The Empty Lexus

(Update as of March 29, 2010:  We are selling this Lexus Coupe.  SOLD as of May 9, 2010.  Happy Mother’s Day to Me!)

In 1998 I was visiting my husband, then my fiancé, very often in Los Angeles when he was interning at the VA for a year.    At the time, I had just finished my graduate studies a year prior and was working full-time.  I did a lot of on-calls at my work to accumulate extra off days.  So much so that I had a nick name, or at least I thought I did, “the on-call queen.” Our agreement was that I visit him in LA instead of him returning to Texas.  We traveled all over California, including Baja, Mexico.   As a lover of travel, I was in heaven each time I got on a plane to head to California.  Needless to say, I accumulated many, many Continental Onepass miles in the year 1998.

During one of those trips to LA, one of J’s friends met us for dinner.  Although I do not remember where and with whom we went to dinner, I remembered that his friend was driving a brand new Lexus Coupe SC 300.  I thought to myself, wow, what a beautiful piece of machine and wondered what it was like to own it.  Did people accept him more as a person?  Were they impressed? What’s it like to have that status symbol in driving a Lexus?    Surely, you have also heard the little voice inside our heads when we long to have something we don’t have already?  Yes, in my late twenties or was it early thirties, but ah heck who’s counting, I used to imagine and day-dreamed what it was like to be behind the wheel of a Lexus Coupe SC 300.

Years go by, life goes on, we bought and drove Hondas and were content with each of them.  In 2007 while I was still working at a local non-profit agency, one day I returned home earlier than my husband expected.  I usually worked long hours and coming home at 5 pm was out of my usual routine.   As I drove up to our new town home which we just bought a few years prior, I saw a beautiful shiny Red Lexus Coupe SC 300 being unloaded.  Took me a while, but I finally added 2 and 2 together and realized that the car was ours, mine- A 1998 model in near mint condition.  To buy the Lexus, my husband sold my 2003 White Civic Sedan which I was perfectly happy with- we got good gas mileage, a nice, comfortable economical car, i had no complaints whatsoever.


Here’s the real truth about owning this dream car of mine.

  • Each day I drove it to the non-profit agency where I worked I felt very guilty.  I suppose I was feeling guilty because deep down I was uncomfortable.
  • Uncomfortable with the idea of owning a status symbol car while clients we were serving struggled with so many issues on so many levels in their lives.
  • I felt uncomfortable showing up to work in my luxury car when I know deep down that the staff I worked with, though some have been there for years, made half the salary that I was making (and no matter how much I fought for some of them, there’s only so much to go around).
  • I felt uncomfortable showing up in my Lexus to the refugees’ home in a neighborhood I probably would not want my own family members to be living in.
  • I felt uncomfortable knowing in some parts of this world, millions of women and children barely have even one meal to eat.
  • I felt uncomfortable  knowing deep down there are Burmese children motherless and homeless, struggling to survive after the ferocious Cyclone Nagis.

I am aware and have heard it too — that some may say it’s silly, why should I carry the burden of others?  Why should I feel guilty, I’ve worked hard to be where I am now.  Right?

It’s ironic though that I was secretly proud to be driving my Lexus when I meet up with group of friends who are, perhaps, more into the name brands than me.  And secretly, I thought I would be more respected, accepted, living in a large home and driving a Lexus.  

The truth is, these things didn’t make our friendships any deeper or stronger.   At the end of the day I was still uncomfortable driving it.  It simply did not feel right to me.

I now know what it is like to own and drive a Lexus coupe.  What I also know for sure is that regardless of the kind of vehicle I drive or the kind of home I live in or the size of my closets, the number of bedrooms I have in my home, my life still felt as though something was missing.  Essentially  I’ve learned that, for us,  *material things* truly do tie us down from being able to free ourselves.

Most recently, our 2009 summer sabbatical really made us realize that we truly have way too much *stuff.*   Frankly, we did just fine without our Lexus, our large home in the city and all the *stuff* in it.    I’m not certain when the Lexus will be sold.  What I do know for certain  is that it is time!

We know what it is like to live in the US and have done it for nearly 30 years.  It’s safe to say we’ve done a pretty good job of living a good life.  So what’s the harm in leaving the familiar emptiness behind in pursuing the unfamiliar with endless possibilities of learning and growing?

There isn’t any harm really!  The possibilities of living a new way of life with our daughter and introducing ourselves to new culture, people, language, and traditions seem convincingly exciting.  The time is now to be free of *material things* and continue our preparation with relocation to Thailand in 2010.

(Update as of March 29, 2010:  We are selling this Lexus Coupe.  SOLD as of May 9, 2010.  Happy Mother’s Day to Me.)


57 thoughts on “The Empty Lexus

  1. A great test of the importance of material goods. I’m glad you could see how this car didn’t make your relationships stronger or make you happier and needed to be sold. You and your family always have an inspirational story to tell!

  2. Great post! And hey, at least you got to experience it for a little while, right? I’ve always wanted a little red convertible, but I think I’d feel just as uncomfortable and showy as you did with the Lexus. I mean when it all comes down to it, a car is a car.

    1. Hi Candice,
      I think it’s okay to have nice things, but as long as it’s done responsibly. I’m a car nut, but wouldn’t pay 80k for a luxury car, but wouldn’t mind owning a 10 year old Audi S8 (at $16k) and drive it only on Sundays… and have a hybrid as a daily driver.. =) But that’s all moot for now, as we’ll be bicycling and motorbiking around Thailand soon enough…

  3. Interesting. I think it is important to put things in perspective when it comes to material perspective. It is ok to have things just as long as those things don’t have you. Seems like most people tend to have their identity or define themselves with things or a career. That is unfortunate because each person is more than what they own or what they do. We all have a God given pupose and we should find our value and identity in Him. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I recently sold my car and after calculating the total costs of ownership, I found that it cost me about $600 per month to drive it. (In Japan).

    While it was a great car and I loved the convenience it offered, $600 per month is a lot of money.

    Also, having a car made is easier to drive out to a restaurant or store and spend even more money. The worst part is that it made me too lazy to walk or cycle many places.

    I love my liberation from possessions, including the car. I am sure you will enjoy purging yourself of material things as well.

    My wife and I will be in Thailand in early 2011. Hopefully we will have a chance to meet up.

    1. Let’s definitely meet up next year! Never thought I’d say it, but I’m totally looking forward to the liberating feeling you mentioned.

  5. How great for you that you’re selling your Lexus! I’ve heard and believe that every thing we own carries with it a small mental energy in our minds. It sounds like the mental energy for you with the Lexus was somewhat heavy and not positive. I hope it sells quickly.

    1. Hi Carmen,
      If it doesn’t sell as quickly as we’d like, there’s always the auction on ebay! =)

  6. Great article & so true… I’ve never had a car as a status symbol, but an iPod. 😉

    For me traveling opened my eyes. Even if I still like to play around with smart phones etc., I know that they don’t make you happy!

    It was pretty hard to come back after a long trip & to see how the system tried to suck you back into that kind of lifestyle! But it never got me! 🙂

    I’ll see you in Thailand… one day!

    1. Long overdue reply: Melvin, we hope to meet you (and all the friends A has met already) very soon. The only major challenge left is getting the house sold or leased out. I’m not too worried about the other stuff, as they can be taken out fairly quickly. -J

  7. I’m so glad you’re strong enough to stay true to yourself. I think if more people were like that, there wouldn’t be such a thing as a midlife crisis. People tend to lose themselves along the way because they start defining value the way other people do. Value is not what the assets around you add up to. Value is what you’re worth as a person. And you, Aye, are very valuable. 😉

  8. I’m so glad you’re strong enough to stay true to yourself. I think if more people were like that, there wouldn’t be such a thing as a midlife crisis. People tend to lose themselves along the way because they start defining value the way other people do. Value is not what the assets around you add up to. Value is what you’re worth as a person. And you, A, are very valuable. 😉

  9. Thoughtful piece of writing though I think your guilt is much stronger than it needs be. You are correct about material things and sounds like you are in for a special life and further self discovery in 2010 when you move to Thailand.

