{ in·deed·a·bly }

adverb: to competently express interest, surprise, disbelief, or contempt

Posing and pretending

Dusk on a sweltering July evening. I strolled along the Promenade de la Pantiero, beside Le Vieux Port.

My younger son was excitedly hunting brightly coloured supercars, amongst the endless procession of rich people’s toys puttering around town at walking speed.

Each time he saw a new one, he would jog alongside and politely ask the driver for a photo.

Without fail they had kindly obliged, braking to a halt in the middle of the road, to a chorus of French curses and angry horns.

So far he had managed to have his photo taken next to a black Bugatti, a red Ferrari, an orange Lamborghini, a white McLaren, a silver Maserati, and a yellow three-wheeled Polaris Slingshot.

I suspect he had probably made the acquaintance of half the arms dealers, oil sheikhs and oligarchs who were in town for the Festival d’Art Pyrotechnique later that evening!

My son abruptly stopped, with a look of awe on his face. “Wow!

I followed his line of sight, searching for the car that had elicited the strongest reaction of the evening so far.

Instead of a car, he appeared to be looking at a sleek looking 90-foot yacht moored in the harbour. More specifically, at a huge yellow rubber duck that was tied to the yacht’s upper deck.

That. Is. So. Cool!

I glanced back at him to ensure I was looking at the correct thing.

A beautifully restored vintage wooden sailboat was moored on the left.

On the right was a much larger yacht, hosting either an advanced masseuse class or a swingers party.

The boy was definitely eyeing off the middle boat, with the giant bath duck.

Stowaway

Next thing I knew, he had raced up the yacht’s gangway towards the outdoor table where an elderly couple were in the middle of their dinner.

I unsuccessfully called him back, then reluctantly followed to apologise for interrupting their meal.

By the time I had reached the top of the gangway the elderly lady was beaming at my son, as he told her the giant duck was the coolest thing he had seen on his holiday. Just as he had with the supercars, he politely asked if he could have a photo with it to show his friends at school.

The lady led him by the hand to take a closer look at the duck.

Her husband raised a disapproving eyebrow, to which I could only give an embarrassed shrug. As we followed them towards the oversized yellow monstrosity, he muttered something about people having money but no class. It wasn’t entirely clear whether his comment was directed at me or the duck, so I kept my mouth diplomatically shut.

Photo taken, the lady insisted on giving us a guided tour of the boat. It was deceptively large, containing a lounge room, dining room, jacuzzi, jet ski, and could comfortably sleep eight people.

The elderly couple had paid €50,000 to rent the yacht for the week. That sum included the services of a ship’s captain and chef, both of whom had been given the evening off to enjoy the festival.

My jaw dropped. I could comfortably live for a year on €50,000!

The husband confessed he had always wanted to own a yacht.

His wife had vetoed that dream, observing that in all their many year’s of marriage she had never succeeded in dragging him away from his business for more than two weeks in a year.

Rather than incurring all the ownership costs and hassles, she felt it was easier to just rent a nice yacht that someone else maintained, in whatever maritime location they fancied visiting. He got to play on a boat, and they could enjoy visiting somewhere new each vacation.

This year that location was Cannes.

The lady invited us to join them for the fireworks display. She relished the prospect of viewing the display through the eyes of an excited six-year-old.

Each year half a dozen nations each sent their best pyrotechnician to compete over the course of the festival. Tonight it was an Austrian’s turn to light up the night sky.

Her husband gave me a small nod. While his wife was distracted, he appeared to be relishing the opportunity to view with his own eyes the exciting display on the neighbouring yacht. Definitely not a masseuse class.

Feeling slightly surreal, my son and I made ourselves comfortable on the giant rubber duck. Located on the deck of a multimillion-dollar luxury yacht. In the company of welcoming random strangers.

The spectacular fireworks show commenced to a backing track of thumping dance music, animal noises, and the occasional implausibly ecstatic moan all originating from the neighbouring boat.

The baby elephant walk

My son tried valiantly to remain awake, but a full day in the sun spent swimming on sandy beaches and chasing supercars proved too much for him. At the end of the show, I thanked our gracious hosts and carried the sleeping boy down the gangway towards our holiday rental.

I’m not sure when it happened, but my son had somehow grown up to weigh roughly the same amount as a small elephant. Long gone were days where I could easily carry him on one arm.

To distract myself from the heavy load, and just how far the phrase “a short walk from the town centre” can be exaggerated in an Airbnb listing, I reflected back on the evening.

Beautifully appointed though the yacht had been, inside it wasn’t really all that different to the trailers and caravans we commonly associate with struggle town and budget holidays.

Small rooms with paper-thin walls and constrained storage space.

Kitchen facilities that encourage simple meals, convenience food, and eating out.

Limited privacy and security, due in no small part to the close proximity of neighbours.

Tiny bathroom facilities which would struggle to accommodate larger members of the population.

Choose your illusion

Next I thought about the elderly lady’s approach to holidays. To see a new part of the world each time, while staying in accommodation that suited her and her husband’s preferences.

Granted their bank balance likely contained a few more zeros than mine, but fundamentally that was the same thing I had done when choosing our holiday accommodation. This time it happened to be an air-conditioned Airbnb apartment. Earlier in the year, it had been a caravan park on the beach.

I walked past a tourist shop. It was locked up for the night now, but through the window I spied a pile of familiar giant yellow ducks, each priced at €20.

That made me chuckle. No matter our bank balance, we all want much the same things in life.

Nice food and drink.

Comfortable accommodation.

Good company to share it with.

Polaris Slingshot. Image credit: COR Wheels.

Polaris Slingshot. Image credit: COR Wheels.

