The Same Destination Can Be Reached Through Very Different Journeys
Driving to Kollam yesterday, we initially took the utilitarian highway route, it actually took us longer and used more fuel and we were lost amid traffic, crazy driving and seeing very little natural beauty. The air was polluted and smoke from burning rubbish fires regularly filled our noses (as lungs). People gawped at us, foreigners wearing our shorts either judgingly or leeringly. We were deafened by horns everywhere on the busy roads as the sun pelted us with such heat that looking into the distance the road appeared to melt and wobble like black jelly with the radiant surface of the tarmac.
When we returned, we chose a route that was advised to be a slower route by google maps, however it followed all the way along the coast and beside a lake. We decided to chance it, and in return, we received the most breathtakingly beautiful views, fresh sea air. The sun was shining, but here it was much cooler and more manageable with the sea breeze blowing in our hair. The lake calm and serene, surrounded by palm trees on one side of the road, the sea crashing against the rocks on the other. We wove in and out of little fishing villages, with many people waving and shouting "Hi" with great enthusiasm as we passed.
The two routes to Kollam: the noisy, polluted, busy, chaotic urban jungle and the serene, seaside path took about the same amount of time, but the first dragged and seemed to take a lifetime and the other was so enjoyable I never wanted it to end. It flew by and we couldn't believe how enjoyable and rapid it felt in comparison. It really made me think about the way we often chose the more difficult, less scenic routes in life.
Our lives are a journey, with some destination in mind, perhaps that destination is a good job, or a nice house, or a loving family. Maybe we are working towards a flashy car, a new camera, or the perfect holiday to Bali. But ultimately the reason we want any of those things is that we think they will make us happy. Our true destination is happiness and that happiness can be reached through very different journeys.
Maybe 'the fastest' route or the most conventional route will not be as pleasurable a journey as if you try to find happiness on each mile of getting there. Sometimes we chase things such as promotions or new cars without realising that giving up 12 hours a day of our lives in doing something that doesn't make us happy to finally be rewarded with being happy doesn't make sense.
We need to learn that no amount of holding our happiness hostage will truly bring it any closer to us. I will be happy when I lose a stone... I will be happy when I have a job I love... I will be happy when I find the right person... No, you won't. You will be happy when you choose to be happy with everything you already have and are, right here, right now and make the choices that reflect that on a daily basis.
The thing is happiness is not found externally. It is an inside job. It was all my own perception of the journey that allowed me to be happy or unhappy, that made it seem fast or slow. Of course, one was easier to like that the other, but happiness is something we should aim to bring into our daily lives as much as possible.
Elizabeth Gilbert, the deeply inspiring author of Eat, Pray, Love wrote that “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”
I truly agree with her that it is something that requires sustained and continuous effort. But the application of that effort itself is part of the attainment of happiness. The best way I have heard it is in this wonderful quote by Alfred D Souza: