Add Interest to your Happiness Quota!

The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.
Bertrand Russell

A wide range of interests: how do we develop that? Is it possible to deliberately broaden our interests? Many people assume their interests are fixed, their hobbies and pleasures as adults have already been determined. But we don’t assume the same about children, so why should we limit ourselves?. “Try it; you may like it” we tell our child about any number of things—a new food, a new activity, a new skill.

“Try it, you may like it,” I told my husband, encouraging him to travel with me when we finally had the freedom and means to do so.

Travel, we learned, is not only an interest: it ‘s a developed taste. Developed by trial and error, that is. My sister and her husband drive their motor home all over North America. Ian and I quickly discovered that driving is not one of our interests, despite the freedom and independence it affords. We get lost; we can’t find food/ a hotel/ a restroom when we need them; we emerge from our car seats stiff, lethargic from inactivity, and nauseous from the exhaust fumes of the other cars. He drives too slow; he drives too fast; he won’t let me drive at all.

We tried coach tours. Many of our friends swore by them; ‘someone else does all the work, you just have to go along and enjoy’, they told us. Again, it was not for us; packing and unpacking our suitcases every day, rushing frantically from one sight to the next, herded together like sheep watched over by a harried sheepdog, feeling like chastised children if we dared slow down to actually look at something, think about it, take two pictures instead of one. Of course, I did all three anyway—we were not your ideal bus tour travelers.

Ian was inclined to give up. He suggested lawn bowling.

“I need to see the world,” I told him. How could we get someone else to do all the work, without having to live by their rules? Almost by accident, we stumbled upon cruising, and found a method of travel suited to out tastes.

We have widened our interests to include the world—or as much of it as can be reached by water—but according to Russell, that still isn’t enough. We must also have a friendly or positive reaction toward the things and people that interest us. Now, if this were a normal hobby, I assume that would be easy enough; it’s easy to talk to someone who’s clever enough to share our interests. How can we not respond positively to people who like the things we like?

With travel as the interest, however, the people and places we meet up with are not like-minded fellow travellers; they are, themselves the object of the hobby. And they come with attitudes and opinions and cultures very different from ours. Travel becomes not only a taste, but a skill.  Suddenly, Russell’s admonition to react in a “friendly rather than hostile’  manner, ‘as far as possible’ makes sense.

And isn’t that one of the tenants of happiness? That we react to life in a positive manner?

If there were any thing more likely to help a person develop this attitude than travel, I can’t imagine what it would be.

And so we find ourselves this month cruising up the Danube, learning, I do hope, to react in a friendly manner to all the foreign attitudes and cultures we are certain to meet with.

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About Jane Ann McLachlan

spoken at several events, including Write!Canada, Canwrite, and Montreal Worldcon, short stories published in Storyteller Magazine, B.A. in English Literature from York University, Toronto, M.A. in Canadian Literature from Carletion University in Ottawa. Jane Ann McLachlan writes fiction and memoir and teaches business communications and professional ethics at Conestoga College in Kitchener. She has published two college textbooks on Ethics, The Right Choice and Ethics In Action. Interests include writing (fiction and non-fiction), family, reading, public speaking, volunteering.

Posted on May 17, 2012, in On Travel. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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