I don’t like thinking of daily life and travel as mutually exclusive things. When you live a life of travel, you make travel a part of your daily life as much as you can.
But the truth is, unless you travel for a living, travel isn’t your whole life. It probably isn’t the majority of your life, either.
I don’t commit to many things, but I’m committed to living a life of travel. I’m also committed to living deliberately.
But above all, I’m committed to the perpetual pursuit of happiness. The two aforementioned commitments are merely the strategies that currently work best for me in terms of achieving this ideal.
But they certainly aren’t the be-all, end-all. Occasionally I’m reminded that it’s not a completely symbiotic relationship between travel and happiness for me. I know this may come as a shock, but there are other things besides travel that bring me happiness!
Travel may be my favorite thing in the world, but how much am I willing to sacrifice for it?
Sacrificing for future happiness
For starters, I will not make any of the following sacrifices:
- Live off of ramen noodles and only spend a few bucks a day on food. Not only is this unsatisfying, but it’s also unhealthy!
- Cut out some of the arguably-disposable expenses in my life, like coffee. YES I WILL PAY $3 FOR A CUP OF COFFEE ALMOST DAILY. It makes me so happy that I cannot conceive of it as a waste.
- Work ridiculous hours to make more money.
- Move into a cheaper apartment that is far away/in a bad neighborhood/smaller/crappier just to save money on rent.
- Move back home and save money on rent.
- *not* enjoy the many things that New York City has to offer just because they happen to cost money. Why bother living here if I’m not going to take advantage?
I don’t want to blow all my money on the myriad things that comprise a fulfilling NYC life and not have enough saved for future travels; likewise, I also don’t want to live like a pauper and put 100% of my money toward travel. Neither extreme is going to make me happy. The idea is to spend just enough money to sustain a certain level of happiness in my daily life, and save the rest of it for future travels, etc. It’s a delicate, healthy balance I’m trying to perfect.
The problem is, I’ve spent most of my life sacrificing happiness in the present for potential happiness in the future. I sacrificed having a social life in high school for getting into the best college possible. I sacrificed scholarships at public universities and took on student loans in order to afford an ivy league education that would help me land the best job possible after graduation. I sacrificed my college summers, worked like crazy, and saved every dollar I earned for my year abroad in Australia.
It’s true that all my sacrifices paid off in achieving those goals I had. But it didn’t make me happy at the time.
It’s only in recent years, i.e. since moving to New York nearly 6 years ago, that I began prioritizing happiness in my daily life. These days I do more things to make myself happy now, rather than focus my efforts on setting myself up for happiness in the future.
Which job would make me happier?
And then sometimes I get tested.
Remember when I announced that I was recommitting to NYC and that I’d be starting a new job at a start-up in the city? Well, shortly after starting it, I got another job offer. In a time where the job market is in the crapper, you’re supposed to take whatever job comes your way, right? I never thought I’d be in a position where I’d have to choose between two companies that wanted me to work for them.
I had an important decision to make. Which job should I take? Which job would make me the happiest?
How on earth do you even figure that out? I don’t know how I’ll feel a few months, a year, several years from now, at whatever job I end up choosing. I tackled this challenge the best way I knew how: with logic and reasoning, a la a weighted pro-con list.
Surely the numbers couldn’t lie. The new job was the clear winner, largely in part because I could work remotely. I could move to California like I always wanted – maybe even AUSTRALIA – and keep my job! See more of the world! Travel! I didn’t even need a pro-con list to tell me how amazing this would be.
So I made my decision, gave my 2 week notice, and promptly locked myself in the office bathroom and cried. What the heck? Why did I feel so unbelievably AWFUL after deciding to leave my new job for another, seemingly better job?
Because my gut told me that I would be happier staying at the current job, and I ignored it.
Here’s the thing: I wasn’t conscious of this fact. At no point during this agonizing decision-making process did I realize my gut reaction, and thus it didn’t factor in when I made the call.
When I look back, the signs were there: the fact that I hesitated even when the pro-con list declared an obvious winner, that I had to keep convincing myself that I was making the right call, that I waited til the last possible minute to inform both parties of my decision, that I was so upset after I did.
All of these signs collectively comprise a gut reaction. I think your gut has a very good idea of what’s right – of what makes you happy. If I’m committed to the pursuit of happiness, I’m going to have to learn how to go with my gut.
How much would I sacrifice for travel?
A lot. But —
I am not willing to sacrifice happiness in my daily life for future travel.
I’m still working on finding the right balance between the two. Maybe there is no right answer here. Maybe it really is something you just have to feel out. I’m not very good at the whole feeling thing. I’m trying to learn how to go with my gut, rather than silence it as I’ve trained myself to do for so long. I’m far too rational for my own good sometimes.
I want to wake up every day happy – whether it’s a Monday morning and I’m about to kick off the work week, or I’m in a beach bungalow on an island in Southeast Asia. I want to be happy every damn day of my life. As I continue to build my life around this goal and make better decisions, it becomes more and more achievable. That’s the key: I can control my happiness. You can, too. You just have to commit to it.