My name is Lauren, and I’m a short-term happiness addict.
Phew. Glad I can finally get that out there!
Jokes aside, this is an issue I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It’s not a globally significant issue, but one I think ties in pretty neatly with travel — specifically, adventure travel.
I mean, what’s the reason behind throwing oneself off a bridge with a mere cord attached, or rafting down a river populated with crocodiles? Why do we constantly seek to try new foods, reach another border crossing, or wander down a dirt path with no clear indication of where it leads?
There are potentially several ways to answer these questions. Travel, culture, and new experiences broaden our minds; they teach us humility, patience, and self-reliance. These impulsive actions provide us with stories for sharing later on in life. Ultimately, adventure travel can make us into better, more interesting versions of ourselves. Adventures make us feel alive.
But is there more to it than that? One would assume that acts of breathing, walking around, talking, and feeling are pretty clear indicators of life. I certainly don’t wake up forgetting I’m alive and well until I explore a new part of town, or go out rock climbing.
Could it possibly be that we, as travellers, do what we do because the traditional indicators are no longer enough to sustain us? Do we bounce between countries and adrenaline-fuelled activities because we want jolts and surges of life, as opposed to a steady pulse?
Are we, in fact, addicted to chasing short-term happiness?
You may be wondering why I’m even posing these questions. I’m not particularly sure myself. I suspect the roots of my doubt are buried in the idea that anything short-term is typically considered bad.
Think about it: if you engage in a series of fast relationships, you’re usually viewed as flakey or scared of commitment. If you move between casual or seasonal jobs, your career prospects are normally lowered. It’s an aspiration of most to live to a ripe old age, maintain lasting friendships, ensure the stability of their businesses, and perfect key skills with endured practise.
Plus, no one ever said, “You know, that’s a pretty good Snickers bar, but I only wish it were shorter.”
Despite this, I — and I’m sure I’m not alone — feel compelled to chase down something temporarily gratifying, as opposed to sacrificing for a later benefit. For example, I’m struggling to stay put in Hanoi. My original plan was to reside here for six months, pick up teaching work, make new friends, and carve out some sort of routine that vaguely resembles daily life. This probably would have been good for me; good for my personal growth and maturity.
But daily life doesn’t excite me — the prospect of moving freely and chartering unknown territories does. As a result, it’s just so easy for me to cut and run when times are tough or, god forbid, dull. It’s hard to reside in the bubble of daily life when there are jolts and surges to be had elsewhere. I don’t exert the same amount of effort into resolving conflict or riding out the plateaus that I used to, because subconsciously I’m already planning my launch into the next exciting thing.
Somewhere along the line, I forgot that unhappiness, like happiness, is an essential element to life — so is anticipation, boredom, thrill, frustration, anxiety, nonchalance, and doubt. All of these things, and more, contribute to us becoming well-rounded, wise, and (hopefully, in the long run) contented human beings.
So, how do we moderate the thrill of the chase? Moreover, should we? Is it really that bad for us, after all?
Sadly, that’s a question I don’t really know the answer to. I didn’t promise you a conclusion — instead, I’m off to scarf another round of bun dau before planning my awesome jaunt down to Saigon and onto Thailand for Songkran. Hanoi got a little steady for my liking.