Happiness is a firecracker sitting on my headboard
Happiness was never mine to hold
Careful child, light the fuse and get away
‘Cause happiness throws a shower of sparks
Happiness is like the old man told me
Look for it, but you’ll never find it all
Let it go, live your life and leave it
Then one day, wake up and she’ll be home
I’m happy. Really happy. You would think that it is a great thing to be able to sit here and type about how unequivocally happy I am. I have traveled around the world having adventures I would have never dreamed of. I am finally following my entrepreneurial dream of starting my own company, and failure or not I am jumping in head first! Scary, but definitely happy.
“’cause happiness throws a shower of sparks”
I’ve chased after happiness, gone looking for it by following my dreams and taking bigger risks than I ever have before. Now I am confronted with the question of can you have your cake and eat it too? Is there a level of happiness that is unreachable? Are you able to have it all?
It’s been a test. It has tested my relationship with everyone I have ever known and it has been intriguing as the reactions and support are found in surprising places and unseen elsewhere. I’ve tested my own strength and independence as I find myself in new locations and situations I would have never imagined I’d be. Josh and I have tested our marriage. We’ve seen each other hit the lows and highs together. We’ve been so insanely stressed out and at the same time uncontrollably happy.
I have to stop and ask myself – are long-term travelers really happy? When you are constantly traveling your relationships breeze by you depending on the city you are in. Your most-prized possessions are carried on your back and a hot shower can be the cure to a bad day. You avoid the drama that goes on among circles of friends back home, but you also miss some of the most important days of your friend’s lives, weddings, babies and extremely exciting and then disappointing college basketball seasons.
“Let it go, live your life and leave it
Then one day, wake up and she’ll be home”
Some people can’t imagine the constant travel, the not-having plans past tomorrow and the always being pulled to a new and different location. Sleeping in a new bed every week and traveling with only 2 pairs of shoes (and some flip-flops) sounds like a nightmare. On the other hand, some can’t imagine ever settling. Some feel suffocated with the idea of owning a home and a car. They feel most at home when they are on the move and life is clearer when they are planning for their next big trip.
I walk a fine line, on one side I would never trade my experiences, my daily routines, my adventures and the strangers I get to meet. On the other side, I miss going home to somewhere and having my bed waiting, my wine nights with the girls and my favorite food in the cupboard. I hate hearing about our friends getting together because I long to be there, but I can’t stop spinning a globe to find out where I might end up next. I crave food from around the world (and not the kind you can get for take out down the street) but I want my own kitchen with my own space to cook in. I love the chaos of getting into a new city and not being able to speak the language, read the signs or find a map… but figuring it all out along the way.
Are long term travelers happy? Absolutely. You define your own happiness. You find the relationships you need on the road, and if you are lucky you hang on to the good ones. Your home isn’t where your bed is, it’s where your next adventure is, your next welcoming smile from a stranger or your next mind-blowing delicious meal. Your stability doesn’t come from a paycheck, or a routine – it comes from your next reservation and an upcoming flight.
If you travel in search of finding all the answers, you most likely will be left lost. If you buy the house and car expecting a picture perfect life, you might quickly realize it’s not what you wanted at all. Look for happiness in the middle of nowhere, with no one around. When you can be happy with yourself and proud of how far you’ve come, despite any and all outside factors, is when you realize it doesn’t matter if you are in the home town you grew up in or across the globe. Your happiness isn’t searching for anything or dependent on lifestyle…it just is.
Keep staring at “the firecracker sitting on your headboard… waiting for the next shower of sparks”
Justin Straub says
I really enjoy reading this style of philosophical article. Your writing is thought provoking and follows along some of the same hopes/dreams/fears of many travelers. As I prepare for my journey next year, I wonder many of these questions. Is the truth I seek out there on the road? Will I find what I am searching for? How can one achieve a lasting and powerful happiness?
I know one thing for sure, these answers are not going to be found in my cubicle. So I prepare to carve my own path and find the answers for myself. I think we are often blinded by daily routines and the stress of life; rendered unable to see the answers for the things clouding our mind. I never feel as free and clear-headed as when I leave it behind and hit the road. There is something tremendous that occurs there isn’t there?
For some, it may be a tranquil mountain top in China, a beach in Thailand, the chaos of New York, or the history of Rome that frees the mind. For me, it is the freedom to be without a daily routine, to try something new everyday; the exploration that sparks the brain in new and more intriguing ways.
What did you find to be that “something” that provokes and inspires you?
Caroline Eaton says
Thanks Justin! A lot of these type of posts are written, but I let them sit as a draft for a few months because they are so personal 🙂
What inspires me with my travels? The new. The exciting and the unknown. I love waking up in a new city and exploring it. I love getting lost and noticing all the details of a city. The street signs and the people to the way business is done. I thrive off of not having a schedule – being able to wake up and decide what the plan is.
I am inspired by being reminded daily that there is no “right” way to travel or to live our lives. Everyone has different routines and priorities and design their day accordingly.
Can’t wait to follow along your trip!
Nicole @ Suitcase Stories says
I really enjoyed this post. As someone who has finally found happiness and ‘home’ by being nomadic (ironic isn’t it?) I completely understand what you are saying.
We are all in control of our own happiness and its really up to us to discover what ‘happiness’ means to yourself. It means different things for everyone. For some the shit picket fence dream is happiness. We tried that, and it didn’t cut it for us.
