“It’s a lot easier to be lost than found. It’s the reason we’re always searching, and rarely discovered – so many locks, not enough keys” – Sarah Desse
Happiness is a funny thing. A concept which is completely relative; at times so tangible that you feel like you’re holding it in the palms of your hands, while at others, it’s like you’re grasping at words that don’t even exist. For some, happiness can be measured by the number of recent and easy to recall occurrences that provoked a laugh, smile, or brief feeling of upmost euphoria. Others define it as a long-term, all-encompassing satisfaction – an onset, perhaps, by a multitude of factors such as a successful job, loving relationships, or simply a lack of unfortunate events.
Regardless of one’s perception, there is no denying that Happiness can present itself in countless ways. While some may enjoy the predictability of an organized day-to-day life accompanied by security and reassurance, others may opt, instead, for a less structured lifestyle in which a “comfort zone” is the less of a desired place to be than a goal in which to avoid.
To me, happiness can be found in both the bold, random decision to go sky diving from a plane, in the bliss of ending every workday, or in cuddling up in bed with tea and Netflix.
Whatever the qualifications you may have when it comes to attaining that certain sense of happiness, I think that, above all aspects of life, what we owe ourselves most is to pursue this happiness to the best of our ability – to passionately devote our lives to finding it – and to enjoy that happiness fully with all our hearts and with every aspect of our beings once we have it.
For happiness is a special, individualistic aspect unique to every person, and happiness deserves to be put first and foremost.
It is important to never restrict yourself to a limited way of life – that’s how people begin to feel as though they have settled. This does not mean that you have to travel the world or buy a sports car or do something completely insane once you finally begin to feel comfortable with where you are. It’s not about don’t insane things. It’s more than that.
I think society should take it upon themselves to, from time-to-time, push their own personal limits. Try escargot. Go cliff jumping. Get on stage and sing the most embarrassing karaoke song you have to offer. Fight for the person you love or better yet the person you have. Try one of those slightly overrated cleanses or run an extra mile every day. Evaluate what the current positives and negatives are in your life and change anything that less-than delights you. See the world however big or small you would like.
To those studying abroad, my challenge to you is to seize the next few months to their fullest potential, leaving no curious path unventured or stone unturned.
Bathe elephants in Indonesia, charm snakes in Morocco, sample wine you could never afford in the vineyards of Tuscany, experience fashion week in Paris, and fall asleep tipsy with your girlfriends on the beaches of Barcelona. Go ski the scenic Swiss Alps, soak in the Budapest baths until you are prune-ier than a raisin, drink authentic Guinness beer and eat more giant pretzels than humanly possible during Springfest in Munich. Capture the magnitude of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland in a picture, attempt water rafting in Croatia, make your mark on the John Lennon wall in Prague, and die of happiness overlooking a sunset in Santorini.
This is the list of what I once thought to be impossible, the goals that I made for myself to accomplish when I first arrived overseas. I want to offer them as a customizable template to inspire anyone who is new to the incredible journey that is studying abroad. Although I am still making my own way through this list, I don’t treat each adventure as though they are simply an item on a checklist that, once completed, instantly becomes a past conquest as I set my sights onto the next “big thing”. Instead, I try to enjoy every second that they last experience held, and I revel in the spontaneous adventures and magical pauses that exist within the seams and transitions of each minute detail of my journey. You’ll be surprised at what happens if you do the same.
Living abroad you quickly learn what it truly means to live happily “in the now,” a state of being I like to perceive as an immersion in self, experience, and surroundings. In every moment you find yourself in, whether it be good or less than, make it your job to find the silver linings, draw them out for yourself in every possible color, pattern, and texture you can think of, and treat them as though they are all you need. For you already have all the tools necessary to build your next adventure and aid you on your journey to obtain that life-giving happiness we all crave. A train of thought to be applied to journeys into the unknown, as well as a day in the life of the familiar.
Happiness is not the key to life. It’s the doorway into life.