By: Amanda Baniuk
“Life is an adventure! Never stop wandering! Do whatever makes you happy!”
Do what makes you happy.
Do what makes you happy?
Let’s take a quick look at that last one. What makes you happy. Happy. A five letter word that has billions of different definitions that vary from person to person yet is held up on this pedestal as everyone’s end goal.
But here’s the thing – how do we get to that end goal without having any real concrete idea of what the fuck that little five-letter word means?
Let me introduce myself before I get all deep and riled-up on you.
Hi, I’m Amanda, from Canada.
I’m twenty six years old and I have travelled to 34 countries throughout my entire life.
Needless to say, yes. I have definitely caught the incurable & oh-so trendy “Wanderlust”.
Now how many times have you heard THAT one in the last few years?
I get it. Our generation is obsessed with spreading our wings and seeing the world (Or at least hopping on planes to get shitfaced with like-minded people in a different country).
In doing so, you will experience the highest highs of your entire life. But what we don’t see from all those smiling faces captured with Buddha’s in Chiang Mai, is that you also can experience the lowest lows. And I’m not talking about the moments when you want to cry and yell and are so frustrated by the hostel bathroom situation. I’m talking about the moments when you actually realize you came all this way across the world and are honestly, deeply, fundamentally unhappy about being here.
Our lives are flooded with articles on Facebook and bucket lists off the Daily Mail and inspirational quotes on Instagram which all have one thing in common. They are prescribing our generation a prescription drug for happiness. They pretty much seal the deal with a 100% guarantee that if you take all these leaps and bounds – if you travel and take chances and “never stop wandering” – you will in fact find happiness.
What I want to talk about is what I like to call the condom effect of these drugs the world is prescribing us. You know, how they’re 97% effective – until that 3% ends up being a baby carriage.
What happens when you’ve taken all the right measures and ticked everything off your list that is supposed to guarantee happiness and it doesn’t happen – when you fall into that 3% chance that you actually don’t find happiness?
I moved to London in 2012 all by myself with far too much luggage and even more naivety. I lived with some weirdos in a terrible, broken down house, made incredible friends who became family and all the promises I had made to myself about finding happiness totally came true.
I stayed there for three incredible years until something started to itch again. The itch was from that damn travel bug, muffled by the ticking of the even damn-er biological clock. I mean, shit. I am in my mid-twenties, after all.
Caution: Quarter Life Crisis Ahead.
London had become home. It was routine and wonderful. I had achieved HAPPY. Or so I thought. And this made me panic.I hadn’t moved somewhere new or terrified myself recently. I mean sure, I went to Egypt; slept in the Sahara desert; spent a week in Austria snowboarding. But I didn’t think that was enough. I should want more. I should live fuller. So I decided I should start fresh once again.
I chose to leap, bound and splat myself across the world in STRAYA – the land down under! – and because I had such great success with moving to London, I had it in my head that this would be the same. The same thrills and the same little setbacks that you can laugh about later. But it wasn’t the same. At all.
That guaranteed happiness didn’t happen. I fell amongst the 3% chance of the drug failing, and I fell far.
I didn’t love it.
But something inside me wouldn’t just accept that. Everyone else loved it, why didn’t I? This whole ‘live life to the fullest’ movement wasn’t working on me – which led me to believe there was something wrong with me. I wasn’t allowed to be in a brand new, wonderful country and not be happy about it. So, I forced myself to stick it out. For months and months I stuck it out – and then when I reached my breaking point and decided to move back to London, I felt like I had given in. I had taken the easy way out. I had, somehow, failed.
But the thing is, IT’S OKAY.
However it took me 7 months, 2 weeks and 3 days to figure that out; to accept that it was OKAY to not love something that seems to make everyone else happy.
It is OKAY to take a leap, bound and actually fall splat on your face. It is OKAY that what was meant to be this great new adventure kind of turned into a big ol’ dud. Because here’s the thing:
Am I sad I did it?
Was I sad a lot of the time I was there?
Did it help me reach my end goal of ‘happiness’?
Yes!!! YES TIMES A HUNDRED! It was one of the most exhilarating, painful, strength testing years of my life and I came out WAY on top – because now that I’m home and can take a step back, I can see what this year really was, and how much it helped me grow and figure out what I loved and what I wanted.
I thought I would leave Australia with a bitter taste in my mouth for the country that I had tried so hard to force myself into loving when in fact, I don’t. Truth is? The last weekend I was there, that bitter taste completely evaporated.
I took a leap and went on a trip with the perfect stranger my last weekend in Aus. It was spontaneous and I had NO idea how it would play out – but in that one weekend, spent with this beautiful human being that fell into my life when I really needed it, I saw Australia through a different set of eyes. I saw it through the eyes of a girl who laughed and was herself and didn’t have this guard of ‘I Hate Australia’ up anymore. I had accepted this wasn’t the thing for me; I let it go and in doing so, the country actually loved me right back.
What we need to realize is that not every adventure is going to be perfect. And yes, I know the tough parts are what make it all worth it but that’s not what I’m getting at. The point is it’s okay to not love something you thought you would. And it’s okay to get out of those situations when you want to. That doesn’t mean you’re giving in, and that doesn’t mean you failed. Perhaps it simply means this wasn’t the path for you.
And perhaps, if anything, it means you’re pretty fucking brave for acknowledging that.