Forget That Ferrari and Opt for a Trip

Paaka_kahakai_kailuaWe’ve all had that experience of waiting to buy something we want: a new smartphone, a car, or even something simple, like a book or a pair of shoes. We want it now, but we wait in anticipation (with the expectation) of the pleasure we’ll get out of a new possession (thing we own).

But if we want to get the most pleasure out of waiting, we should opt for (choose) an experience rather than a new possession. You may have heard people say that experiences, rather than things, give people more happiness. Well, that’ true, even when you’re simply waiting for it.

In a series of studies published last year, a Cornell University doctoral (getting a Ph.D. degree) student asked people to evaluate (judge) what it felt like to look forward to (wait with expected pleasure for) experiences versus buying things. He found that the waiting period was even more pleasurable, more exciting, and with less impatience (having the feeling of not wanting to wait anymore) when buying experiences than things. Experiences could be anything from taking a trip to attending a concert to going surfing (the sport of standing on a long board on ocean waves).

The researcher suggested two reasons for this. He surmised (guessed based on the evidence) that material goods (things worth money; things with value) are easier to compare to other material goods than experiences are to other experiences. For example, it’s easy to compare your new smartphone to your friend’s and perhaps find your own smartphone wanting (not as good; less than perfect). We want to keep up with the Joneses (be as good as our neighbors and friends), and buying new things is accompanied by anxieties (worries) about not measuring up (being as good as others or what is expected).

Another reason waiting to buy things might be less pleasurable is that when we buy material goods, we know beforehand (ahead of the event) pretty much (nearly) exactly what we’re buying. If I buy a new shirt, I can picture myself wearing the shirt and looking good, but there isn’t much more to imagine. If I plan a trip, I might be able to imagine all kinds of scenarios (possible situations) that could be fun, exciting, and even life-changing.

The good news is that the older you get, the simpler the anticipated (expected; predicted) experiences can be. While you may need extraordinary (very big, major, and unusual) experiences to maximize (give you the most) happiness when you’re young, as you get older, those experiences can be quite ordinary (common; everyday; not special). The thought of taking a walk on the beach, listening to music, or enjoying a good meal with friends might be enough to give you the same level of anticipated enjoyment.

And since I’m very old, all I need is the anticipation of reading your comments to make me happy…and maybe a very small slice (piece) of cake.

How about you? What anticipated experiences – extraordinary or ordinary – gives you pleasure?

~ Lucy

Photo Credit: View across Kailua Beach to the offshore islet known as Moku nui from Wikipedia

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20 Responses to Forget That Ferrari and Opt for a Trip

  1. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    You always can trade something for another thing simpler. The simplest things are those which make you happier if you see so. What is it worth if you can get a dream come true if the dream isn’t what you had dreamt about. It was a mistake. So get simpler things and feel happy with them.

  2. Dan says:

    Hello Lucy and everyone visiting the blog.

    I must confess that I had never thought about this before.

    I mean, I am not sure to be sophisticated enough to notice the difference between the two experiences.

    Getting back home and thinking that I am about to see my cats gives me pleasure. They are so sweet, soft at the touch and it’s always a pleasure meeting them.
    That is without doubts a daily pleasure.

    One example could be science related news. Like recently when Horizon was getting closer to Pluto. That gives me pleasure because you never know what we are going to find out.
    Or when they push the Large Hadron Collider to its limits in Geneva and discover new things. That’s also fascinating, you know, stuff like that.

    I need to think this more and come back later.

    Bye for now

  3. Genji says:

    Hi, Lucy
    I wonder if I misunderstood what the sentence,Lucy wrote, is saying “And since I’m very old,…….and maybe a very small slice of cake”.
    Who is “I”, possibly you,Lucy?
    Anyway, I’m completely in agreement with you, since “I” am 70 years old.

  4. Tania says:

    Hi! Listening to “Using a Pawnshop”…a funny joke at the end.
    “I have the entire collection of ESLPodcast action figures. There’s Jeff, Lucy, Warren,
    Jessica, Adriano, Pao, LeeAnn, Alison…”
    In fact, it is all the Learn English Magazine team.
    And Learn English Magazine is well worth reading and listening.