  10. Hi.. your last two paragraphs are very poignant…Indeed we are oftentimes blinded with the materials things. It is great sometimes to be back to basics because it gives us the opportunity to appreciate what is really valuable in us.

    1. Hello Cyra,

      Thanks so much for stopping by our little blog post and leaving a comment! 🙂 Appreciating what is really valuable in us seems to be the hardest part when we are listening to the noises in our heads and around us! I like the way you stated that – another way to use the opportunity to find ourselves and focus on the value of us! Well said!

  11. Thanks for this article, it makes me think twice about taking on more debt to buy a newer car ( a subaru forester) because my car is old and although it doesnt look great, i own it!

    1. Hi Jessica, I would say that is a wise choice. If it is taking you from point A to point B than it is totally functional, does what it is supposed to do, right? The minute you drive it out of the lot, unlike a home, your car will depreciate. So really save your $$ and spend it, if you like, on something that will bring you meaningful experiences and allow you to grow as a person!

      I appreciate your comment and your visit here. Hope to see you back here again.


  12. I cannot tell you how much happier I’ve been since I started to streamline my life and make it a point to own fewer things. As you say, possessions can be a burden, and if each and every possession you own doesn’t amplify and supplement your life, rather than BEING your life, then you’ll feel that weight and slowly but surely the stress of it will catch up to you.

    It’s good that you’ve had the opportunity to feel what it’s like to do something most won’t be able to in their lives (own a luxury car), but it’s even better than you’re able to move on from that, happy with the memory but even happier to know you don’t need it in the future.

    1. Hi Colin,

      Great to see you here on our blog. Thanks for leaving a comment. Hope to see you back here in the future!


  13. Nicely written and great decision. I likewise use to be really into clothes and especially designer jeans that cost boat loads of money. In May of 2008 I sold them all on e-bay. Now I travel, own about 3 outfits, and love life.
    If I am still in Bangkok in 2010 would love to meet you guys!

  14. J (the hubby, aka “car swapper”):
    I also think of Lexuses as rebadged Toyotas, which they are- but I understand where A is coming from. I love A for her compassionate, empathetic side, and her willingness to forgo the materialism for practicality and efficiency. As an avid car guy, I love to look at, read about, and shop for cars. This time, we’re both involved (no surprises), and we’re (okay, me) on the prowl for a Honda Element. After trekking this summer in a Honda Fit, we wanted to get something with a bit more space for road trips…
    Thanks for all of your comments, and yes, I’m also very glad, and proud, of A’s blogs. She has so much insight to share, so anticipate more great stories.

  15. Very well written and expressed…but I don’t think you should feel guilty driving a Lexus and frankly I don’t think it’s a status symbol…It’s just another car with better features. You bought it with your own money that you worked hard for and now you are in a position to help others and you do…Don’t go on a guilt trip…enjoy what you earned with God’s Grace and help others try to achieve their aspirations…That’s all you can ask for.

  16. I absolutely love your writing. You capture me from the beginning and I look forward to see how your story ends. wow, I am so excited for you relocating to Thailand. I know exactly how you feel. We used to love our expensive cars. It was our status symbol. For some reason, It doesn’t seem to matter any more. Maybe it is age, maybe even wisdom. But the things don’t make us happy, it is what we do, the connections we make and who we touch that makes us happy. I am sure that we are all going to meet up in Asia in 2010. I can just feel it!

    1. Thanks Dave and Deb: Appreciate your insightful comments as always. Yes, definitely a meet up in Thailand in 2010. Looking forward to it.


  17. Wow!! What a great post, A! I love that you are so honest with yourself and put yourself out there with your post. It’s really speaking to me in so many levels. I can’t say that I will be packing up and go back to Thailand soon since I still have another half to work on. 🙂 But your story has given me some inspiration. I’m so glad that you started blogging. 🙂 I think 140 characters are not enough to tell your story.

    So are we setting the date now for meetup on 2010? Because I will be there in the Summer. 🙂

    1. Hi Amy,

      I am glad I started blogging too. Readers like yourself makes me want to write and share more.

      Would truly love to meet up with you and your family in 2010. By this time next year, we should be there! I am looking forward to it.

      Thanks again for your lovely comments.

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