Experiences > Things

People who collect experiences are more interesting than people who collect things.

I came across that quote on Twitter a while back. It’s probably been a few months, and I have no idea who said it, but it’s been churning in my mind ever since I saw it.

As I thought about it, I started to realize why it stuck with me.

I want to be interesting.

Sure, on the very surface level I want be interesting so people think I’m interesting and like me, but more than that, I want to genuinely be interesting.  I want to be interesting to myself.  I want to be that person who I get excited just thinking about talking to them because they always have something ridiculously awesome they’re doing.

When it came down to it, experiences are interesting, things aren’t.

Think about it.

Would you rather talk to the person who got the brand new MacBook Pro or the person who lived Homeless in Paris for a weekend with a friend because they were too cheap to rent a hostel?

I’ve done both and while I enjoy my MacBook and it’s useful, I think about my trip to Paris a lot more & tell that story so much more often than I would ever talk about my computer.  That trip means means much more to me than my computer does.

I’ve got nothing against material things per-se.  I [really] like shiny new objects as much as the next person, and they are really interesting at first.  But the problem with things is you can always get more of them.  You can always buy more stuff. Other people can imitate your possessions.  There comes a point where your things just become generic things that a wide array of people also happen to possess.  You just happen to be one of those people.  The shiny new objects you once had become old and dull.

But your experiences are YOURS.  They become a part of you.  They shape who you are.  They shape who you are becoming.

Nobody can take your experiences.  Nobody can duplicate them.  Something happens to you when you experience a sporting event,  a concert, a trip, a meetup.

Something happens.

It might not even be noticeable to you at that moment, but when you leave, you carry something from that experience that impacts you.  You leave changed.

Have you ever gone on a trip with a bunch of friends and realized that you’ve had a completely different experience than everyone else?  You all did the same activities and experienced the same events, but each one of you came away with your own individual experiences.

Your experiences are unique to you.

Experiences are valuable, so be intentional with them. Don’t settle for whatever “just happens” to you. Make your own experiences.  Create your own personal challenges.

Because your experiences shape, mold and affect you every single day.

And they make you interesting. =)

Experiences or Things: What do you think?


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  1. says

    Interesting post. I came to a similar conclusion in my blog post about my vision statement:

    “I have noticed that [people who retire early] tend to live well below their means and don’t feel the need to have a lot of material possessions. They save and invest because they would rather have the time and freedom to experience life than have a bunch of possessions that seem to always fail to provide the fulfillment we are looking for. This is why my vision has evolved away from possessions and towards experiences.”


    I still have a bunch of materialist junk that I never use. My goal is to get rid of it all and have a nice minimalist home.

    • Joel Runyon says

      I’m right there with you. I’m not a huge fan of huge houses. They’re nice, for sure, but I’m not sure they’re my style. I’d much rather have 2-3 small functional flats/apartments in different parts of the county/US and have the mobility to visit them at will.

      Everybody has different tastes. To each their own.

  2. says

    I think a problem occurs when people get stuff because they believe it’ll lead to experiences. I’ve been guilty of this. Buying new sneakers thinking I’ll run more as a result. Buying a tent thinking I’ll do more camping. Most likely you’ve got enough stuff, or you can borrow a specialist item, like a tent, from a friend. If you enjoy the experience then consider buying your own. Don’t buy things to motivate experiences. The stuff you end up with will just remind you of your failed endeavours.

    • says


      You hit the nail on the head. I think the biggest problem areas involve situations where we have to change our habitual behavior. I have a treadmill that I hardly use. I keep telling myself that I’m going to begin to use it consistently one of these days, but you know how it goes.

    • Joel Runyon says

      I actually DO that sometimes as a strategy. My problem is I’m so cheap, I can sometimes GUILT myself into doing an activity because I’ve already invested myself in it.

      When I was trying to get motivated to start swimming, I bought a pair of Goggles. Every time I didn’t go swimming I would see the goggles I had spent $25 on and then swear to myself that I didn’t spend that $25 for nothing and might as well go swimming.

      Same thing with the triathlons I’m running. I’ve been thinking they were a good idea for the last year, but it wasn’t until I signed up for them at $50-$150 a pop that I decided, hey I’m actually invested in this, I’m GOING to have to do it one way or another so I better train so at least I don’t die.