  5. Tania says:

    Hi! And in my country many people read “”The Lord of the Rings” , and the movie is a real success.
    For the moment I read all Jeff’s emails like an American – English book.
    A lot of new phrases to me even if they are written in plain English.
    Thank you, dear Emiliano for your piece of advice. I always learn about a new writer to me from you.
    You read a lot.

    By the way, I’d like to know your opinion about the new approach in our Learn English Magazine.

    Best wishes to all our dear blog friends,


  6. Dan says:

    Hey Hi.

    I find these behavioral studies fascinating.
    And these people trying to understand why and how we make decisions
    and how our brain work, have all my respect
    because it’s not easy.

    For what I know, when it comes for our brain or outer space exploration,
    we only have scratched the surface.

    Very interesting.


  7. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Hi, Lucy and Jeff. I pray God to have you two in His graces. I’d like to suggest you to talk about hurricane, the consequences it brings to the region where it strikes. The strong wind, the rain, the flood and so on. The people damage, houses falling down, homeless people, children crying etc. Thank you for all the lessons you teach us.

  8. Marcos says:

    Hi Lucy.

    I agree with that. I’m not a great consumer but a great dreamer. Now I can see me on the beach enjoying the summer even in the winter lol.

    Nice day


  9. Narges says:

    Dear Lucy,
    I want to add something more to that post:
    May be it seems that we we wait in anticipation of the pleasure we’ll get out of a new possession but the truth is that we wait in anticipation of the pleasure we’ll get out of a new experience which that possession gives us. For example somebody might wait to have a spacial pair of shoes to experience a sport.
    Anyway, I’m sure you are young.

  10. emiliano says:

    Being in the right place, with the love one, in the right moment, loking at the sunset, in peace, walking by the
    sand, letting the waves coming to our feet, I think it is the bes sensation I may have.
    That’s always better, too much better, that having lot of money, cars, houses, or which ever thing you could
    So yes expectations or sensations of the moment, the past or a good nice future it is always the best, so by my side
    I forget the ferrari and look forward having the trip, the walk along the beach with my lover holding hands
    and my childred round me. I don’t change that sensations or remembering for nothing. Possesions doesn’t give
    us happiness, I know that for my own experience.

    Thank you Lucy, you are not very old, by the contrary I do think you’ll be always a nice young woman with lot
    of dreams and illusions.

    Tania, I think it is a very good Learn English Magazine and I hope it will be a great success for our ESL friends.
    Sure it will be.


  11. Dan says:


    Reading the blog’s title triggered this thought that you can actually have both with certain objects. But I am not sure.

    Take the Ferrari as an example. First you get the object and after that you experience with that object.

    I mean, and this is actually sad but true, how many young women do you get riding that kind of car? think of all those experiences.

    A car like that have the pulling power of Jupiter. Do you know how many moons Jupiter has? A lot.

    The same could be said with something like a boat. First the object and then all the experiences that follow.

    What do you guys think? Am I right or I am saying stupid things?

  12. emiliano says:

    Well Dan I don’t agree with you but of course it’s your opinion.
    Probably a ferrary gives you and me lot of problems, first of the one the fear
    of losing it.
    Where I do keep such a car and so forth, that’s could be the first question.

    No, thank you, I do’nt want a ferrary and nothing similar, just give me
    peace and the look of my wife being good.
    I know the last it is like impossible but in fact it is the only thing that could
    give me happiness, but this is another story.


  13. peter says:

    What builds up anticipation is not the pleasure of yearning for something but the associated pain of never having it.
    It all started with :
    Heart wants what it wants. But the harsh reality of all this is heart doesn’t get what it wants. All it gets is what reality throws at it.
    In today’s world,we are all surrounded with relentless ,round-a-clock advertising,commercial ,product placements and what not.
    in fact , our tech-crazy ,tech-junky world is filled with them.
    U know what they say ” eye appeal is buy appeal.”
    In the shrinking world we are leaving today ,we are no longer limited to some hypes of some certain local products. But ,We are exposed to hypes at global scale.
    We r inundated with a global surge of various gimmicky tricks to lure end customers into feeling the urge to buy stuff.Ergo constant built-up anticipation.
    The anticipation of owning a laundry list of fancies : slick cars ,mention houses , designer products and so on ,.however sadly ,fancy is not what we get. Reality is.

