For years now I’ve had a dream of traveling the world. Two years ago I wanted to be a foreign exchange student, but I gave up on that dream because I was vegan at the time and I was told that it would be almost impossible to find a host family that could accommodate my diet in any of the countries I wanted to go to.
Last year I’d again decided that I wanted to be a foreign exchange student and that I would be willing to temporarily set aside my vegan diet to explore the world. I thought that’s all it would take to find myself a foreign exchange student. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten about money.
When I’d brought up the idea of becoming a foreign exchange student to my parents it was almost immediately discounted. Sure, they said they’d love for me to be able to go, but with most programs’ tuition at over $10,000 they were unwilling to send me off unless I found a way to come up with the vast majority of the money. This discouraged me, and I again gave up on my dream to travel.
This year, however, I’d decided that I was going to travel the world at any cost. As my buddy Connor Grooms would say, giving travel a shot became a non-negotiable for me. I realized that I now didn’t qualify for many foreign exchange programs because I was going to be 18 years old. Again I was discouraged, but I didn’t give up. I researched gigs on cruise ships, being a flight attendant, Helpx, WWOOF, Peace Corps, the military, everything. If it could get me onto the other side of the world you can bet I read a few dozen blog posts about it.
Eventually I came across something called a digital nomad. I’d never heard the term before, but apparently there’s a HUGE community of people worldwide that make their living online while having the freedom to work from virtually anywhere. These people are freelance writers, translators, programmers, designers, internet marketers, etc.
After several months of researching the digital nomad community I decided that even if I wasn’t going to become one for the rest of my life I wanted to at least give their lifestyle a shot. So, I bought a ticket to Asia. For months I told myself that even though my life was moving along relatively well, everything was going to change when I got to Asia. I was going to be permanently happy once I got off that plane because I’d be, “Living The Dream.”
Well, after many months of excitement building up I left the U.S. and have spent the last week in Hong Kong, and Singapore. I’ve spent the past week with my brother (whom I’ve always been close with) and despite going on lots of adventures with him, having laughs, seeing beautiful things, and staying at arguably the most luxurious hotel in Singapore I found myself very apathetic to life at times.
I found the state of my emotions horrifying. How could I be, “Living The Dream,” doing what I always wanted, trying great foods, seeing amazing things, staying at luxurious hotels and still not be happy? If I couldn’t be happy in these circumstances, how the hell would I ever be able to find happiness?
I was extremely frustrated with myself and thought I had a problem not being as happy now as I was when I was on the grind. I thought I had a problem because I wasn’t as happy now as when I was juggling, lifting weights, and writing blog posts everyday.
That’s when I realized something. I wasn’t feeling apathetic despite the fact I was avoiding the daily grind, I was feeling apathetic exactly because I had gotten off the grind!
I’d always known this to be true on an intellectual level, but never until this week did I fully realize that happiness comes not from your external circumstances, but whether you feel as if you’re being and becoming the type of person you’d like to be.
Sure, this past week I’d had the best external circumstances I’d ever had in my life, but the reason I was still generally apathetic was because I wasn’t spending my time in accordance with my values. I was spending too much time socializing, and relaxing. Everyone obviously needs some amount of rest and rejuvenation in their life, but based on who I want to be and where I want to go I’d completely misweighted the amount of time I’d invested into just chilling and going with the flow.
Once I got back to juggling, and recording videos, doing editing work, and writing I quickly began to experience more positive emotions again. It’s incredible how just these past couple days of grinding have changed the way I felt. Two days ago I was feeling meeehh, but now I’m feeling the best I’ve felt in months.
My challenge to you is to make the same adjustment in your life. Don’t wait for something to come along that’s going to make you happy. It’s unlikely to come, and even if it did, it probably wouldn’t make you happy anyway. Trust me, I’m telling you this from firsthand experience.
You don’t want things handed to you on a silver platter because you’re not going to appreciate them. People think it’s the destination that’s going to make them happy, but today I’m asking you to at least consider a contrary view.
Just consider, that maybe it’s not the million dollars that’s going to make you happy. Maybe it’s not getting in bed with the beautiful girl that’s going to make you happy. It’s not staying at the five star hotel that’s going to make you happy. Sure, those things are stimulating. It’s fun to go on vacations, try new foods, and meet girls because they provide novelty and are the spices of life. But remember, they’re just the spices!
You’d never want a whole plate of just spices. You need the steak too! There’s nothing wrong with spices contributing to the steak’s flavor, but try a dish of just spices and you’ll choke!
The best part of life, the part that brings you the majority of sustained and lasting happiness is finding a path to mastery, finding something, anything, that you can strive each day to become a little bit better at. You need to find something where you’re not just looking to the final destination because that’s not what’s going to make you happy.
What will make you happy is finding something, even if it’s just self-improvement in your everyday life, where you can enjoy the small moments each day as you attempt to grow and make incremental progress. That’s what you need. Even if the milestone you're striving towards is never realized, It’s the everyday grind and appreciating the small steps of the journey each day as you work to develop as a human being that will bring you happiness far more consistent and real than the fleeting happiness reaching the occasional peak in life brings.
Picture is of me indulging in the luxury of the rooftop pool at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
You can view the rest of my travel photos on my Instagram.
Finally, today's video was one of the best I've ever recorded, so even if you normally prefer reading my blog posts I'd recommend checking out the video anyway!