One of the surprises of this adventure was the amazing variety and number of people we met all over the globe from around the globe who we felt had a great spirit and positive energy. Many have been uncompromisingly following their passion, not just as a recreational pursuit but as a central element of their life, typically also generating income. This clearly seems to be a major source of sustained happiness. We have learned from moments with these people, from observation, from conversation, reading, and living a life focused on simplicity, purity and nature.
The key learnings for us from this trip are:
- Many people have lifestyles significantly different from our typical lives in the industrialized Western world, and often these lead to a more balanced and satisfied life
- Key elements from lifestyles of other cultures that deserve reintroduction to “our Western world” are humbleness and kindness, which form the basis of compassionate living
- We need to save our planet from ourselves, we are in the process of destroying the very basis of our existence
- There is lots of great energy in people with a positive spirit and solutions exist to tackle this seemingly insurmountable challenge of saving our planet
The futurologist Richard Watson has a clear view on happiness: “What most people ultimately want is fairly straightforward. They want support and respect from family and friends, meaningful work, enough money, freedom from violence and abuse, and a community that cares for everyone. People also want, in my opinion, a shared vision of where society is heading. Deliver all these things and happiness is a natural by-product.” On our trip we did not visit truly third world countries, but we spent a lot of time in countries where people made less than 2 $ / day. The large difference to the Third World was that they lived in self-sustainable environments and their traditions include respect for Mother Nature. And sure enough, we often sensed deep states of bliss and true happiness, from looking at their eyes or speaking with them, or living with them. We found some common elements across the islands we visited:
- Simplicity: living simple lives without excessive media input or material goods
- Nature: living in harmony with nature as it provides the water, air, food, shelter to survive
- Community: living together rather than trying to get ahead in life at the cost of others
- Compassion: random acts of kindness, gentleness, the human touch, caring
It is raw, real, simple living. The place where this was exemplified best was the last stop of our tour, Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean. You could argue that these are farmers who have not seen the world, and in most cases that is probably accurate. But I truly wonder whether the elevated stress levels produced by our urgency to cut up time into little pieces, the abundance of material possessions, access to a seemingly never-ending streams of information in written, audio and video formats, really are a better way to go on the path to true happiness. We are certainly not implying that living in these countries or living like these people is a solution for making our own lives happier and more balanced. In a sense we have gone too far already in our lives to be able to live a basic life for a prolonged period of time – at least for most of us. But clearly, letting the elements from the life of these happy culture flow into our own lives is a good thing. Just being aware that simplicity is good, nature is important, identifying the community around you, and being more gentle and kind should add to our life quality. Life is good!
Tony Hsieh, founder of the Ecommerce company Zappos.com (sold in 2009 to amazon for 1.2 billion $), recently published a book on delivering happiness and has made this the primary goal of his life and of the company he has created. I quite like one framework of happiness he uses, which identifies sources of happiness as PLEASURE, PASSION and HIGHER PURPOSE. Pleasure is chasing the next high and typically does not last very long. Passion is manifested in FLOW activities, where you are truly in the moment, seemingly forgetting the world around you and indeed yourself; this last much longer. Higher purpose or meaning is your mission in life, a sort of Nirvana state and lasts the longest.
On our trip we met lots of people who had charisma, an aura, positive energy. Looking back most of them shared the common theme that they made a passion a central part of their life. Here are some examples:
- Deeljeet and his painting
- Mike and his surf school
- Tim and his surfing and film-making
- Dylan & Mike and their guitars
- Kevin and Mike and playing with their kites
- Pete and extreme surfing, kiting and painting
- Cheryl and diving
- Anneke and snowboarding
- Eugene and ocean photography
- Alice and indigenous Maori art
- Charlie and tennis
- Björn and running and surfing
- Tomas and his surf shop
- Deb and recycled clothing
- Taj and world championship surfing
- Jason and cooking
- Gabi and extreme kite surfing
- Michi and surfing the globe
- Brenda and healing
OUR PLANET IS A MESS – AND WE CAN FIX IT
Our planet is so amazingly beautiful. On our travels we have come very close to nature, we have seen its beauty everywhere and come to respect it. We have also learned a lot on this trip about the state of our planet, and there are signs of Earth’s destruction everywhere. Our newfound knowledge comes from speaking with people, looking and reading. There are plenty of things that have gone wrong, issues we need to deal with range from climate change due to global warming, to demands on energy supply, biodiversity, fresh water, and our oceans and forests. If you look at the facts and timelines, it is clearly time to act. The great news is: there is an increasing number of very inspiring people who are aware of this and are actively involved in educating the world about it and finding and implementing solutions.
There are the eco-activists such as
- David de Rothschild and Adventure Ecology (www.adventurecology.com)
- Mike Horn and Pangaea Expedition (www.mikehorn.com)
- Yann-Arthus Bertrand and HOME film as well as La Terre vue du Ciel exhibition which has been viewed by over 250 million people (www.goodplanet.org)
Clearly, our voyage consisting of traveling tens of thousands of kilometers by airplane, bus and car is not very eco-friendly. The close to half a million trees I planted in the British Columbia forests in the 1980s are hopefully still growing and helping to offset some of the carbon emissions. More importantly, we tried to speak to people everywhere on the trip about this global issue, tried to understand their specific situation and discussed small steps. Sienna and Robinson learned about the need to preserve our beautiful planet. I strongly believe we need to teach all of our kids that this is extremely important and make a sustainable life normal for them.
We have seen communities of earth-friendly people all over the planet, the modern hippies. Examples are
- Montauk on Long Island in New York
- Lanikai on Oahu in Hawaii
- Motueka in New Zealand
- Byron Bay in Australia
- Margaret River in Western Australia
- Denmark in Western Australia
We have been very fortunate to have access to traditional wisdom from ancient cultures, in Hawaii, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Zealand, Rodrigues. They clearly all have placed a large value on their natural surroundings and typically worship mother Earth and father Sky. It seems like the truth embedded in this wisdom as related to sustainable living in nature is now more relevant than ever.
On this trip we received great inspiration from many people that living more compassionate and sustainable is possible. We want to change our life to be more compassionate and make the planet a sustainable environment for us.
Categories: Le Grande Finale