Exactly one year ago, Phil and I left the UK to go on an adventure we called ‘The Road To Happiness’. This was an Adventure that I had been dreaming about doing for years. Finally, we were going!
Because I suffer from Chronic pain, even before leaving we had a few setbacks, but I was determined that I would make it happen. After years of saving and planning, leaving the UK seemed like a dream.
A decade ago, I was in £20,000 of debt, unemployed and struggling to be happy. I couldn’t imagine the life I have now. I have learnt how to live and travel with my chronic pain. Back in the UK, despite my bank balance being under four figures, I don’t let my finances control my happiness anymore.
I wanted to tell you about my last year. After working hard to make a dream come true, it did. I thought it would be nice to write a bit of a roundup, one year on after we left on our Adventure.
What was the ‘Road To Happiness’?
I have always been interested in why people do the things that they do. While it is easy to use phrases like ‘live a life without regret’ or ‘just do it’, I don’t agree with these beliefs.
In my twenties, I did many things and acted in ways that I do regret. I wasn’t always the best person I could be to myself or to others, and I was determined to improve myself in my thirties.
Happiness has always been an interesting subject to me. In my life I have been unhappy and made other people unhappy – what could I do to change that? Why do we do things that make us unhappy? What can we change in our lives to make them happier?
The World Happiness Report 2016 documents Denmark as the happiest place on Earth. Furthermore, Bhutan is a country that measures prosperity by gauging its citizens’ happiness levels, not the GDP.
By travelling overland point to point to these two places on our own “Road to Happiness” Expedition, we wanted to discover and document how between these two places to create a happier world.
Why was it my dream to do it?
I believe that we should enjoy everyday life through our work, friendships, travel and adventure. If you are in a job you hate, why shouldn’t you find a job you love? I think you can change our circumstances when you really dedicate yourself to a higher purpose.
As humans, I think we need to develop a culture that prizes overall happiness as more important than a big house, expensive shoes, jewellery or bags.
There is growing global interest in happiness and subjective well-being as primary indicators of the quality of human development. I wanted to be part of that discovery. Because we travelled the whole trip overland, we were able to fully immerse ourselves in each country we visited.
More importantly, just like you, I want my life to be a positive one, both for myself and others. For me, a lot of this is because I have not been perfect in the past. I want to ensure that moving forward my actions make me happy, other people happy and genuinely help make a better world.
What achieving my dream was like.
Trying to condense the experiences Phil and I had in the last year into a few paragraphs would be insane. We visited eighteen countries in just over ten months. We stayed in people’s homes, Airbnb’s, hostels and hotels, meeting hundreds of people along the way.
Now that we are back in the UK I have started writing a book about our experiences, and plan to share that with you all next year. It’s been said before, but it’s true – travel does change you. I am more aware of my own prejudices and faults that I have ever been before. In a way, it was harder for me to deal with those demons then it was coping in new environments.
Conversely, many of my existing opinions held true. People, in general, are trustworthy, and always open to helping someone in need – even if communicating is difficult.
Also, I still believe that emotional and material needs and wants depend on your circumstances. In England, Phil and I are moving into a two bedroom house with a garden. Travelling, we often slept on trains or hostels with no hot water. Our moods immediately lifted whenever we spent prolonged amounts of time in nature, and stress levels immediately rose in busy cities.
I struggled often that perhaps we weren’t doing enough. Visiting enough places, meeting and talking to enough people, taking enough pictures and videos, writing enough notes. The experience was both thrilling and terrifying in equal measure.
When achieving your dreams often we work to a predefined set of rules. Reminding myself that I had the power to adjust and change these as I saw fit – was incredibly liberating.
As mentioned before, we are moving to a new house in Manchester at the end of the month. A whole new set of Adventures are planned for this year. I am heading to Portugal, the Czech Republic, Scotland and America to bring you more travel stories.
This year will be spent working on sharing this message through betternotstop, and working hard on my art business with my best friend Kate. I hope reading a bit about my story helps give you the confidence to work towards your own dreams.
Most importantly Phil and I are prioritising working on continuing to create a life we love. I had been dreaming about the ‘Road To Happiness’ Adventure for so long. I spent years saving and working towards it. And now it’s over.
It’s an extremely weird feeling achieving one of your dreams. There is a bittersweet happiness in the completion of something you have always wanted to do.
It was, from memory the first time that I have ever worked so hard to make one of my dreams happen. And also, the first time I achieved what I wanted to.
I hope reading this inspires you. I’ve always been a dreamer, but like many, these dreams are always open to change. Finally completing what felt like such a huge dream, has given me so much confidence for the year ahead.
As mentioned before, I’m writing a book about our time away, and by signing up for the monthly newsletter you’ll get all the latest betternotstop articles rounded up for you monthly. Or why don’t you check out some of the Adventure grants I’ve rounded up on the website?
Here’s to a brilliant year for all of us.
Also published on Medium.