The evening of Friday, July 24, while on my way to Niagara for a weekend trip with my coworkers, I was thinking about . . . nothing. It was beautifully sunny, the window was down, and my hair was cooperating with the breeze. All was carefree, which is exactly what led me to notice that I was thinking about nothing, consequently prompting thought. This is why I love travel, I recalled for the first time in almost a year: the takeoff. It’s that moment you leave and realize whatever you were stressing about before doesn’t matter.
That is, if you remember to take off. You reside wherever your head resides. You can physically cross the ocean without ever mentally leaving home. You can land on another continent without arriving. You can be somewhere without being somewhere. Ultimately, you live your mind.
That’s a powerful concept. The mind can be both a dangerous and beautiful place, depending on how you’ve trained yours to function. Mine’s been on both sides of the spectrum. Before The Happiness Experiment, I thought my mind was going to kill me. Thanks to my tenacious spirit that, at age 23, decided that wasn’t going to happen, my mind ironically saved my life.
One of the tactics I used to make myself more present-focused was choosing to treat my life like a vacation. I always wanted to fly away, but I hadn’t until then really asked myself why. I knew I wanted to escape my life, but what was it that I loved so much about travel that I felt I couldn’t get at home? My answer was not Italian accents or ancient architecture or hot weather, though I like all of those things. It was the takeoff. It was that no matter how anxious and depressed I normally was, I would switch my mindset to be carefree as soon as I left. What I didn’t realize until age 23 was that it was my head conducting the change in perspective, not the planes. Upon that realization, I asked myself: Why shouldn’t I always think as I do while on vacation? Why shouldn’t I regularly live like today is more important than tomorrow or yesterday? Why shouldn’t I relax? There was no reason. I learned to unwind, and my world evolved into what I never thought my world could be: happy.
But happiness requires maintenance. It requires ongoing experimentation to see what works and doesn’t work to fulfill you as you change. So, last summer, when I started freaking out at age 24 about where my life was going (happiness tip: don’t do that!), I was kind of banking on change of place to prompt change of mentality. I hoped Europe, both Italy and France, could help my thoughts back to present tense. I had already learned that’s not quite how it works, but I was desperate because I was hurt.
“Here’s what I’m going to do,” one of my coworkers said to me after 2 am in the basement of the Queen’s Landing in Niagara-on-the-Lake. “I remember you saying you got homesick in Europe, right?”
“Mm-hmm,” I nodded with a smile, touched that he remembered the conversation he and I had about travel in the office kitchen months before.
“I’m going to give you a list of places to go where you won’t get homesick, because I’ve travelled a lot of the States.”
Cue my heart melting at his thoughtfulness.
“I was trying to get over a guy at the time,” I smirked in explanation.
He laughed, waving his finger in understanding.
I laughed with him.
Although I already knew I could have my vacation mindset at home, Paris was the first time in all of my travels that I experienced home problems on vacation. Foolishly hoping for a guy that wasn’t interested in me was a home problem. It was not supposed to come to Paris with me. Paris was magical, and he was not to put a reality check on my magic.
And he didn’t.
And I’m glad I did. That was the start of me getting over him. That night I cried at the Eiffel Tower was my fuck-this, I’m-moving-on point. It would be a long process. It would take until early July of this year, to be honest. But I would get there. That night I cried at the Eiffel Tower was my change in perspective, and it had nothing to do with where I was. It was the result of my head finally catching back up to the present.
You see, friends, your thoughts travel with you, and that’s okay. Just remember to think in the now. Go into your adventures wholeheartedly, and feel free to redirect yourself as needed. You are allowed to do whatever makes you happy at any given moment; and as long as you are happy, wherever you go, even if you never board a plane to get there, I promise you’ll be well travelled.
About the Author
Maria Bellissimo was the protagonist of a sad, boring life until she turned her story into a happiness experiment. She chronicles her adventures in happiness on her appropriately named blog, The Happiness Experiment, which she hopes will inspire others to experiment with happiness. You can follow The Happiness Experiment on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.