My name is Brad, I am 28 years old, and I am addicted to discovery. This is usually the part where most support groups respond in stale unison, Hiiiiii Brad. With that said, this is an addiction I have grown quite fond of and have no desire to kick.
Allow me tell you how I came to find this addiction and please let me to start from the beginning.
In 2008 I graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Psychology and Business. I was bright eyed, bushy tailed, and ready to tackle the world. I was focused, as most all of us were, on setting out to achieve the American dream of a high paying job in an exciting field, maybe a nice house in the suburbs, a beautiful family, and a life of what at the time, seemed canned but perfect. Already I could begin to envision the future holiday cards my family and I would send out to loved ones.
In 2010 I landed a job that would prove to be the first major stepping stone in making those dreams a reality when I began working for what at the time, was a 15-person technology start-up in Palo Alto, CA called Wildfire Interactive. Fast-forward 3.5 years, the firm was 450 employees strong, and was acquired by Google for heaps of cash. So there I was, just 26 years of age, in the high paying management role I had always dreamed of, working for a company that has been consistently ranked the number one company to work for in the world.
I was living in San Francisco, an amazing city, especially for someone in the tech space. I drove a nice luxury car and rented an amazing home with the most incredible cityscape views. I had a wonderful group of well-accomplished friends, all on brilliant career paths. I was dating, trying to find that woman to move into a nice cozy apartment with in the city, before starting a family and heading out to the suburbs. To put it simply, everything was falling into place perfectly.
But something was missing...I could not put my finger on it, but for months I struggled to find happiness.
Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I was scared of what I once always longed for. That is not to say I was scared of committing to the life I set out to achieve, but rather, I was scared I would later look back on my life and rather than relish in the good, I would instead think about what I could have done differently or what I may have missed out on. I was scared of not experiencing life to the fullest. I was simply scared of following the path that I was always made to believe is the path that everyone should follow. I was scared of regret.
With a heavy heart and pretty much no game plan, I walked into Google one day and quit my job with the intention of setting out on a 12-month journey around the world. Within two weeks of that very day, I had sold all of my belongings, other than one bag full of clothes and booked a one-way ticket to Europe.
As opposed to regaling everyone with stories of my partying at the most ridiculous clubs in Europe, or sunbathing on the most amazing beaches Australia has to offer, or riding a motor scooter through the middle of nowhere in Southeast Asia (if you want all that, just check my Facebook page), rather, I would like to address the title of this article, and talk about something of substance, as opposed to just telling stories with the intention of creating jealousy.
At the time I actually quit, I thought I knew why (I would later find I was wrong). In my mind, it was simply to travel for travels sake and forget about life for a while. I quit "life" for a brief moment to take some time off to see some cool shit, and hopefully to find whatever it was that was missing. This all made sense to me at the time.
But the truth was, I really had no idea why I was doing what I was doing. It was actually a therapist I casually met one night while out in San Francisco about 3 days before I left for my journey that brought this to my attention over a beer. When I told her of my great up and coming adventures, unlike most who responded with animated jealously, she simply looked at me with a blank face and asked, "So what are you running away from?". Leave it to a therapist to make you really start to question your biggest and boldest life decision to date...
That question however, absolutely haunted me at the time, and truly made me believe, maybe I was actually running away from something. For the first several weeks of my travels, I continued to allow this question to linger constantly. Did I make the biggest mistake of my life? Was I just scared of commitment? What the hell was I running away from!?
It was only later in my travels and experiences along the way that I learned something that would change my life forever; I was not running away from anything at all, but rather running towards something, anything new.
Often as I do, I dwelled on this concept for a long time. I came to the personal self-realization that through my travels I had tapped into something special that most people do not find. I believe that I was unconsciously able to tap into my innate human desire to discover.
This desire exists within everyone. The need to discover is planted in all of us from the minute we are born, and is vital to our survival. It is instinctual for us to learn and to experience new things. Humans do this everyday, but over time, it becomes so mundane and trite, that we forget the joy that actually comes from it. Often many of us are too wrapped up in the minutia of our day-to-day lives and tasks, that we forget the exultation that actually comes from discovering new things.
As children, we knew the joy of what it meant to discover. Do you remember the feeling you had the first time you built your very own Lego castle? Or when you first discovered that riding a bike without training wheels left you wanting to just cruise off into the sunset and feel the wind blowing in your hair?
I am not saying this need for discovery can not be met in the work place or in every day normalcy; however, the VAST majority of people out there are simply not challenged to the extent necessary to produce the feeling of happiness that comes from constant discovery. And even for most who are, this feeling tends to come in waves and is often suppressed by the blinding stress of our everyday responsibilities. I was absolutely one of these people. This is what I was missing.
When I traveled, I saw new things, I met new people, I learned about new cultures, I experienced entirely new experiences, but what was key, was that for the first time it was clear to me how happy these discoveries made me. Suddenly I could feel the child-like wonder returning to me and the rush of this was a high I will now crave for the rest of my life. It was the same feeling and rush I got that first time I set off on a two wheeled bike expedition throughout the neighborhood, free from the shackles of my training wheels and parents.
For me, this sense of wonder produced from discovery, came in the form of travel. I do not want to write this from the point of view that most articles I read on this subject comes from, which is to say, this is why you should travel. For me, travel was my own form of discovery that made me happy and helped me find myself. For you out there reading this, it very well may be something completely different. Perhaps for you it might be signing up for that dancing class you have always wanted to take, or starting to write that novel you always wanted to write, or paint that painting you always wanted to paint.
Whatever it is you do not know, you will never know it, until you know it. Obvious as that sounds, its true, and only you have the ability to create change in your life that will allow you to discover the unknown.
15 Months after my journey began, I now find myself in an entirely new role with an entirely new mind set on life, with entirely different aspirations and priorities for my future. I currently live in Florence, Italy and work for a travel company called FlorenceForFun that specializes in running trips around Europe for study abroad students.
I no longer own a car, let alone a luxury vehicle. My wardrobe is about 1/20th of what is used to be. The entire size of my little apartment (which is shared with 3 others) is about the size of my personal bathroom at my old house. I have no television. The wifi situation is rough, I get paid just enough to scrape by, and contrary to the popular belief of my family and friends, my job can actually be quite stressful and demanding at times.
With all that said, I am the happiest I have ever been.
My job affords me the ability to do what I love, to travel and to discover, and not only that, but to share that passion with hundreds of people on a daily basis.
Now that my life is slightly more routine then when I was whisking myself around the world, I have learned to stop and appreciate new discoveries in my every day life. All of us do, or see, or learn, or experience something new every day, however, it is all too often we forget to take time to think about what makes that so special. Remembering to take that time has been the key to my happiness.
The lessons that I have learned from my experiences have taught me that I can live life the way I want, and just because it feels comfortable to live in a certain way, does not mean that is what will make you the happiest.
I understand not everyone is in the position to do what I did, but everyone has the ability to mold his or her life for the better. Everyone has the ability to stop and smell the roses. Everyone has the ability to ask themselves at the end of their day, what did I discover today?
Find your travel. Find your passion. Find what you love, and find your key to unlocking the joy of discovery.
Happy Happiness Hunting :)
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