Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Justification of Travelling

I'm really tired of reading posts and shares on my Facebook page exalting travelling, talking about  why it's important to travel and how great it is.

Maybe it's because I've already had my fill of travelling and I have the opportunity to travel that I think this way, but maybe it's because I find none of these posts understand how lucky people are to be able to travel.

Travelling is a Luxury.

Travelling is a Consumption.

Travelling is ALMOST ALWAYS Selfish
(unless you are a humanitarian doing work to help others)

I am not arguing that learning about different culture and adding to your life experience is a problem. But you can learn about cultures and add to your experience without travelling, just as you can travel and not learn about culture nor add value to your life experience beyond, "been there done that." 
What I really find problematic are the ways people travel, the reasoning behind people's travels and, most importantly, what I hate the most, is what people are adding to the propaganda of travelling.
No one can define for an individual how they should travel or how much they should travel. So before you start quitting your job or spend all your money so you can backpack across the world to learn about yourself, please consider the following:
  1. How are you going to travel? via an airplane or a boat or a car? Because everything I just named means carbon footprints.
  2. What are you giving back to society and what are you taking away from the society when you travel?
  3. Who is benefitting from the travels? What is being lost?
  4. What are your goals when you travel? Do you NEED to travel in order to achieve your goals? Did you actually achieve your goal after you travelled?

North Americans have this ridiculous notion of travelling: the more you travel the better you are as a person.
The reality? You can learn anywhere. You can widen your perspective through doing anything. If you are willing.

Again, I'm not saying don't travel. I'm not trying to be a hypocrite. I travel a lot and I'm extremely grateful for my ability to do this. I love travelling (most people do) but I understand that it's a consumption slightly better than buying expensive purses.  You don't HAVE TO travel.

Travel, if you want.

But don't go around telling people that it's more than what it really is: a vain and luxurious entertainment. There's no justification for consumption beyond personal gain.

Friday, July 11, 2014

In Pursuit of Un-Unhappiness

In a world where a person is not oppressed and abused by another power, where food, water, shelter are abundant, and quality of life is superb, why are there still unhappy people? Where does unhappiness stem from?

I have been thinking about this question a lot lately. Ironically it is not because I am unhappy; it is actually because I have currently found peace in my life. Beyond the mundane first world problems that I like to incessantly broadcast to my boyfriend and my best friends, I am beyond grateful for what I have and where I am in life, both physically and abstractly. But this is not a show-off post wherein I describe my insignificant personal achievements to make myself feel better about myself, because people who are happy and at peace don't need to be validated by others. What is this post about? I'm not sure yet, but I feel like I have something to say.

I have learned that happiness and unhappiness are not mutually exclusive. Either can be an emotion or a state of being. You can be in a state of unhappiness but feel momentarily happy about something (I am deeply unhappy with the way my life is, but I just bought a new car). Or you can be in a state of happiness but feel unhappy temporarily about something (I love everything about my life but oops I just crashed my new car).  

So yes, you can be happy and unhappy at the same time, but only if one is a state (I am, deep inside, always) and the other is an emotion (I feel, right now, and maybe for a little while longer).

But it is much easier to detect and understand your emotions, and harder to pinpoint your state.
Therefore it is easy to change your emotions, but it is difficult to change a state of being.

In the spectrum of the most unhappy state to the most happy state, most of us probably sit somewhere in between. And a lot of us have no idea where exactly we sit, especially when many people mistaken their emotion to be a state (I just bought a new car and a new house, I must be happy). On top of which, what makes up happiness for each individual is different and no one can actually tell you what will make you happy. So how does one know if you are happy or not happy, and if you don't know, do you need to bother to pursuit happiness?

Whoa - now things sound way more complex than it needs to be. Defining happiness is near impossible for most of us. We can list a million things that makes us happy, and if we did achieve those things, would we truly be happy? This self-awareness thing is way too complicated.

The way I see it, is that we gotta take baby steps.  The pursuit of happiness is too hard - who really knows what can make you happy?  But the pursuit of ensuring you are not unhappy or the pursuit of un-unhappiness: much easier. I am not talking sitting around refusing things that I think makes me feel unhappy (eating a celery stick, having conversations with French people), but I'm talking about taking action to change things. I did say it was a pursuit, did I not?

I don't know what makes me happy. But I will do things to change my unhappiness. And you know what, the more I think about it, the easier it seems to pinpoint the root of unhappiness stems from:
  • Cowardice: fear and excess self-concern override doing or saying what is right, good
  • Greed: desire to possess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keep it for one's self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival and comfort. It is applied to a markedly high desire for and pursuit of wealth, status, and power.
  • Denial: when faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence
  • Laziness: disinclination to activity or exertion (making changes) despite having the ability to do so
  • Intolerance: unwillingness or refusal to consider, tolerate or respect contrary or different opinions or beliefs
  • Lack of Introspection: the examination of one's own conscious thoughts and feelings and trying to understand them

The above are all standard dictionary definitions and you can EASILY see why these characteristics could make a person be in a perpetual state of unhappiness. Next time if you are unhappy with your life, try asking yourself:
  • What am I scared of? Should I be scared? Maybe I need to be brave and do what I believe is right. Be brave.
  • Do I want too much? Do I have enough? Why don't I have enough? Be satisfied.
  • Am I in denial? Be honest - with yourself and with others.
  • What action can I take to change things? Am I making a change when I can because I am in denial or because I'm scared or just lazy? Be proactive.
  • Does what I can't stand affect me negatively? Should allow it to affect me? Is it even in my control to change what is happening? Be accepting and try to change your own perspective.
  • Why do I feel this way? Why do I think this way? Be critical of your thoughts
I'm not an expert in therapy and I don't expect anyone to do something just because I tell them to. I am not better than anyone else. And I am constantly working away these roots of unhappiness. My biggest problem is acceptance and tolerating thing when they don't agree with me. And it does make me unhappy.

But for the most part, because I am making an effort every day all the time, I have peace. And I deeply believe introspection, critical thinking, and most of all,  honesty has been the most rewarding for me - because they usually lead to action. Sometimes unnecessary honesty can bring unhappiness, but lying will always bring unhappiness. And if you are don't make an effort to be honest with yourself and with others, you will always be unhappy.