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Travel- Happiness- and Aging

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Travel, Happiness, and Aging


I am now back in the USA. A ten day stay that is now down to a week. Visiting my family, talking to some old friends. Things have changed. People grew up, people carved out the identities that they will carry with them throughout their lives. Stubbs is no longer afraid of women and is even going on dates. These times they are a changing.

We have grown up. It is simple as that.

I am now an adult. A man. An old guy. I tried some things, failed, found out what I like and what I don’t. I have dabbled with identity. I have accepted the fact that I do not really know what I am talking about. I am all over the place, but I feel solid. I like what I am doing. I no longer jump between vast pursuits or feel as fickled or as unsure as I did when I was younger. My youth is a ship being towed away to some port on the lee side of India to be disassembled and broken down into scrap metal, and I happily bide this ship a hearty farewell. For it was a good run.

I now look into the mirror and only see some old guy looking back at me. Where have I gone? I want my hair back.

I am getting older, but I am not old. I smile when I wake up each morning. I found a way of life that I enjoy. Getting older just seems to mean that I have had more time to better learn how to make myself happy. I am far happier at 26 than I ever was at 18. It takes some years to find out how you click. I am just beginning to learn my own buttons. Maybe someday I will be able to sing my own song.

I no longer get as many looks from pretty girls and my own pretty looks are going right down the bucket. But I have something that I did not before- confidence, experience, self-awareness, better humor (the latter point can be argued). I would not trade these character qualities for the angular and chiseled good looks of any fashion model. I take my bushy beard and my balding head and my wrinkly face with a big smile, as I know that I earned it. My derogated appearance is my shrine to a life lived how I want. I have learned many lessons and it shows on my face. I am content, I may even be able to say that I am happy.

I remember listening to a friend who was around 50 years old speak to me a few years back. She was an old traveler and had spent around twenty years wandering around the world. Her face looked like leather and her body was reminded me of a spider monkey. She was beat. But she spoke pure wisdom so I listened carefully to her every word. One day she was knocking back some beers and she turned to me and said that she would never want to be 18 years old again- no way- no matter what, she would not want to be any younger. “Why would anybody want to be that stupid again!” she yelled. She then began speaking about how age brings personal qualities that pretty young people could never have. You learn how to live with yourself, you learn how to be happy, you earn confidence.

This happiness, this confidence, is worth all the good looks in the world, I say. Give me a bald pate, wrinkly face, and a woman with saggy old boobs. I once thought that youth was the greatest time in a person’s life. I feared becoming an adult. But I now know that my fear was unfounded. Youth is fun, yes, but it is only a mere prelude to the beautiful times that will come. I am 26 years old. I am still in my youthful days, but they are coming into their twilight. I still look forward to my birthdays.

From where I am standing, it seems as if the world is just as rich and wide-open for those in their thirties, forties, and fifties as it is for teenagers who are just looking upon their first days. Perhaps it is even richer for those who are old enough to know what to do with it. If a life is a work of art then I say the more paint the better. With each passing year layers of character are smeared over your weathered canvas and this is richness that can not be matched by the stupid days of youth. A time and a place for everything. The world and human experience are both vast. I was told by some old guy once on the coast of Ecuador that there is everything under the sun out there. I know this is true, and so I smile. Personal happiness is perhaps the most important thing in the world. But happiness needs to be seized. It does not just knock on the door, walk right in, and crack open a beer. No, you need to search for the swarmy little bastard. My experience tells me that happiness should be worked for. Trials, tribulations, and self doubt are some of the best things that can happen to a person. A cheating girlfriend? Good. A bad wife? Even better.

Sometimes heads need to be rammed through the wall to see what is on the other side.

Life is about learning, and I think that the most important think there is for me to learn is Myself. I do not think that this is suppose to be easy. I will be dead and some monkey will be throwing my bones at the coconuts before I ever get anywhere. Happiness is something that is learned, earned. The man who knows himself is a happy motherfucker .

I feel strongly that no obligation should come before my own happiness. If I am truly unhappy, then I feel that everyone else around me will share in my misery. No plans, no set rules, no route, no suppose to bes, no obligations, no culture, no order, nothing that I ever have to do should come before the smile on my face. The world is open and vast and disordered. Nothing should come before my happiness. There is always another path to tramp, another road to travel. As Krishnamurti would say, “You are the center of the universe.” Maybe true selfishness is the key. For if someone was really, truly selfish, I think they would be the most caring, empathetic, giving, and loyal person in the world.

Happiness is for those who take it.

I have found a touch of happiness in traveling.

Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
Brockport, NY, USA
January 14, 2008

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Filed under: Travel Philosophy, USA

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Polis, Republic of CyprusMap