I travel because it makes me happy. I travel because I’m astounded by the beauty of this world from the smallest critters to the biggest mountains. I travel because I feel truly free when I do, and I travel because there is something out there bigger than myself.
What makes you happy?
True happiness is sometimes hard to find. For some people, happiness means security. Going to school gives a person the avenues to get a good paying job, financial “security,” a nice house and a nice car.
For some people, a family is all they need. Blood runs thicker than water as they say, and so long as someone has their family around them, all is okay in the world. A good family will go to bat for you always, love you unconditionally, and pick up the phone at all hours of the day. A person from a sound and loving family often wants one of their own as soon as possible, and they take happiness from their own flesh and blood.
Health and fitness make some people happy; movies make some people happy; cooking makes some people happy; animals make some people happy. Whatever makes you happy, I tell you this: keep doing it. But just being happy and finding true happiness are two different things.
I love my family unconditionally, but I don’t have much blood left. Working out doesn’t make me happy – I tolerate it because I understand my body is a temple and I need to take care of myself if I am to live a long life. I like movies, books, and love my furry children. But those things alone don’t fulfill my purpose in life, it doesn’t make me unconditionally happy.
Stepping out of the comfort zone
Many of you might think or say that the traditional norms that society places on us are a good foundation for a happy life. I reject that notion completely. Go to school, get 9-5 job, get married, buy house, get dog, have kids, die is normal and it is boring.
For me, normal and boring is the exact opposite of happiness.
What I’ve learned since moving from rural Wisconsin to the Pacific Northwest is that I have an unyielding passion for seeing things I have not yet seen, driving along roads I have not yet driven, and experiencing things, sights, and people I wouldn’t have seen or met if I had stayed in the Midwest. I love to travel and I love to document.
By traveling and experiencing other cultures, foods, and people, I can rid myself of biases I have accumulated by being a white male in white America. I think knowledge, acceptance, and understanding are missing pieces of the puzzle we call life. Some of my happiest memories come from times I felt uncomfortable, afraid, or overwhelmed. What comes out of those situations is beautiful indeed.
Before I came to Washington, I had never owned a pair of hiking boots. I hadn’t explored what my own state had to offer and family camping trips felt like a bore. “I just got my new phone, mom, why the hell do we have to go to Devil’s Lake again?”
What I have found being a millennial in the Information Age is that we are essentially slaves to our technology. Technology was built and formed to give us access to all things, and to make the world a smaller place. You can communicate with someone on the other side of the world in under a second flat. What I have found is that we become dependent on our technology to a point where face-to-face communication and meaningful relationships have dissipated. Everything from relationship to banking has been digitized and you must be plugged in to “function” in our society.
So that’s why when I have my windows rolled down, music turned up, and my phone off, I feel truly at peace. There are no emails to respond to, no time-wasting questions to answer, no desks to sit at, and no responsibilities to attend to. Life is short and nothing really matters. I’m trying to spend more of my time doing things I enjoy so that when and if I have children and grandchildren, I’m not that grouchy old fart regretting the decisions he’s made along his boring life.
Friends come and go, but family is forever. I’ve had thousands of “friends,” throughout my life. I can call about three of those people real friends. Friends to me are those people who are always there for you no matter the circumstances, stay by your side and go to bat for you. Friends you can collect experiences with, not things. These are the people that you can see for the first time in years and pick up a conversation like you just talked yesterday.
I like to give every single person I come across an unbiased, open shot to become someone who can enhance my life. I listen because I want to learn, I ask questions because I want to understand, and I like to give out the kind of aura and respect I want to receive in return. Sometimes I gain an awesome relationship, sometimes I don’t.
Group or solo travel?
I love traveling with others because I can share my thoughts and gain insight from another person’s viewpoint. Traveling together bonds people in a way that buying a couch or TV never can. You don’t go around remembering, “That one time we went to the store and bought some soup and cereal together.” You talk about, “Remember that one time we went to that music festival in the middle of Belgium with 200,000 other people?”
But I also love traveling solo. There’s something about setting a destination, a plan on how to get there, and just doing it because you can. I am privileged more than most this way. I was given the opportunity to be in a place where I can travel where and when I want. I have a car, gas money, and a camera. It also gives me a chance to just be David. That’s all I really need.
I’ve found it’s a combination of many things. As I pass through a small town or a huge city, I take in the geographical landscape and compare it to other places I’ve been. I put myself in the shoes of the family-owned business owner and imagine what his day-to-day life might be like. I take mental notes about the makeup of the town, city, people, and structures. I call the gas station clerk by his or her name in hopes I make a small difference in that person’s day. I stop at viewpoints and soak it in, go to a local area favorite for food or drinks, and actually live in the moment for once.
“Worrying about the past is pointless and worrying about tomorrow takes away from the beauty of today.”
A lot of people, myself included, have a hard time living in the present. They worry about their past mistakes and worry what people think of them. You can’t change the past. Learn from those mistakes, forgive yourself if necessary and use that as a guide what not to do moving forward. A lot of people also, myself included, worry about tomorrow’s presentation, meeting, ballgame, or rent check. You only have one right now, use it wisely. When you travel, it’s almost impossible not to live in the present. The journey really is more than half the fun.
I travel to prove to myself that I can do the things that make me happy without regret. I used to feel that if I enjoyed myself, someone else would suffer. After spending a majority of my adult life looking out for others, I can finally just focus on No. 1 for once and it feels spectacular.
I’ve found that there are few things more rewarding than setting a short- or long-term goal and accomplishing it with flying colors. You got to have some serious cahones planning a 30-mile backpacking trip in the Candian Rockies and completing it. The rush you get while planning the trip is beaten by not only the vistas (if you’re in nature) but the sense of accomplishment you feel after doing it.
“It’s not the mountain you conquer, but yourself.”
The natural high you feel after completing a trek, race, or climb with your feet bleeding, stomach growling and back aching might feel insane to some. It’s pure bliss for me.
Perhaps the biggest reason I travel is for the natural beauty. I love photography more than most things, and I hope my work inspires others to get off the couch and see some of what this crazy world has to offer.
Once you round that turn and get the first view of that lake, ocean, mountain, river, tree, or waterfall you’ve worked so hard to get to, there is not only a sense of accomplishment but of awe and beauty, too.
Where do you want to go to today?