“Make for yourself a life you don’t need a vacation from.”
I recently stumbled upon an article online that discussed this very sentence. I don’t think I could put into words a better way to describe what I want out of life. The past few days have merely reinforced this. The article looked at how our society, especially North America, appears to have our priorities out of line. The example it used was a short story about a business man who stumbles across a man in a fishing village while on vacation. The fisherman catches enough fish early each day to support his family, and spends the rest of the day with his children playing and spending time with his wife. The business man asks the man why he did not spend more time fishing so he could make more money. He goes on about a business plan about how the fisherman could expand his business and become rich. At the end of the story, the businessman finishes by saying once the fisherman had built up his empire he could spend every day relaxing with his wife and kids in a small village somewhere without any worries. The fisherman then replies, “that’s already what I’m doing, I don’t need a fortune for it.” That’s really the kicker, isn’t it. We get fed this idea that if we suck it up and be unhappy, it will eventually pay off when we have enough money to be happy.
The article went on to discuss how happiness in your life can come from different parts, such as doing what you love to do instead of settling for something safe, surrounding yourself with the people who make you a better person and leaving those who drag you down behind. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to sell the idea that we can all just bugger off and live on a beach for the rest of our lives. But there is certainly more to life than the 9-5 office job cycle that so many of us get stuck in. I spent 4 years and upwards of $100 000 to get my engineering degree because it was what I truly wanted to do. I worked hard, and found joy in it despite the difficulty because it made me happy to be doing it. I surrounded myself with people I truly loved being around and now have hundreds of memories to show for it. What this made me realize is that despite being scant broke, completing a degree that at some points was actual rocket science, I still managed to find joy in it. Why the fuck can’t I do that for the rest of my life too.
On the scale of my life, this trip is likely just a footnote, a box full of pictures that I will look back on in 20 years and remember travelling though beautiful cities with my friends. But the joy I find in wandering through a new city, meeting people from other countries and my own and not having a care in the world is not something easily forgotten.
Right, the trip. The reason I actually write here. My last post left off back in Lisbon on my birthday before a night out in the city. We had a bit of a messy night out with an Aussie and a Brit, and then spent my actual birthday on the beach outside of Lisbon. Let’s just say I’ve had worse birthdays. That night we went to an authentic Portuguese restaurant off the beaten path that Shawyan’s parents had stumbled upon in the city a few weeks earlier when they were in the city. A delicious meal of sea bass, salmon and chorizo was followed by a night out in Bairro Alto, a section of town where the bars are small and the party literally pours out into the streets. After a few pints we headed back to prepare for our flight to Madrid the next day. We flew out late in the day on Tuesday and arrived at our hostel in Madrid around 7 p.m. after doing battle with the city’s expansive Metro. After a quick nap and dinner we met up in the common room of our hostel for the nightly pub crawl. Although quite touristy, these pub crawls tend to be an excellent way to meet people. As is typical in Spain, the night lasted early into the morning, dancing and drinking away until I eventually found myself wandering the streets of Madrid and getting quite lost. I must say, if sitting on the steps of a beautiful cathedral, in a beautiful city with a beautiful Australian girl chatting about life, travelling and living abroad until the sun comes up isn’t happiness, I don’t know what is.
Our second day in Madrid began slowly, as you might imagine going to sleep at 7 a.m. leads to a less than productive morning. Shawyan, Stephen and I spent the afternoon strolling through the city, stopping a bars here or there to have a bite to eat or drink a pint. It was a wonderfully relaxing day, eventually returning to have a siesta before our last night. Not wanting to be a third wheel on Shawyan and Stephen’s wonderfully romantic night together involving a stroll through the park and tapas at a local bar, I went out for tapas and drinks with the aforementioned Australian girl, her friend and a guy from Peru that we had also met the night before. Yet another night spent exploring the city, bar hopping and general meandering about later and our time in Madrid was over. As I write this I am sitting in a hostel bar in Barcelona at a table that just over 15 months ago I was sitting at with Jonny, Chris and Alex enjoying a drink. Barcelona, I missed you.