Sarah and I obsess about happiness. We read, and we scheme, and we make deliberate decisions about how to be happy.
After lots of reading and scheming, we left our Washington, DC jobs in February 2017. We moved out of our apartment, drove across the country, got married, and launched an around-the-world honeymoon.
We budgeted $50,000 to last as long as we can—or until we get burned out.
Kicking off our honeymoon in South Africa
The science of happiness: spending money on experiences will make you happier than spending it on possessions.
The science and research (and tons of articles on the internet) explain why experiences make us happier than possessions, but it can be weird to do things differently than other people.
How many people do you know who use a flip phone? Probably just your grandmother—and me. People laugh when they see it, but nobody really judges you.
Try proposing without a diamond ring and then wearing a silicone wedding band.
Can your cell phone take pictures like this?
How people traditionally purchase wedding rings.
According to The Knot, the average American couple spends $6,163 on an engagement ring (mean not median, so I’m guessing this gets inflated by a few bajillion-dollar rings). In return, you get something to worry about losing, a divorce rate that goes up with the price of the ring, and you don’t get judged when people ask to see it.
Add gold wedding bands and the total is seven to eight thousand dollars. That’s how much we spent to visit Southern Africa for 10 weeks.
This isn’t meant to knock diamond rings or gold wedding bands or the people who want to buy them. Wedding rings create lifelong meaningful tokens of love for millions of couples.
While diamond engagement rings may have started out as one of the greatest marketing campaigns of the 20th Century, they also became a part of Western culture. Sarah and I bought an engagement ring and wedding bands too—we just weighed the factors in a way best for us.
Can you put a price on lemur time?
We purchased non-traditional rings when we got engaged, and again when we got married, because they make us happy.
After Sarah’s first engagement ring (an airport gift shop ring from Indonesian Borneo) started to show wear, we discussed a new ring. As much as we value minimalism, Sarah loves big shiny things and we wanted something that would last forever.
Our original engagement ring
After our typical amount of reading and scheming, we decided to buy a moissanite ring. Moissanite is slightly shinier, slightly softer, and way less expensive than diamonds. Sarah and I visited a couple local jewelry shops and heard that many do not carry moissanite because it is too difficult to distinguish from diamonds.
We bought our engagement ring on Overstock.com. Sexy, we know. For $645, Sarah is the proud owner of a 1.8 carat moissanite ring. The ring sparkles like crazy and nobody knows the difference unless we tell them (or publish an article about it on the internet).
Unless you have a microscope, moissonite looks extremely similar to diamond
The title of the article says you bought $20 rings!
For wedding bands, we chose $20 silicone rings that we bought on Amazon. They are super comfortable, occasionally pass for gold bands, and they bend like rubber (Bonus: no chance of ripping a finger off like Jimmy Fallon did). The rings are often marketed to people who work with their hands, such as athletes, medical professionals, and tradespeople. If we lose one, replacement is easy and affordable.
Having never worn jewelry, I was apprehensive about having a ring on my finger every day. Turns out I barely notice it. On a hot day, the ring expands to the size of my finger. On a cold day, the process reverses. The only time I notice the ring move is when I use conditioner in my hair (which is rarely).
Several people have asked us about our “gold-brushed” rings. Maybe this is a polite ruse or maybe they noticed the color was a bit off. Either way, people love when we take them off and squeeze the rings to demonstrate their bendiness. After seven months, the rings look identical to when we purchased them. To us, this immutable quality is as good as gold.
Silicone rings at our wedding
Spending money on airfare, diamonds, and gold have environmental and human impacts. We weighed our choices and spent accordingly.
Nobody judges your carbon footprint the way they judge the size of your engagement ring. Still, we considered how production of our wedding rings and Sarah’s engagement ring might affect people and the world around us.
We skipped buying gold wedding bands in part because gold mining is often rough on the environment. We avoided buying diamonds, which are notoriously exploitative. That said, Sarah’s engagement ring contains gold, and flying around the world is terrible for the environment.
I wish we could say our aversion to buying stuff was purely altruistic. In truth, the biggest consideration is the research saying it won’t make us happy.
In America, traveling long-term is uncommon… but that’s ok.
Traveling the world, you meet more Germans than Americans, even though there are four times as many of us. In New Zealand, if you don’t take a gap year to travel at some point, you are probably some kind of weirdo.
Australians and Canadians regularly travel abroad (yes, 90 percent of Canadians live within 100 miles of the U.S. border). Japanese tour buses fill up Yellowstone National Park in the summer.
In the United States, we don’t get much vacation and prioritizing travel makes you an outlier. People close to you wonder when the hell you are going back to work.
Sarah and I chose a path to happiness. We hope our next job interviewers are interested in hearing about the time we almost stepped on a crocodile in Swaziland.
Possession that does make us happy: rum on the beach
Creating our vision of happiness.
Most people don’t picture their honeymoon as sleeping in their car to avoid giant beetles in Namibia, tent camping on the beach for five nights on Reunion Island, or riding on a crowded bus in Madagascar eating one-cent lychee fruit.
Honestly, we didn’t either. Was it a little weird? Possibly. Did it make us happy? Absolutely.
How did you pick out wedding rings? Let us know in the comments.
Note that this guide contains affiliate links, meaning that if you purchase something through the links, you are supporting us in the costs of running Two Fish Traveling. All the products that we discuss are ones that we use and love—like bug proofing our clothes with Permethrin to prevent malaria/dengue fever. We earn a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to the purchaser. We will never link to products that we do not wholeheartedly recommend to our readers and have found useful ourselves. The affiliate link is this article is for our silicone wedding bands.
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I am Sterling, one of the Two Fish Traveling. I grew up in Montana, worked in DC, and left to see the whole world.