I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about: when I’m at home and I think about traveling, I have this brief vision of myself. A vision where there’s plenty of sunshine on my face, my hair are wiping in the wind, I have a big smile and I’m filled with happiness. It’s a vision that’s dangerously close to the pictures from other solo female travelers I see on my Instagram feed every day.
You probably have that vision as well, with a few variations. But what doesn’t change is that deep certainty that, there, we will be happy.
People often say that travelers are fleeing. It pains me that I kind of have to agree. Although it’s only one of many reasons behind my travels, I am fleeing from something. From routine, from every day life, from obligations. Hoping that, free of those, I’ll find happiness.
But truth is, happiness is not a place. Once you’ve reached your destination, you’re simply there. Still you, with the same anxieties, troubles, ideas and doubts.
Sometimes you’ll be bored, frustrated, annoyed, wondering what you’re doing, feeling sleepy or hungry, and, yes, sometimes, happy.
Pretty much the same as when you’re home. And that moment of perfect happiness, with sunshine and hair wiping in the wind, might indeed happen. But it will be fleeting, not a constant state throughout the whole trip. You’ll still have to reach for those little nuggets of happiness, like you do at home.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: if everything is just like at home, why am I feeling so much more relaxed when I’m on holidays on a beach somewhere?
Because, when you leave normal life behind, you leave also all your “buttons”. You know those buttons that keep being pushed? The neighbor’s dog barking all night? The way your colleague calls you “honey”? The sound of the alarm clock in the morning? The dishwasher that keeps breaking? The friend that only talks about herself? The family member who always calls at the wrong time?
Those buttons that you live with and that immediately makes your heart pulse and a feeling of anger or resentment arise? On holidays, they’re all gone and you have a chance to relax, and yet not enough time to create new “buttons” in the place you’re at.
This little window of calm is in truth a window of opportunity. Away from all the little things that monopolizes your brain the rest of the year, you have time to learn, to get to know yourself, to change the habits that get you down. Maybe, when you get back home and the neighbor’s dog starts barking again, it won’t disturb you as much, because you had time to take a step back and put in perspective what you call your “normal life”.
It’s only when we get home that we can realize how much we really learned.
Because happiness is not a place. Happiness is in us, right under our noses, and sometimes we just need some fresh air to clear away all the dirt and superfluous things in our lives.
Travel is a tool to open our minds. And maybe while we’re fleeing from normal life, we’re also running towards happiness. All of us hoping to bring it back home and hold it there forever… or at least until the next trip.
Where do you think is happiness?