Happiness Is Not A Destination, But A Way of Life

By: Douglas Fielding

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February 8, 2019 | 50th Anniversary Stories

In my early 20s I was hitchhiking through Europe and North Africa. I am now 70 and still traveling after 50 years. The places may vary but the experiences on every trip are as amazing and life affirming as they have ever been. I am struck that often what is most memorable and soul satisfying had little to do with what I thought I was coming to see.

On the Salkantay Trail toward Machu Picchu you see flocks of shimmering green parakeets flying through the high mountains and you realize they don’t only exist in cages at pet stores. As you behold Machu Picchu and look at the craftsmanship of the stonework, the terraced experimental plantings, and the drainage system that today’s engineers still call a marvel, you stand in wonder at this civilization of 600 years ago. Perhaps we aren’t really as advanced as we would like to think. Only by being there and seeing it can you be confronted with the obvious folly of thinking that old civilizations have nothing to teach us.

In Kenya,  I was there to see the animals. Driving down a two-lane dusty blacktop road on our way to a game park was a stream of people carrying 5-gallon gas cans. When I asked the MT Sobek guide, who lived in the town, he told me these people walk 5km each way, every day, to get water. This is just one of many traveling experiences that has taught me to be thankful for small things— that I found a friendly person to help me get where I wanted to go, a sunny day, and yes, being able to turn on the tap and have water come out.

In a small town in Scotland as we waited for the ferry that would take us to our next trek, down the street overlooking the bay, a white painted cafe with deep blue trim, whose motto is “The Only Thing That’s Frozen is the Fishermen.” On the way to the front door a sign that pretty much sums up what I have come to understand through wandering across the globe these past 50 years.

As you get older on these MT Sobek trips there is the affirmation that your vibrant physical life and wonderment of the universe isn’t coming to an end. I am as excited to explore today as when I was 20. This fall my wife and I will be trekking in Bhutan—my first time in the Himalayas—at least two hard hiking days and up to 13,000 feet just so I can walk along looking at mountains that are 25,000- likely the highest I will ever see in my life. I can’t wait.

Douglas Fielding, MT Sobek Guest

MT Sobek Trips: Machu Picchu Inn-to-Inn Trek, 2015; Epic East Africa, 2016; Hiking Wild Scotland, 2018