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June 18, 2015

How Travel Taught Me to Search for Happiness.

Katie Baxter article photo
“You have no need to travel anywhere. Journey within yourself, enter a mine of rubies and bathe in the splendor of your own light.”
~ Rumi

I am a traveler. When I’m home, the only thing I think of is travel. I think of the feeling of excitement and the weightlessness of the plane lifting off the ground. I think of the new smells I will encounter. I think of the beautiful souls around the world I will meet. I think of the wonder that comes from walking through a new city for the first time, hearing the sounds of a language I’ve never before heard and seeing the glorious beauty of nature somewhere far away from home. I think of the pure bliss that must lie ahead. I think, “If only I were traveling…”

Whenever I leave home, I’m happy and full of life. Currently, I’m on the longest trip of my life, with no end in sight. I left home almost six months ago, and have since bathed in the warm water of the Indian Ocean, practiced yoga in the Himalayas, attended a meditation course in the same city where Buddha reached enlightenment and explored the nightlife of New Delhi. Currently I’m on a Greek island, enjoying the crystal clear blue waters of the sea, evening strolls through the quaint narrow old streets and late nights chatting with new friends in tavernas complete with a table covered with fresh, light Mediterranean meze.

I should be happy, right? If I were home, I’d be thinking of Greece as pure perfection, a recipe for complete happiness. But lately, I’ve been feeling as blue as the Greek sea. Why is not important, but what I’ve realized about happiness is.

After spending so much time studying Indian philosophy, I’ve discovered the principle of equanimity. A wise swami explained to me that the mind is like an ocean. There are waves on the surface, but deep below the surface there is always stillness and peace. On the surface, there are ups and downs, and just as the waves come up, they must also come down. True inner joy doesn’t depend on the people around us, the money in our bank accounts or even the place we’re located. Sure, these things may help bring surface-level feelings of joy, but real, true joy is found deep underneath the ocean.

Before this journey, I always thought travel made me happy. However, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned on this trip is that travel doesn’t make us happy. In fact, nothing material or even sensual can make us really happy. Pure joy comes from deep inside. Happiness has to be learned, worked on and nurtured from the inside out. And when we’re truly happy, we can be happy anywhere in the world, in any situation truly living in the present moment, without thinking things would be better “if only.”

 

Author: Katie Baxter

Editor: Evan Yerburgh

Photo: Author’s Own

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Katie Baxter