Jefferson, Travel, and Happiness


In a letter to a family member, Thomas Jefferson wrote "travel makes you wiser if less happy." in the letter he goes on to expound on the value of travel yet how it wises one up to the world beyond our borders. Through the letter he encourages this family member to focus on education over travel here at home.

After a recent trip I've re-read this letter, and can relate very strongly to what he is saying. At home I work for a large corporation, I deal with other large corporations complaining, and over emphasizing their value, and how we need to cater to them. I deal with 2:00 AM phone calls because a CEO has nothing better to do with his time, and I deal with the term "fire drill" where someone important creates an issue where there doesn't need to be one.

On my overseas trip, however, I dealt with real issues. I saw orphans living in  small cement building, so crowded full of kids that each tiny little bed shared two kids.  I saw a country with an unemployment rate over 80%, compared to our 8% that we complain about here. I experienced police checkpoints, where cops pay their salary via the bribes they get at each stop. But most importantly, I saw people trying to improve the overall world we live in. People who were focused on saving wildlife on the brink of eradication. I met people from other countries who were there trying to make the world better, to have an experience that makes them better, and who cared about more than the bottom line of the corporate dollar.

Yet upon my return, I re-enter the surreal environment of my daily life. A life of repetition and exhaustion, where each day leads to the next with no break in between, and an answer to what I did on a Monday, is the same as a Wednesday or Friday, and on some days even a Saturday or Sunday.

I think Jefferson was witness to this on his travels as well, and when encouraging his nephew to stay at home and get a good education, he was also encouraging happiness in his nephew. They say ignorance is bliss, and it is true because through our own ignorance we don't realize how miserable we truly are.

Comments