Now, after 13 months on the road, no real plans, no set itinerary, I feel more at home and at peace with myself and the universe than I ever have before. And while this lifestyle doesn’t suit everyone, its definitely my definition of Happiness.
I wish you all the best for your travels and I hope you keep hold of your Happiness 🙂
Caroline Eaton says
We’ve been on the road almost exactly as long as you, and we also feel peace with not having plans.
We are traveling through the US right now and it’s funny how quickly we feel the need to have phones again and the outside influences of what we are “supposed” to do start interfering with what we want to do.
The stress comes when we start making plans and they conflict with the happiness we have built and now love.
Happiness is always changing and im sure what makes us happy now will completely change in 5 years – but today, right now… we are happy 🙂
good luck with your travels and happiness too!
Michelle @ Mishfish13 says
Long time lurker here! I love this article and I think it can be relevant to almost any situation! I’m currently working on being able to have that kind of lifestyle but find myself wondering if I can also walk that line. Or if I can even get there.
Maybe most of the anxiety over walking the line is about what we’ve been taught as children—the supposed want for stability as the only path to happiness. And we’re basically fighting against that to define happiness in our own terms.
I hope you continue finding happiness in your travels and keep us updated! 🙂
Caroline Eaton says
I agree – we are supposed to want stability, and I’ve realized that there is a stability with long term lurkers – it just looks a little different 🙂
We’re trying to define our own definition of happiness and stability right now. LIke I said above, I want it all and trying to figure out a balance that works for us and the relationships in our lives is where walking that line is hard for us right now.
You can definitely get there – the easiest way is to jump in full force, blind and without abandon … and that is the part that is scary!
Stay in touch and let me know how your version of “walking the line” is going!
“If you travel in search of finding all the answers, you most likely will be left lost… Your happiness isn’t searching for anything or dependent on lifestyle…it just is.”
I LOVE this.
Caroline Eaton says
Great post, Caroline! I’m currently an expat in China and I love traveling, too. Sometime soon, I want to do what the two of you are doing and travel long term. There’s a part of me that already knows how much I miss girls nights back home and all of the new things happening in my “old life,” but it’s a tradeoff. If you were back living the 9 to 5, you wouldn’t see the world and have the new experiences. Glad to see that you’re really happy!
Caroline Eaton says
It’s definitely a trade off and Josh and I look back at the experiences we’ve had and the stories we are telling and are in disbelief that we have done any of it. I know it is 100% worth every minute on the road, but there will always be that string pulling at my heart that makes me miss home!
Beautiful post Caroline! It is nice to read a more personal post. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say. When I visited some old friends and family back home in England/Germany a few weeks ago I realized that I don’t miss my old life at all. It was nice having a kitchen with proper appliances to cook in again, but I realized that I became restless very quickly. I think once you have left home to travel for a longer period of time it gets much more difficult settling back to “normal”life.
Caroline Eaton says
Thanks Tammy, the more personal ones are usually written and then I have to wait a few months to actually post them to let the emotion subside 🙂 I agree the longer you pursue a nomadic lifestyle the harder it is to find your new normal!
I could not love this more –> “’cause happiness throws a shower of sparks”
Seriously wonderful post Caroline, I enjoyed every word and could not agree more! I’m one of those people who would feel a little suffocated being tied to a location with a mortgage and car payments.
We battle with the long-term traveling. Our friends and family aren’t fans of it (but that’s okay because they don’t have to do it, we do) and would rather have us home but home also feels suffocating.
There is just something exciting and something whimsical about moving around, meeting new people, seeing new places and consistently challenging yourself.
Of course there are always the ups and downs that come with long-term travel but I would rather experience those than the ones I used to feel sitting on our couch at home hating every single moment of being in a city that felt like it stole my soul.
Amanda @ Adventure Year says
Thank you so much for this post. I’m gearing up and getting ready for travel. And one of the things that makes me nervous is the relationship aspect of it. I’m glad that you acknowledged it but then go on to talk about happiness and travel in such the perfect light. Awesome post!
Caroline Eaton says
I still struggle with the relationship part, and they do change. I would never take back my life of travel – it makes me who I am, but you do sacrifice the close knit relationships while you are gone – and it will be different when you get back! Do what you can to stay in touch, but have so much fun traveling – it is an unbelievable experience!
Thank you for talking about the more difficult aspects of travel, especially relationships (both with those you left behind and with those you travel with). My boyfriend and I are currently saving to travel and although we spend most of our time together as it is, sometimes I worry about what travel will bring about (not that it’s founded on anything – I’m just a worrier!).
Even so – I’ve never been more excited for anything in my life!
You are absolutely correct in that you need to go to the middle of nowhere to determine what makes you happy. when we were on the road we felt as you do…. beyond thrilled to be living our dream and yet homesick for some things (friends/ family/ bed/ kitchen). And yet, now that we’re back home we’re bored, restless, dreaming of life on the road. We hope we have found our middle ground in our next big adventure…. by driving our own truck/ camper we’ll have our bed and kitchen handled. By traveling even slower than before, renting apartments for months if we feel like it, volunteering, we hope to accomplish a feeling of community; even if it isn’t the same one we left. It is a fine balancing act and perhaps one never fully gets it figured out but we are going to keep trying!