The bizarre-looking three-wheeled Polaris Slingshot supercar we had seen earlier thundered towards me. Recognising us, the driver waved and gave a friendly toot on his horn.

As it rumbled by I observed it now had magnetic signs on the doors, advertising a hire car firm.

It was a rental!

Just like the elderly couple’s yacht had been.

And my own well-located beachfront accommodation.

So much of this French Riviera lifestyle of the rich and famous image was make-believe. Posing and pretending.

Just like the lifestyles of the Joneses back home.

Or the needy folks constantly trying to convince an uncaring world how Insta-fabulous their lives are.

Posing and pretending

There are some delicious ironies hiding here.

Rich yachties who are really upscale caravaners.

Beachfront holiday cabin occupants having just as much fun as those renting beachfront mansions.

Discovering after a single day’s supercar rental, the frustration that comes from driving a car designed to travel 250+ miles per hour, but constrained to traffic speed. Unable to cope with speed bumps. That still needs to be parked out on the street.

Alas, some folks don’t learn these hidden truths until after they buy into them.

It occurred to me that there is nothing inherently wrong with dropping €50,000 on a week’s accommodation or £250,000 on a fast car. Who am I to judge? If a lifestyle choice makes a person happy, and they can afford it, then go for it.

However, the same enjoyment could be probably be had without incurring the vast spend.

That rubber duck would be just as comfortable on the beach as the deck of the yacht.

The supercar journey just as frustrating in a rental as it would be when driven by the owner.

My view of the fireworks just as spectacular from a free park bench as a multimillion-dollar boat.

The joy is in living the experience, that is what money is for. There are lots of ways to obtain that same enjoyment.

How much you spend finding that happy is a choice, within your control. There are infinitely more options to choose from, once you realise that many of those enjoying the experience you seek to emulate are merely posing and pretending.


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10 Comments

  1. [HCF] 7 August 2019

    I can pretty much relate to the “king for a day principle”. Avoiding long term obligations are much better than regretting going all-in. Still, seeing the truth behind the curtains is invaluable. The only question is what do you do with this truth. I like to think that I am immune to this, still sometimes we can catch ourselves falling for the “norm”.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 7 August 2019

      Well said HCF.

      I think there is a balancing act required, weighing up the enjoyment today versus the long term cost/benefit. For example renting a home appears to be an attractive option in the short term, yet there is a compelling case to be made for ownership over the long term.

      The lady on the yacht made a very valid point about the limited usage a boat they owned would receive. This is something generations of time share and holiday home owners have discovered to their cost.

      Airbnb style arrangements may mitigate that cost somewhat, but the chances are pretty good that the highest yielding times of the year (summer, school holidays, etc) are also the times the owner would want to enjoy the property themselves. Not too many folks want to visit that lake house in the snow, or the beachside holiday apartment in the winter when all the seasonal businesses are shuttered and the town has become a virtual ghost town complete with tumbleweeds rolling down the main street.

  2. DossersDiary.com 7 August 2019

    Yeah, I recall a car dealer telling me once that 80 percent of the Ferraris his dealership sold were on finance. Yes, the finance offered by the dealership. Ouch!
    Silly me, I’d always assumed that Ferrari buyers had money…..
    (this was 2007 by the way – very bad timing for many of them, I suspect).
    Since that day, I’ve never looked at flash stuff in the same light. So much of it isn’t paid for…..

  3. Nick Dunn 9 August 2019

    Really enjoyed this story, thank you. It reminded me of the wonderful “premium mediocre”. Although the couple on the yacht were definitely in the “premium” bucket!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 9 August 2019

      Glad you enjoyed it Nick.

      Thanks for sharing Venkatesh Rao’s story, it provides a very astute take on exactly this type of posing and pretending.

  4. PendleWitch 9 August 2019

    Oof! Well, really a couple of things:

    Reminds me of Financial Samurai’s dictum: Buy Utility, Rent Luxury. No further explanation needed. (!) And, Monevator’s Live like a millionaire – you see the same sea and fireworks everyone else does. Nice!

    Also, holidays in Australia, Cannes, and possibly another sneaked-in caravanning in one year, Indeedably? I think you need to remove yourself from the frugal-living blogosphere forthwith! 😀

    Glad to hear you all had fun!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 9 August 2019

      Thanks PendleWitch.

      Never fear, I’m on record stating “frugality is not the path to happiness and contentment”.

      Travelling and experience seeking is just consumerism for those with limited storage space. Personally, I live by the “if it makes you happy, and isn’t hurting anyone, then go for it” philosophy of life.

      The true frugalistas are those camped out on the shared computer at their local library, trolling out judgement, scorn, and righteous indignation to anyone who dares consume anything they didn’t make or grow themselves.

      As for the rest, their hypocrisy knows no bounds!

  5. Renae 14 August 2019

    Great story! I enjoy so many different experiences in life, happy to sleep in a 200 bed- 5 euro hostel one night and jointly hire a boat and skipper with friends another day. I love making things, repurposing second hand items, growing my own veg, hiking with my backpack, and also have stayed in fancy hotels. I think the juxtaposition of fancy versus frugal experiences brings richness to both. The concept of liking/enjoying something versus desiring/requiring something are qualitatively quite different. I like chocolate/this apartment/a boat/this person is freeing and enjoyable whereas I want/must have/ require chocolate/this apartment/a boat/this person is enslaving and a recipe for discontent.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 14 August 2019

      Thanks for reading Renae, glad you enjoyed it.

      That is an astute observation about the different enjoyment and pressures that a shift in outlook from “I require” to “I like”. Following the happy when it comes to leisure activities is the way to go.

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