A fellow travel blogger asked recently: “how do you find joy while traveling?” The question confused me for a bit. Is finding joy in your travels supposed to be a conscious act? For me, the act of traveling itself is a joy. There is no need for me to have to find it, it’s already there.
Joy is the brief anxiety I feel before leaving for an international trip; the mixed feelings of fear and excitement about going somewhere all by myself makes me happy, no matter how contradictory it may seem.
It’s the smell of exhaust and the slow rumble of engines of buses gearing to pull out of the terminal, bringing to mind the earliest memories of my childhood as my mother towed me and my brother (mostly me) from one destination to the next.
Joy is also hearing the boarding announcements and the sound the immigration officers make as they stamp my passport. It’s the clack-clack-clack of the tally counter as flight attendants count passengers before lift-off.
It’s my first sight of a foreign country; the people, places, and food so different and yet so the same. It’s the conversations I have with locals, the questions I receive for traveling alone, and the offers extended to me to share their home and their lives even for just a brief period of time.
Joy is the interaction I have with fellow travelers in hostels, hearing stories of where they’ve gone and where they’re going; it’s the shock I feel as I see roommates undressing in front of me like it’s nothing.
It’s also the feeling of weightlessness as I float on my back in the blue-green waters of a small island, the feel of the pebbles under my feet as I hike towards the peak of a small hill.
Joy is the look and smile from someone I barely know, a look that says we’re kindred spirits, and maybe a promise of something more.
It’s the flicker of desire I feel for someone I just met, knowing nothing will happen and being content with it. I know that not all potentials need to be realized. What’s important is that it’s there. And if our paths have intersected once, who knew that it won’t intersect again in the future?
“How do you find joy while traveling?”
Thinking about all these possible responses to the question, I realized that there can only be one answer for me: I find joy in my everyday life, whether I’m traveling or not.
It’s going home from a trip, no matter how short or how long, and seeing familiar people and places.
It’s picking ripe guavas and seeing roses in full bloom in my garden, tended proudly by an elderly neighbor who takes pride in her work.
It’s the soundless meow of my cat Jumper as she sidles up to me, looking for a petting or a kiss, or the snuggle of my cat Kabs as I get ready for bed.
It’s the feel of my breath going in and out, in and out, as I run the first kilometer after months of inactivity.
And it’s in the wordless thanks of a random stranger as I help her cross the street, or carry her bags up a flight of stairs.
Indeed, joy, for me, is everywhere. I just have to open myself to it and it floods me daily, whether I’m home in the Philippines or somewhere up in the mountains of Nepal, paragliding with a view of the Himalayas in front of me.
I don’t need to find joy, it’s right there in front of me and all around me, waiting to be seen, acknowledged, and appreciated. Traveling is joy, yes, but for me, life itself is also full of joy.
How about you? How do you find joy in your travels?