    But ,the thing is we built up the anticipation for it already.we got impatient ;we have an ant in our pants to finally own it ,or experience it for that matter. So ,when finally the reality decides to throws us a lam ass version of it we all go crazy happy about it.
    Time goes by. Once that all the crazy dust steeled u come to realize that it was not what u were lusting after. So u ditch it in the anticipation of the next upcoming urge. And ,let me tell u my friend ,the urge never end.the wanting is always there. It never stopped. As ,what we get is not what we really want. The associated anticipation makes it look that way.

    What we get is not what we want is what we can take. Ergo the pain.


    P.S. Man ,I screwed up all my monthly data allowance. U know ? My data allowance is 6 GG per month. My data usage cycle reset on the third day of each month, and doesn’t rollover. So , if I don’t use up my data in any given month ,the left over data doesn’t not spill over and adds to my next month data. My data got replenished the third of that I mean , I got a fresh batch on Agust third.however,to my surprise ,for no apparent reason I used up 5.5 GG in one day. So , I have just 500 mega bite left till the end of this cycle . I can really on that. It sucks. It means this month , i m completely dependable on the library WIFi.
    I have no WiFi access at home. So ,I m pretty much screwed!

    Off I go.

  14. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    I agree with all of you. You are all right when you say those things. Keep on saying them. I like it so much. It sounds like a pretty song to my ears.

  15. peter says:

    Hi Lucy ,
    We are lucky that we have you in our corner.
    Very beautiful post !
    I really enjoyed reading it.



  16. emiliano says:

    Just a look to something like what we are talking about in this post, sensations and feelings, not material things.

    Three months have passed since I returned from my little trip to Amsterdam and some other towns in that area.
    I try to assimilate what I’ve seen, what I’ve been talking to these people and the general treatment received.

    The biggest contrast for me has been to find “clean” cities and tended to the smallest detail, another aspect that has
    surprised me pleasantly was to find “older” workers in various activities, and also as absolute and unexpected tip for
    me, it has been the sum friendliness of all its people.

    Without encountering a single person who has not responded politely to my requests for information on streets, buildings
    or any other needs.
    And not just stop and listen to me, it is also helping accompany as indicating where and how to get it also explains
    in detail the functioning of other gadgets which we lack in my city, Madrid, and which constituted little problems for the newcomer.

    Not surprisingly, the cities visited have been beautiful, clean, cozy (as I have seen leaving my country to Europe other time), whitth
    roads being impeccable, the absolute absence of tolls, which virtually everyone who have asked something or I have requested
    assistance, has responded favorably.

    It is perhaps check the respect that youth and children feel about their environment, correction with listening to their
    teachers or who asks for help, this has been what perhaps surprised me and deeply pleased.

    It was an informative and scenic tour by ourselves renting a car and visiting my friend and I the places you wanted to visit us.
    The experience was magnificent, the time has fortunately been great and I guess this circumstance favors full of experiences
    relatanto already go for anyone who would be interested to read them.

    I will continue ….


  17. emiliano says:

    But before going I wrote….just my expectative about the trip

    Next weekend I am going to Ámsterdam being the First city to see in Netherland.
    Afterward I would like to go to Brussels, one of the city that has the most beautiful square of Europe.

    All my life I was looking forward going to see these lands.
    Belgium with with cities like Gant, Brujas, Amberes, Lovaina and
    several other villages that are a show of the European´s civilization.

    Netherlands is a country that also I was anxious to visit in the past.
    For years we, Cuca and me, were thinking in this land with marvellous cities being
    Ámsterdam one of the most incredible sights a visitor could see. It is called the “Venice of the North”
    for its several chanels and having also one of the most free stile of life since decades of the last recent history.

