As a solo traveler, I can always find happiness within myself. I have spent my fair share of time traveling alone, and enjoying every moment of it. To be able to be comfortable in my own skin, I thought life couldn't get any happier. From my two previous trips though, I had come to a realization that this is not completely true. Even though the euphoria is there, without someone to share it with, the happiness feels hollow.
During my trip in Africa, I had a chance to finish a book, Into the Wild, written by Jon Krakauer . The book (also a movie) is about a guy name Chris McCandless, who truly believed in living off the land. He burned all the cash in his wallet, went into Alaska with his rifle, a few winter gears, and a bag full of rice to escape from the meaningless dullness of human eloquence and took refuge in nature. Four months later, his decomposing body was found in an abandoned bus along the Stampede Trail in Alaska. At the end of Chris's inspiring and lonely life, one of his last statement to the world was:
“Happiness only real when shared.”
— Passage highlighted in a book found near Chris McCandless's remains
McCandless had happily escaped humanity his whole life, only to find that happiness itself can only be amplified when shared. As a solo traveler, this statement hit me right in the heart. We decided to travel alone to escape from the excessive nonsense that is our modern society, and yet, we still can't escape the fact that human intimacy is an integral part of a meaningful life.
As a solo traveler, the thought of being dependent to someone else, sacrificing your goals to make everyone happy, disappointed by the lag of commitment from the other parties, are extremely scary. We want to go our own way, at our own speed, do whatever we want, whenever we want and how ever we want. That's the beauty of traveling alone, and if "true happiness" requires us to drop all these perks, then.. is it really a "true happiness"?
Does Chris's statement hold any truth in it?
I believe it is and here's why. Even though I despise all the things mentioned earlier, I realized that you don't actually have to go through all those things to share happiness with someone.
When I was traveling alone in Australia and Africa, I have met many awesome people and we tagged along together, nurture our short friendships and see where it took us. For example, in Zambia, I went out with a couple of guys, played beer pong, went on a booze cruise, did some crazy shit like we were friends for years. These are the kind of memories that you will recall, and think, "Wow, I had a great life", not the time when you spent sitting around at a hostel all day.
The thing is, when you have a shared happy experience with someone, no matter if it's with your love ones, or a complete stranger who shared similar goals as you, your happiness will always be amplified.
A research conducted by Benedetto Sacchetti of the National Institute of Neuroscience in Turin, Italy, shows that the part of our brain that's in charge of senses also plays a role in storing emotionally charged memories. We tied all the senses we experienced such as sounds, smells, and sights together to evoke emotionally charged memories. The experience that strikes us as unique (shock), will always triumphed the experience you already grew accustomed with. A location can only be as unique as your previous ones, it's the people around you at that moment that throws you out of your game and makes the difference.
So don't get too scared about sharing your happiness with someone. On your next trip, try opening up to people you meet. Talk about your life, listen to their life stories, tag along, enjoy the company of each other, share happy moments, and see how far it will take you. I can't guarantee that you both will become best friends (who knows?) but I'm sure as hell, you will experience happiness in a level you can't experience without a great companion.
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Looking for more inspirational articles? Check out The Solo Traveler’s Inspiration section where we will discuss topics related to the nomadic and traveling lifestyle and shower-thoughts that will invoke wanderlust in all of us.
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