I wrote a blog post a couple years ago (still on my website, called Moving On in the travel section) about where we are now: Valun, a fishing village on the island of Cres, Croatia. What utter BS that post was! I wrote a letter telling Cres it was cancelled. At least from *my* life. Ha! As if a place cares if you ever return.
My reasoning was that I felt like I had outgrown the island. We had been about 8 times over the last twelve years, and I was ready to venture to new horizons. Not a bad idea, but after this roller coaster of a year, I am grateful to be anywhere that I can swim in the ocean. And the water here is spectacular. It is generally lovely here. I realize now (and probably knew then) that it wasn’t the destination that was the problem, it was me. I wasn’t happy inside, and I blamed it on where we were.
I’m reminded of about 30 years ago, when I was walking with my father in a sketchy neighborhood somewhat near my college. We were talking about my distress at where I had found myself physically in the world. I liked my college ok, but I hated being in a landlocked state (having grown up on an island) and living off campus alone. He said to me, ‘You know…I know you don’t love it here, but you need to learn to be happy wherever you go. I can be happy wherever I am or wherever I go. I would feel totally comfortable walking here alone, or actually anywhere. Happiness comes from within; it’s not a place.’
If we put aside his white male privilege, his point was that when you’re happy and content inside, you can literally live anywhere, travel anywhere, or just stay home and still feel happy. It’s not the external things in your life that bring happiness.
At 20, I thought, ‘yeah yeah yeah, your life is great; of course you’re happy wherever.’ But I still remember those words so clearly and looking back, it’s easy to see that for years, perhaps even decades, I always looked outside of myself to find joy. I tried finding it in other people, stuff, addictive behaviors (thankfully nothing too dangerous) … and on and on. It took me another 25 years or so to really internalize his message.
Sounds like such a cliché, but… happiness truly is an inside job.
So that’s why I wrote that this place in Croatia, our special place, was cancelled. I was done. It wasn’t the place. It hasn’t changed in decades—maybe even centuries. My internal compass was just off at the time. I wasn’t in alignment. I wasn’t grateful. I couldn’t appreciate small joys like a great cup of coffee or the feeling of the sun on your face. I always thought about what was missing or what could be better, what more I needed.
The events of this year—first my hospital stay, then Corona—have helped me realign my priorities and see what’s really important. Sure, it’s great to travel and get away from your everyday life, but it’s not the destination that makes or breaks your inner contentment. Once you’re in alignment and genuinely happy with yourself, nothing and no one can take that from you. Creating and living a life that you don’t need to escape from is key. That’s always a work in progress for me, but I am getting closer and closer each day.
So Cres, we are back on! We have to leave now but thank you for reminding me of this important lesson.