Memorial Day weekend, experience it to the max.

From Puuwai to Portland and from Anchorage to Atlanta, nothing heralds the start of Summer across the US quite like the Memorial Day long weekend.

For many, it means three days of freedom from the shackles of the 9 to 5. Three days of endless possibilities. Three days of relaxation, adventure, and an openness to new experiences. Three days to add to the bank of memories that will keep you going when the clouds grow dark, and your workplace begins to feel like a prison cell.

So what to do?

In recent years, many people have begun to realize that experiences are far more valuable than material possessions. In fact, the growth in giving gift experiences, rather than material things has ballooned beyond belief. It looks like we might finally be getting tired of the same old same old.

Folks have begun to immerse themselves in the world around them, they’ve begun to make meaningful connections with the environment. They’ve opened their minds to extreme sports, new and sometimes unusual dining opportunities, and a host of adventures that offer them the chance to introduce themselves to challenges, activities, or leisurely pursuits that in the past they could have barely imagined. It seems pretty obvious that people are demanding new life experiences.

When you mention new experiences to many people, their first reaction is often to say, “Nah, that’s not for me”. But how do you know what’s for you, unless you’ve tried it, or at least opened your mind to the possibilities?

A friend of mine once had a fear of snails – true story – now, many years later, she owns and runs a hugely successful snail farming business. And I can guarantee you one thing, she’s definitely not afraid of the profits that came with overcoming her fear.

But okay, let’s be honest, some things are off-limits for lots of us, and they’re most likely going to stay that way. If you happen to be terrified of heights – terrified to the point where you would happily wrestle an angry alligator on a bed of broken glass, rather than elevate yourself any higher than a bar stool – then, a hot air balloon ride over New Mexico’s Rio Grande Valley, or a beginners’ rock-climbing course in California is probably not for you. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of other experiences you can try.

Like I said earlier, people have really embraced the idea of gifting experiences rather than things. Which is kind of cool, if you ask me.

The US is a big place

It might sound kind of obvious, but the US is a big place, and that means there is really is a lot to do. And because everyone is different, there’s enough variety of experiences for everyone.

For starters, let’s meet Billy.

Billy works in the software industry in Atlanta. He grew up in the countryside, and as a kid, he spent most of his time around nature, horses, and wildlife. But here comes the sad part. When Billy grew up, finished college and moved to the big city, his tastes mellowed a little, he became a little soft around the edges. The city can do that to a fellow.

But, from time to time Billy still gets a hankering to go back to his roots. So, this Memorial Day weekend Billy signed up for an experience which scratches all his itches – Billy is going to visit a winery, but he’s doing it with a twist. Billy is going on horseback. It’s only for a weekend, but the experience, and the memories, and maybe even the new friends he meets along the way will stay with him a lot longer than a weekend feeding the ducks alone in the park.

Now, let’s meet Roseanne and Lynette.

Roseanne and Lynette are a couple of designers from New York. They both love their city and they know it inside out. Or, at least they thought they did.

When they’re not designing cool stuff, there’s nothing Roseanne and Lynette like better than exploring their hometown, sampling craft beers in new bars, and shooting the breeze as they wander the streets of the Big Apple. That’s why, when they discovered the Brewed in Brooklyn experience they knew right away that it was for them.

What’s not to love for these two New York beer aficionados? They get to spend a really neat couple of hours on a guided tour of two 19th century buildings, famous as being once part of the city’s famed Brewer’s Row – plenty of inspiration there I’ll bet. They’ll learn about history, they’ll learn about brewing, they’ll get to eat some great pizza, and best of all for Roseanne and Lynette, they’ll get to sample as much craft beer as they want. Cheers ladies enjoy the tour.

And finally, let’s say hi to Gayle and Harrison.

Gayle and Harrison have been married for 22 years – no mean achievement these days. But, their two daughters have grown up and flown the coop, and sadly, life has become just a bit predictable for this once fun-loving San Francisco couple, and they know it.

But hey, that’s good, at least they recognize that the lettuce leaf of life has become a little on the limp side, and lost its flavor somewhat. But, they also know that a little dressing can work wonders.

That’s why this Memorial Day weekend, Gayle and Harrison are stepping far outside their comfort zone. In fact, Gayle and Harrison are going to paddle their way far outside their comfort zone with a white water rafting experience on California’s South Fork American River.

They’ve never tried anything like this in the past, but at least they’ll have a professional guide with them – who happily assured them that they really don’t need to have any experience of rafting, they just need to be able to swim. Sound advice.

Oh, and the guide also told them one more very important thing, he said, that by the end of the experience they’ll wonder why they never tried it before. Go, Gayle and Harrison!

Embrace the experience

So if you’ve been gifted the chance to experience something new, my advice is to embrace it fully with open arms.

We only have one life, and what we do with it matters. When we’re old and perhaps not so active we might not have the ability or the energy to sample new experiences, but if we try them when we can the memories, and the stories we tell, will last us to the end of our days.

As they say, Carpe Diem – seize the day.