This past winter, when I was already starting to suspect that spending money on experiences would be more rewarding than buying new clothes, I spent my Shopping for Happiness money for the month on a future trip: an airline ticket to Venice. I couldn't believe it was really going to happen– but last month, the day arrived, I got on the plane, and off I went.

The holiday represented something my mom really wanted for me: good times with friends who live far away. Joining me were Catherine and Emma, whom I met back in the 1990s when we all studied 18th-century literature in Oxford. Both kindly interrupted their lives in or outside London to meet up with me at an AirBnB in St. Mark's Square for four days of delicious and decadent fun. (By decadent I mean lots of gelato, apricots, seafood and Spritz cocktails and as much time at the Ca' Rezzonico Museum of 18th-century Venice as we wanted, with no bored loved ones wondering why we needed to spend so much time looking at porcelain tea sets and Tiepolo frescos.)

I had the world's greatest time, no exaggeration. I feel so lucky and grateful that I had the money to take this trip (and the time, thanks to my husband, who stayed home with our kids).

Fantastic Venice-ness aside, I noticed that my attitude towards travel has changed since I started this project. I once spent a weekend away with a searing headache because I refused to pay the inflated price for Tylenol at the hotel gift shop. I'd "compensate" for the cost of travel by being stressed-out about every expenditure. (I even did this on my honeymoon, leading to my first marital fight and a reckoning in the New York Times.) 

Not anymore. I'm all too aware that some experiences – like a trip to Venice, or time with friends you rarely see – are priceless, and that you're wasting a lot more than money if you're distracted by the fear of getting ripped off. (Better to give a Venetian shrug, say "what can you do?" and make up for the extra expenditure when you get home.) 

Anyway, here are some photos from my wonderful adventure. Thanks for reading and for going on this journey with me!