      However, I do agree with you and I think a big part of motivation starts at whether you REALLY want to do what you’re setting out to do. If you’re not set on it from the get go, it won’t matter how much stuff you buy.

  3. says

    I think you can find experiences in things, for example buying my Vibrams and starting barefoot running has led to some great experiences and I’ve learned a lot about myself, but I took the material object and turned it into something that I could experience.

    My 7 months of ghetto-style backpacking in Southeast Asia has changed me as a person because of my experiences, but some of the things I brought back, and some of the things I used to capture those memories (my super nice awesome camera that I would kill somebody over), help me to remember my experiences, to tell my story.

    The things I own don’t define me. I define the things I own.

    • Joel Runyon says

      “The things I own don’t define me. I define the things I own.”

      I love what you’re saying here Jess. I actually agree with you. I’m by no means a minimalist and I buy TONS of stuff all the time, but I try to buy things that I know will facilitate my experiences. I have a camera to augment my travels, i have my computer to augment my work life & blog. I’m all for things, as long as they have a decided purpose, it’s when I start to buy stuff just to buy stuff, I find I end up throwing it all out 5 months later…

  4. Paul says

    Just dropped into your blog via Jonathan Fields’ ‘Awake at the wheel’ – it looks interesting and I’ll think more about it now I have visited.

    My view on things vs experience- I like your ideas but (don’t you just hate it when there is a but, a little like saying ‘with respect’) I have three children, correction, three girls, three collectors of things – kids love stuff – they just take the experiences as a given – something happens when we age that we forget this – there can be room for BOTH.

    Good luck in your endeavours from an Englishman, living & working in Turkey.

    • Joel Runyon says

      Definitely. I agree. There are room for both and you’re definitely in a different place of life than me. I mentioned to Jess in the comment above that I definitely buy stuff. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the reason you get your kids stuff, is because they love it. You love to see the look on their face when they get that one thing they’ve been wanting all year. That moment, I would argue, is an experience. You’re not just happy cause they have stuff, you’re happy because you delight in giving good gifts to your children. I would say [and I definitely could be wrong] but that’s an experience in itself and more than worth an investment =). Thanks for stopping by, I hope you stick around!

  5. Someone says

    I would like to echo Paul first of all in saying that there isn’t necessarily a contest between the two, you don’t have to choose one or the other. You can definitely have both.

    Plus, I notice that a lot of Americans think of “things” as comprised mainly of mass-produced consumer products – new electronics, new athletic equipment, new cars – well yeah, if your idea of “things” IS something you can always buy more of alongside a million others…those ARE uninteresting and I am always surprised that anyone would try using those as a means to being interesting themselves.

    No…the things that ARE interesting tend to be older or very high end, quirkier, more individualized, less mass-market. I have been a garage sale/flea market shopper since I was about 7, and find the secondary market infinitely more interesting than common consumer junk. My “things” are a blend of old and new depending on which best serves the purpose (old: unusual mid-century ceramic vase, new: grill for panini). The same holds true for a lot of clothing items – vintage dresses can spice things up in a way that J. Crew can’t.

    If you can spend in the upper levels for new things, that’s where some of the most interesting stuff is – but most of us don’t want to/can’t go there, and we don’t have to.

    So, yeah…things don’t have to be at all as boring as you allege.

  6. Joel Runyon says

    Hey “Someone” =)
    I definitely agree. Like I said in response to Paul’s comment, there’s room for both.

    I think the problem begins when we try to buy things just to buy them thinking that they’ll enhance our life or make it so much better.

    Depending on what type of “thing” you’re talking about, they certainly can enhance your life, but many times we just buy things with false hopes and never use them in the manner we wanted to (I know this is true for me personally at least).

    I know my tendency with things and so personally I’ve tried to value experiences over simply material things. That’s just my opinion though. You’re certainly welcome to disagree. =) Thanks for commenting!

  7. Dawne Carlson says

    Hey there. I absolutely love this post. It reminds me of a very old song from the 70’s called “using things & loving people, not the other way around”. Experiences communally shared with people I love are positively transformational. They also never wane or tarnish. Closest you can get to heaven on earth in my opinion.


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