    It is a pity that Cuca can´t be with me in this trip. She has to remain at home because her helth
    condition doesn´t let her doing a travel like this.

    A friend, Cesar, is coming with me so we will go with freedom from
    one city to other, of course we’ll rent a car, remaing in the site we like more.

    Once we have come again to Madrid, I´ll tell you how has been
    my experience.

    Now I have to say that the experience was really very good
    all the trip was incredible nice and our friendship was increased.


  18. emiliano says:

    Opting for a trip last year, instead of a ferrari

    Going to Berlin and Munich….July 2014. what I wrote just before the trip.

    I am going to Berlin, what is really incredible for me. incredible.

    That´s true, after so many years without traveling, except last year that I went to London, next eleventh of july I´m going to
    one of the big capitals of Europe that is Berlin.

    Berlin it is not only one of the bigger nice cities of Europe but
    it is also a symbol of how time changed after some decades, as this a city with a large history since the last seventy years of
    last century.

    When I was born, Berlin was the capital of The German Nation that was under the Nacional Socialism
    Regimen that has inmersed Europe, and the rest of the world, in the Second World War.

    Along the years of the Second World Berlin thousands of bombs
    were throwed on the city till its total destruction.

    After that, once the war was over and the nazis were defeated, the city of Berlin was divided in four parts, the same as the rest
    of German, England, France, EE.UU. and Russia occupied the four parts of the German Nation.

    Some years after, Berlin was divided only in two sides, the Russian Communist Side and the Occidental part controled
    by EE.UU. , and a wall was erected on 1961 by the D.G.R., to prevent the bad capitalists ideas of the East and preserved
    the communist regiment of the West as long as possible from that bad capitalist east influence on people.
    The USA presidet J.F.Kennedy was in Berlin and said a famous speech on june 26th where he said he was also a Belines
    too, I am a berlines, He said and started to send food and other necesary things to the people of Berlin as the city was
    isolated by the URSS.

    In fact what the R.D.G. wanted was avoid the pass of german people from the West side to the East.
    So Germany was divided in two, the East, capital Bohn, and the West, capital West Berlin.

    The Cold War between the West countries of Europe and the East, together with EE.UU. and other allies , was
    so long that I could live it in first person along all my youth and adult life.

    It seems the world was going to be destroyed by the Nuclear Bombs, and some how every body was afraid of that events.

    But in 1989, radical political changes occurred in the Eastern Side.

    After several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced on 9 November 1989
    that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed
    onto the wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere.

    Over the next few weeks, euphoric public and souvenir hunters chipped away parts of the wall; the governments
    later used industrial equipment to remove most of what was left.

    The physical wall was primarily destroyed in 1990. The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for
    German reunification in one Nation, which was formally concluded on 3 October 1990.


  19. emiliano says:

    Some time reality are better that expectations.
    From my trip to Berlin last year………………….

    Great Flood on Berlin watching the Final World Champions

    How to lose the opportunity to see the final “Argentina – Germany” from the “Brandenburg Gate” in Berlin, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Germans who came from all over the country and some Argentine oddly enough, that would be of tourists the city.

    Entire families scattered Annex park, extensive controls of the police to enter the premises not allowing the entry of glass or sharp instruments of any kind.

    Feeling German again, enjoy the atmosphere of celebration and anticipation of the longed party that eventually lead them to become World Champions.

    I arrived on the two with a splendid sun, thousands of young people sitting on the ground against the various TV screens, many hours yet until the beginning of the meeting, leaving the grounds jumping police tapes and find a bench to sit was my intention.
    I could not find a sit, I have to stand up under the three but sudenly it began to cloud and fell several drops of water, no time for anything else dropped the “universal flood” for an hour and a half.
    Everything was clear, no body sitting any more, people sitting fled in terror to seek shelter under trees or awnings of stalls where they sold hot dogs, sandwiches, beer, water and other items appropriate to the party.

