What makes you happy? I work hard to ask myself this question every day. Sometimes I ask myself multiple times a day. It doesn’t always have to be the same answer. In fact, in my case, it’s constantly evolving and changing altogether.
The thing that shocks me is that somewhere along the way in this jaded world we live in, happiness became second in importance to things like stability, the acquiring of certain possessions and making money. Western civilization has become greedy, yet even knowing this to be true, it doesn’t change the focus for many people.
My definition of what makes me truly happy has been changing over the years. Change isn’t a negative thing, but rather a sign that I’m listening to myself as I grow into a person shaped by places I’ve been and experiences I’ve had. Sometimes happiness came in the form of a person, other times a genre of music and other times still, a place. However, even with all of the transformations, I can’t say I’ve ever put much focus in material things. I have my parents to thank for grounding me with this wisdom and freedom from a young age. Things were simply things; replaceable, nothing more, nothing less.
So what is my secret to happiness? I’m known for being a pretty optimistic and upbeat person and I get asked this question more often than I care to admit. Sometimes it saddens me that the answer isn’t as clear to everyone else as it is to me. Now of course, everyone must seek out their own version of happiness. There is no cookie cutter answer here, but I will share with you what I’ve learned and what brings me the most joy.
This will sound extremely cliché, but the blanket answer is that I listen to what my soul craves. The more specific answer is TRAVEL. In fact, it’s incredibly hard for me to sit still. Back when I first discovered how amazing it was to go abroad, I was enjoying the world and everything it had to offer so much that I knew I had to shape my life around it. The day after I graduated college, May 2015, I boarded a Virgin Atlantic flight to London Heathrow with my University’s Chamber Orchestra. My closest friends all happened to be in the orchestra as well, so we expected to have a few amazing adventures, but I had no idea how much these experiences would affect me. After three weeks traveling through England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland my fate had gripped me. I’d met some fascinating individuals along the way and I returned with a new excitement of the world.
6 months later I was a flight attendant. Now a year and a half into the job, I’m hardly in one place for long. I love the people I work with and I now have the flexibility of flight benefits to go anywhere I want on a whim. Often times I feel like I’m starring in my own fairytale. People tell me I’m lucky, living a charmed life, but it has nothing to do with luck. I knew that I needed to keep traveling in order to answer the calling of my deepest desires. I simply persevered until I found a solution.
I truly believe traveling is the most important gift you can give yourself. I don’t just mean taking a road trip up the coast of whatever country you happen to reside in. I mean losing yourself in another country, another continent, another language and culture entirely different from your own. It is not until you see how others live that you can step back and evaluate your own way of life. After a trip in which you’re exposed to another way of living you may sit back and think “oh, maybe having the latest Michael Kors bag isn’t as important as I thought it was.”
I know you’re thinking that I can hardly speak in such a generalized way, seeing how I’m a flight attendant with a far from normal life, but let me explain. My airline doesn’t do layovers. I don’t have the novelty of stepping off a plane in Paris or Rome at the end of my work day like the larger airlines. I’m home pretty much every night after many 14-16 hour doubles, usually back to back. I work insane hours in order to take off as much time as possible. When I get to the end of an intense few weeks of work, I take a month off and leave the country. My point is that if travel is your passion, then no matter what industry you work in, there’s no excuse not to find a way to take at least one trip a year. If you want it badly enough you’ll make it happen.
Travel is my vice. I’m hungry to learn how other people live, I crave the foods that are grown without pesticides and I’m thirsty to figure out how to blend into each culture I find myself in the middle of. The people I’ve become friends with throughout the world have completely shaped my ideologies and philosophies on the way I try to live my life. Some of the most wonderfully open minded and thought provoking conversations I’ve had thus far have come from musicians at a gypsy jazz camp in Samoreau, France. Almost a year later, I still keep in touch with these people via social media and various forms of messenger. I’ve even visited a few of these people months later in their native countries.
Everywhere I go, I strive to open myself up to meeting new people, learning new things and trying different foods. Most importantly I hold on to the lessons I’ve learned from those I come into contact with, forming friendships across borders that have no boundaries. I remember to remind myself that I can’t expect to develop my mind without the provocation of alternative angles of insight.
This lifestyle makes me passionate about living. Every day that I wake up, I’m excited for the next adventure on the horizon. Life is never stale or redundant. Maybe I don’t make much money, but I make enough to support myself and the whimsical lifestyle I’ve fallen in love with. In my eyes, I’m the richest woman in the world. My energy harbors a flame for exploration that is too strong to be extinguished.
Now I challenge you to ask yourself, what makes you happy? How often do you ask yourself this question? Most importantly, are you shaping your life in a way that places you on a path to enjoy life in this way as often as possible? If you struggle to answer these questions, it may be time to reevaluate. Sometimes the fear of letting go of the safe way of living inhibits you from diving into a new start and a new you. Encourage yourself to take the leap, jump off the bridge and swim upstream to the waterfall of your desires. It may be upstream at first, but the view from the top of the rocks may be the most beautiful one yet.