2016 has been a year full of new, exciting travelling experience for me. I mean, it literally started with a domestic solo trip, followed by a few more international solo adventures. Though I’ve not achieved the ultimate backpacker status by visiting the entire world this year, I believe I’ve gained enough insights, well, enough for a short blog post anyway. Essentially, this experience just confirms my suspicion that travelling advertisements are definitely too good to be true. In a typical exotic island advertisement you see on the internet, there is always that one typical girl doing yoga on a rock with a smiling face, and a hot guy sunbathing on the beach with heaps of alcohol involved. The catchphrase is always about experiencing something amazing, wonderful and can ultimately bring us happiness.
Now, that’s the deceptive promises that travelling agents give us. Book this flight, they say, your happiness will be guaranteed. Well, guess what? It’s not. I’ve written about the arguments for and against travelling with some supporting researches here, so this is just a more personal complimentary reflection.
You see, I believe happiness (here, loosely defined as having pleasure and satisfaction) generally comes from two sources- outer and inner ones. Outer sources of happiness may include a nice weather, a comfortable bed or an air-conditioned atmosphere. We may also get the sense of wonder and awe from seeing the stunning arrays of colors from a sunset on a mountain peak or a three-thousand-year old man-made structure that embodies the heart and soul of the civilization that created it.
The thing is, yes, you can get this kind of happiness from travelling. Book a trip to, say, Egypt and its most luxurious of hotels and you’re all set. The problem with this though is that you need money. Without money, you can’t get in close and personal with anything of typical natural or cultural value. Going to the museum, getting into a world heritage site and sleeping on the softest bed you’ve ever lain in cost you bucks. Even camping and mountain climbing needs you to spend for the trip and preparation. If you don’t have the money, mate, you’ll still be deprived of such happiness-generating factors no matter where you are. Just take a look at the poverty-stricken local people in your destination. They are literally living in the most magical place (you think) day in and day out, yet they are still miserable as long as they don’t earn enough to cover their day to day struggle.
The second type of happiness- the more personal, more sought-after happiness is the one that comes from within. It’s a person’s ability to see, understand and appreciate the things around and inside of themselves. Needless to say, this is definitely not dependent upon the environment. You can be as contented in an old hammock in your backyard reading the afternoon away as you are trekking in the famous jungles of the beautiful Amazon. It’s obvious that if you want to escape demon inside your mirror, travelling will probably fail you since that demon also travels from one mirror to another, following you to every corner of the world. If you don’t acknowledge and make peace with it, you will never escape its wailing cries, no matter how many exotic islands you’ve scuba dived in.
This year’s adventures have freed me from the illusion that I can become a happier person just by travelling alone. No, I can be a happier, more contented person if I have enough money to spoil myself during trips. And to seek for an inner happiness, my boring old balcony is as great as any place to do so.
So in conclusion… travelling serves no purpose then?
Definitely not. Go pack your back and book your flight because despite everything, travelling still provides you with a unique opportunity to explore a different way of life, and meet new interesting people whom you would never have met otherwise. It will force you to listen and trust your survival instinct and learn to live independently. Rest assured that you will definitely change as a person after an adventurous trip, but just remember that happiness? That’s definitely not a complimentary feature in your travelling package.