“Listen, Robert, going to another country does not make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You cannot get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that.”
~ Ernest Hemingway
I consider myself a world traveler and have spent most of my adulthood working abroad.
Ten years ago I began exploring the beauty of the world.
Sometimes life can get so intense that one must escape—leave everything behind. I’m sure the thought of fleeing has crossed everyone’s mind. Many of us might be in search for happiness, passing from one thing to another, thinking, “when I get there I will finally be happy!”
I, too, was longing for a change in life and felt a strong urge to leave everything behind. I, too, convinced myself that when I arrived “there,” on the other side of the world, I would finally find contentment. Little did I know that traveling the world would become a journey to the deepest corners of my soul and lead me to the ultimate search for happiness.
Retrospectively, I admit that I was always in search of something. I didn’t know who I wanted to become, which things I would be good at, or what would bring me joy.
I boarded a plane to the U.S.A. in order to forget my lost love and start working as a camp counselor. I somehow strongly believed that life in the middle of the nature would make me complete. I was satisfied with my work and enjoyed the people around me, but somehow it wasn’t what I really craved. What was I missing? I was playing with the idea of going to New Zealand; apparently life was perfect there!
And so I went.
At first, life in New Zealand was indeed perfect. But only for a few days. Soon I started to miss something and wanted to escape. Trouble and distress were following me around.
After that, I flew to Asia. The laid-back life was calling me. No stress here, I thought. But even backpacking through Asian countries I missed something—only I was unsure what. When I found work (and love) in Mexico, I was convinced that this was it. But then I became sick, lost all my vitality and had to return to my home country, Slovenia.
I gradually healed; however, I was unable to “find myself” at home. I wasn’t happy, so once again, I returned to the road. I sought to earn more money, as I thought material wealth would bring me more happiness. So, I took off to the French Riviera to find a job in the yachting industry.
I began living a luxurious life and could finally afford all the things I’d always wanted. Still, it wasn’t was I was seeking. After a long summer working as a nutritionist in a fleet of luxurious mega yachts in Croatia, I landed a dream job position in the Seychelles. But arriving to paradise was nothing like I had expected. At this point I stopped and said to myself, What the f*ck, Maja?
“How can someone not be happy here in paradise?”
I asked my co-worker and roommate, while we drank delicious South African wine and sat on the balcony of our home‒–a private villa overlooking stunning tropical forests and turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.
“You want the wrong things,” she replied.
But I never wanted the wrong things. Never! I always wanted more than I had. I always wanted to be better than I was. I rarely stopped to see what I actually had and what I had had accomplished so far.
Happiness—or rather, the state of happiness—doesn’t depend on our location, our current life situation, money in our bank account or the people surrounding us. Happiness comes from our internal state of being and our outlook on the world. It depends on whether we can overcome bad days, learn our lessons, and forgive ourselves for making mistakes.
A state of happiness depends on letting go of strange feelings and overcoming limited mental patterns. No matter where we go, we always bring “ourselves” along, so let’s make sure we let go of all the mental clutter and harmful outlooks.
Wherever we are and whoever we are with at this moment, we can allow ourselves to be. We won’t find happiness in the future or “when we get there.” We can find it in every day, in every moment. It is a conscious decision—not something given to us. It is a reflection of who we are inside.
If we’re unhappy, the most beautiful place in the world can’t make us happy.
I ceased looking for happiness everywhere around me. Here, at this moment, in this place, I have everything, absolutely everything I have ever longed for. But my happiness doesn’t rely on what I have or where I am. Rather, it depends on conscious decisions and my promise that whatever happens to me, I will seek to be grateful for who I am.
Author: Maja Novak
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Toby Israel