“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. We must participate relentlessly in the manifestation of our own blessings.”
Maybe it’s social media, maybe since it’s easy to work remotely these days, maybe I’ve just been online too much, I don’t know, but recently I’ve noticed an increase in the number of “Quit Your Job And Travel The World” articles. Like this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, and this one.
I’m interested in these articles or obvious reasons, but lately I’ve been feeling like they can have an opposite-than-intended effect: diminishing the lives of people who don’t unload all their belongings and set off on some magical adventure or guilt tripping people who prefer traditional paths or conform to societal norms.
So, let me be crystal clear: Just because travel brings Jeremy and me joy and we have made it our top priority, I don’t think I’m luckier / more important / braver / more accomplished than anyone else.
Just because you haven’t seen the Northern Lights or backpacked through Mongolia doesn’t mean your life is any less valuable. Just because you didn’t sacrifice a spacious apartment to teach scuba diving on some far flung archipelago doesn’t mean you’re not living up to some arbitrary expectations. Just because your day to day isn’t making national news shouldn’t make you feel like the things you have done aren’t “big” enough.
Truthfully, even those of us who do happen to have something in common with the people in those articles are still susceptible to jealousy and “not good enough” feelings. I’ve never hitchhiked in Argentina, been shipwrecked in the Indian Ocean, gotten lost in Slovenia, or jumped into an icy lake in Sweden (all of which travelers I follow have done). But I’m following the individual path I created for myself based on my passion, doing what fulfills me, and I understand there are 7 billion other people around me doing the exact same thing. That’s the concept that guides my life and gets me through days where I struggle (plus, let’s be honest, I have ZERO desire to hitchhike).
So, if we’re actively participating in the manifestation of our own blessings by following our own unique dreams, there’s absolutely no reason we should ever feel inferior. We especially shouldn’t let some articles on the internet written mainly to rack up clicks tell us what we should be doing. I know, I know, it’s easier said than done. But I’m worried that we’re living in a time where people won’t feel their lives are worthwhile unless something drastic or radical is happening. What I hope to see one day is an understanding that we’re all fighting our own unique battles, and no one journey, as different as it may look to the 7 billion other journeys, is more valuable.
All that being said, if you do feel the urge to travel, please find a way to do it. It can and will change your life and forever alter your world view. But I strongly object to the idea that it’s the only path to happiness. I think to find true happiness, we have to first realize that time is our most valuable asset and choosing what to do with our brief existence is a very important task. At the intersection of learning how to actually measure success and what you’d do if you didn’t care about money, that’s where you’ll find the thing(s) you’re passionate about. Once your passion is identified, pursue it relentlessly.
Ok, so, here’s my point: What’s most important is that you live a life that makes you feel fulfilled and no one else is allowed to tell you what your best life should look like.
Interested in some inspiration? Check out a few lectures from the brilliant philosopher Alan Watts, including this video made using his words about moving past money. I also freak every time I watch this inspiring video that’ll remind you just how ridiculously incredible it is just to be alive. Lately, I’m very much into the idea of the Reverse Bucket List (both this version and this version). Opening quote is from Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, a book I’ve worn out with a highlighter.
And if you’re interested in traveling, try this post about some of the unexpected downsides to long-term travel (that you wouldn’t usually read about), and read this article from the founder of the menswear company Bonobos. His story was crucial to me when I was in the midst of making my major life change and was scared as shit.