Beyond Your Years with Luis Martinez

Go for the Experience

As I observe how people spend their disposable income, I arrive at the conclusion that there are two types of collectors.   Some collectors are constantly on the lookout for the next thing, the next object to add to their collection – baseball cards, English bone china, coins or fashion shoes. Then there are collectors of experiences.  That’s me.  I admit that sometimes we need to acquire an object in order to achieve an experience (an airline ticket to Paris, a paddleboard for the lake), but it’s not the airline ticket nor the paddleboard itself that we seek – it’s the experience of strolling the Champs Elysees or stand up paddling in Key West.

Let’s go to the polls: James Hamblin writes in The Atlantic “…experiences make people happier than do possessions. It’s kind of counter to the logic that if you pay for an experience, like a vacation, it will be over and gone; but if you buy a tangible thing, a couch, at least you’ll have it for a long time. Actually most of us…stop appreciating things to which we’re constantly exposed. iPhones, clothes, couches, et cetera, they just become background.” But your memories of that moonlight cruise in Key West are still as fresh as yesterday.

“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, explains: “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.” Case in point, I love sports car racing.  So I need a sports car to race.  But it’s not about the car.  It’s about the driving. And the tracks I can visit. And the many other friends I can make and the stories we can share. Some of my race track friends get caught up in the chase for ever more exotic cars (read expen$ive), and they will tell you as they purchase and set up their car – “I spared no expense!” But I have a contrarian method to my racing hobby. My agenda is not the car. It’s the driving experience so my method is to go racing as economically as possible. I argue that the thrill of shifting up to 5th gear at 130mph on the back straight of Watkins Glen Raceway in my 28-year-old rattle trap (Porsche 944 Turbo) is just as exhilarating as in a $120,000 Porsche GT3. Of course, my GT3 owner friends would disagree, but I find their argument insufficient to ante up an extra $110,000 to verify their claim. Additionally, I’m grinning ear to ear when I’m chasing expensive late model exotics through the curves in my antique #38 car – and they can’t shake me.

Our friend, Gwenn, flies solo to Paris every year in September for her birthday. She has gone many times, and looks forward to the places she stays, the outdoor cafés, and the people she meets. Over the years she has collected innumerable stories, photos, friendships, memories – so much so, that when I see Gwenn, I think of Paris.  Last time we spoke, she was telling me about her upcoming trip.  Excitedly, she shared that this year’s trip would be like no other; she had saved up enough euros to check a highly anticipated experience off her bucket list – to celebrate her birthday at Jules Verne, the 3-star Michelin-rated restaurant in the Eiffel Tower.  “Rather than add another piece of French pottery to my existing collection, I wanted to return home with a once-in-a-lifetime memory I’ll cherish forever,” said Gwenn.

Dr. Gilovich emphasizes: “You can really like your material stuff…but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.” In upstate New York you should visit a castle, go pick blueberries, have dinner overlooking Keuka Lake, visit the racing museum in Watkins Glen, ride your bicycle along the Erie Canal, watch the sunset over Lake Ontario from the Charlotte Pier – the list is endless. The memories will be as well.

Luis Martinez is a guest blogger for St. John’s. He is an active senior that likes to observe and write about how people work at their careers, guide their businesses, strengthen their families, stay physically fit and mentally sharp, and race their sports cars. Luis habla español. Follow Luis on Twitter @BeyondYourYears, or email

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