The things vs experiences dilemma

Driving an expensive car was part of my persona, or so I thought. 

A few years ago when my daughter suggested that I trade in my fully-loaded BMW X5 for a Toyota Prius Hybrid, I resisted. As a mid-level associate in a New York City Law firm, she didn’t care to own a car. It took me a while to come around and finally agree to — what I considered — downgrading my ride. It was more a gesture to appease her sense of environmental responsibility than any altruistic reasons on my part, or the potential fuel savings the dealership promised.

I believed that in some ways I would be perceived as less successful if I drove around in a less expensive mainstream car. I was also convinced that my road-trips would be far less enjoyable because of the model of my car. After all, a “luxury car” ought to count for something, I reasoned.

A few years and a few hybrid cars later, I have to concede that I have no regrets.

Consider this. If you go on an enjoyable road trip with your family in your “nice” car, what do you think will stay with you a few years down the line — the car or the road-trip?

Things vs experiences dilemma
A houseboat in Kerala

The things vs experiences dilemma!

In a way it’s kind of strange!

Materialistically speaking, I have nothing tangible to show for the experiences that I thoroughly enjoyed and vividly remember.

For instance, taking in a play at the Stratford Festival; doing a bus tour of London with a witty tourist guide; getting caught in a torrential downpour in the rainforests of Panama; mistakenly landing up in a “Coffeeshop” in Amsterdam — thinking that it was a Cafe; a stay in a houseboat cruising the backwaters of Kerala, were all one-of-a-kind experiences for me.

Yet, for these experiences and others like them, all I have are some mementos — magnets on my fridge and pictures.

And, the priceless memories!

On the contrary, some of the more expensive things that I purchased during those trips are seldom part of the memories and are buried in some drawer somewhere.

There is a lot being written these days about opting for experiences over things.

It sort of goes counter to the concept that most of us grew up with which was to be successful in life and amass wealth — things. Experiences were often frowned upon as frivolous. The argument was that material things and possessions stay with us longer and potentially have and will retain some monetary value. While, an experience is just that — an experience.

Experiences are temporary. Something that you can’t cash in.

Surprisingly, the younger generation seem to have a headstart on this one. They appear to be completely fine with not owning cars, living in smaller apartments, not cluttering their homes — often despite having the means. They seem happy to chase experiences over material possessions.

If you genuinely believe that one day you can hand down your precious possessions to your children, think again. The many downsizing stories I have heard do not support that theory. Check out this post in New York Times titled ” Aging parents with lots of stuff…” 

Don’t get me wrong. I do believe in the good life.

But now I pause before purchasing something purely for the sake of owning it. As a business person, I respect the successful marketing behind brand names. But do I really need a thousand-dollar Canada Goose parka when MEC, North Face, or Patagonia will do just fine?  

Perhaps, I can buy a trip to Cuba with the money that I don’t spend; or dine at per se next time I am in NYC.

Just to be clear, experiences are not all about throwing money away for a good time. Biking, sailing, trekking, camping etc come to mind. And, like everything else, the occasional “lemon” of an experience is what makes the next one even more satisfying.

I am off to a well-earned vacation, if my posts get a little less frequent and read like a travel blog, just bear with me.

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Dax Nair

Dax is a marketer of cloud and security solutions with varied interests in technology, travel, food, racquet sports, and blogging.

2 thoughts on “The things vs experiences dilemma

  • November 22, 2017 at 2:00 AM


  • November 18, 2017 at 9:23 PM

    Noteworthy comments, Dax!!


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