I recently watched a movie called Hector and the Search for Happiness. The protagonist, a psychiatrist, feels unable to help his patients improve their lives because he isn’t sure what makes people (or himself) happy. He sets off to traverse the globe to answer this question.
I started thinking about my life and what makes me happy. I’ve dedicated these recent years to travel, but why?
So I thought back on my life over the past almost 1.5 years since I took off on this adventure. What is it about travel that makes me happy? Is it a beautiful destination that makes me happy? No; my happiness is the journey.
Happiness is having a conversation with someone without speaking the same language.
Hand gestures and smiles are all you really need to communicate and make a connection with someone.
Happiness is gaining additions to my family from all over the world.
From friends made in hostels to work colleagues to hosts, my family has grown tenfold. My entire idea of family has changed.
Happiness is trying something new that seems scary and falling in love with it.
I’d always wanted to surf but never tried. After one day on the waves in Taghazout, Morocco, I fell in love! Riding waves was such an adrenaline rush; I can’t wait to try it again.
Happiness is a breath of fresh air at the top of a mountain (or volcano).
Watching the sunrise after hiking a volcano in the dark in Bali was one of my favorite life moments.
Happiness is looking around at a place that used to feel foreign and realizing I’m home.
Madrid used to feel like a giant mystery to me. Then it just became home. Now that I’ve moved out of Madrid, I miss it like crazy.
Happiness is a scooter ride to a place that I once drooled over in photos.
Basically everywhere I’ve ever been is a place I once drooled over in photos. But the Azure Window on Gozo Island in Malta takes the cake for a recent place I finally saw with my own eyes that captured my heart in photos. The scooter ride there was half the fun!
Happiness is feeling like I’ve made a difference to at least one person.
The students I taught this year in Madrid may not remember me years from now, but their tiny hugs every day reminded me that they needed me at that point in time. That’s enough for me.
Happiness is in the small bits of human interaction that warm the heart.
In Montenegro, it was the kindness of strangers who picked up my friend and I as we hitchhiked from Albania to Croatia. Every day, someone makes my heart smile with their generosity and thoughtfulness. Whatever tomorrow will bring, it will surely give me the warm-fuzzies inside.
Happiness is falling asleep under the stars and awakening to the sun rise.
Sleeping to the soft sounds of the Mediterranean sea brushing up against the boat I cruised around the Turkish Mediterranean in and waking up to a golden sunrise were moments in which I felt purely content with my life choices.
Happiness is a wine fight.
San Fermin in Pamplona was the best.party.ever.
Happiness is making new friendships and knowing they’ll last a lifetime.
Don’t be fooled; friends made in hostels aren’t always short-lived. I’ve made countless friends and have reunited with many since our first encounter. Even if we haven’t reunited, some bonds just can’t be broken.
Happiness is being accepted for everything I am and especially for everything I’m not.
I tried the Corporate America thing; it just wasn’t me. I’m lucky to have a family that accepts that my lifestyle is a little less ordinary. I may not end up rich, but I’m rich in life experience!
Happiness is not knowing the end destination, but enjoying the journey along the way.
I’m still not sure what my end game is here, but I’m having a lot of fun trying to figure it out.
Traveling can be stressful. It gets tiring and sometimes I just want to crawl under a rock and never come out. But I’m not like Hector in the movie. I don’t need to travel to find my happiness, travel is my happiness. Travel has created a Domino effect; a series of curious encounters and interactions that have shaped me to be who I am. My happiness is the journey. Without travel, I wouldn’t be me.