businesses are run. In some cases, it’s creating new opportunities for startups with different business models, while some more traditional retail models are finding that they’re increasingly missing out. When people care less about material items and more about experiences, the way that things are sold has to change.
Some studies have reported that millennials make more travel decisions based on user-generated content than advertisements, which is one thing that businesses have had to take into account. Additionally, 66 percent of millennials want to have a unique travel experience, in comparison to 50 percent of older people.
As in, we don’t enjoy cruises as much as the older crew might, because it’s packaged and has its limits, and it’s been done. We want to keep up with everyone else, but of course be unique at the same time. Sounds like a lot of work, but hopefully all this traveling will propel our lives forward and give us some opportunities that hunkering down in those homes we aren’t buying would.