    Under a tree, not daring to go out, I looked useless shelter because she wet my very soul.
    My raincoat, shirt, shirt, pants, bag, everything was soaked beyond repair. After the flood, left again a radiant sun, and again the site is full of soaked people, some without clothes, because everything had been flooded.
    It was funny to see young boys and girls with their under clothing only because all dresses were soaked.
    They were up and down waiting to the march.

    The sun was shining again, it was hot and have the oportunity of drying my clothes.

    I jumped the police tape that isolated the compound and sought a bench in the park, I remove all the possible clothes, stretched to the sun for it to dry, and I eat the sandwich and fruit that had been prepared in the hotel in the morning at breakfast time. Say sustraje several slices of sausage, fruit, pastries, cheese, bread, and ate eagerly sitting in the park, waiting shirt soaked everything could dry.

    A German family sat on a nearby bench and after a while I was chatting with the father, a German from Bremen in English.
    He told me they have came from a city in northern Germany to witness the match in Berlin at the Gate Brandenburg, and as? had also been soaked and dried in the sun. chatted for over an hour, we took several pictures and congratulated him for having two absolutely beautiful daughters who resembled her mother so much.
    We laughed a pleasure discussing the goals of the semifinal between Germany and host Brazil, poor Brazilian team that had made ??the ridiculous (like Spain) conceding seven goals that left them stunned and disbelieving. Sitting in this wonderful park I was letting time until it was time to be joining the expectant crowd of the final. Again the rain began to fall hard, relentless, non-stop for minutes, hours, without respite. Nobody moved and appeared umbrella but not too stoically youth, families, trying to put up with the rain shelter somehow, but it was not possible for thousands.

    Finally, no longer able to endure another hour under the shower, I looked for a way out of difficulty, with some shame, I was leaving the premises after spending several police barriers. In English I asked a policeman where I could take a taxi and told me very kindly to where he could address. Not a soul on the streets, all outstanding television and the game, so I got to my last hotel eight thirty. ‘s not stopped raining during the final game, and fortunately for all those thousands of German Berliners who endured the downpour, Germany eventually won the championship in overtime.

    My clothes drying on a bench near the daughters of friendly German Bremen.
    I was very happy for them, for all who had shared joy and rain next to the Brandenburg Gate. ‘s

    Waiting and talking, the sky was once again clouded and drops of water started to fall. Every body now remains under the rain because the final Chapinons Match was starting. Thousands of boys, girls, families under the heavy rain watching the big TV. screens.

    I have an umbrella now, it cost me 10 euros, and two German girls were with me under my umbrella because it seems the Final Flood on the earth. I told the girls that I have to return to the Hotel
    and I was very concerned of leaving them under the rain.
    Why don’t you buy an umbrella I asked to one of the girls, I need mine because I have to walk now looking for a taxi.
    No, they are very expensive and we don’t have enough money, told me the girl.

    Let me give you the ten euros and buy one, I said to the girl.

    NO, sir, once and again they said to me NO thank you. You are very kind but we do not can accept your money.

    So being very sorry I have to leave the Brandenbur’s Door and left the two poor young German girls under the heavy rain. For me it was really very late, I can’t see a place to buy a new umbrela
    giving mine to the girls, so after passin two or three police controls I walk for a long time following the police instructions to find a taxi.
    Nice policeman that indicated me the way to leave the place with one hundred thousand German people, or more, watching the final footal match. At the end Germany won to Argentina, at least
    it was great being under the Great Berlin’s Flood.

    Incredible good experience that I don’t change it for any material thing.


  20. Jens says:

    Hello out there,

    I agree with the results of the study. Also with the text of Lucy. For example I’am waiting for my girl-friend. We don’t see each other regulary. So I’am preparing myself for her , do the car wash , buy some nice excellent food and drink. Also I’am cleaning up my flat, a little bit. Anyway looking forward to see her give me a lot of joy, but also some kind of nervousness . I hope that everything will be fine, and we will have a wonderful time. But I can picture it in both direction . Also we can have a quarrel, too high expectations, dissapointments, etc. I think our fantasy (mentality) can go in different directions. Now I have to stop here writing, because I have some little work to do in the kitchen……

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