If You’re Not Happy Where You’re At, You Won’t Be Happy Anywhere Else

In The Now Girl - Priscilla Du Preez

Photo: Priscilla Du Preez

My earliest memories of involve lots of books strewn around the house. I suspect that it was my parents’ way of getting me to read. If it was, it definitely worked, and it’s probably the reason why I write for a living today.

Of course, after graduating from Enid Blyton and R.L. Stine, I found myself flipping through the Zig Ziglars, Dale Carnegies, and Napoleon Hills. As a sixteen-year-old, I never could relate to the lessons in those books, so for me, self-improvement was only something I’d read for fun.

But when I found myself alone and crying in Thailand more than a decade later, a snippet from How To Stop Worrying And Start Living popped right up from the recesses of my mind, like a piece of turd that refuses to be flushed down the toilet. It was a father’s letter to his son, and it went something like this:

Son, now that you’re a thousand miles away, I just want to ask you, do you feel any happier? Because the truth is, if you weren’t happy at home, you won’t be happy anywhere else.

I thought I was escaping life when I bought my plane tickets to Thailand.

Having just come out of a bad relationship, a failed career change (for the second time), and the passing of my mother, I felt like I had a lot to get over, so clearing out my bank account to go on this trip seemed like a practical thing to do.

But as it turned out, you can’t simply change locales and think that you’d be free of your problems. I had it all planned out. I’d live in a Muay Thai gym for a month, embrace the spartan life, and try to forget all of my problems.

The problem? There was something I just couldn’t leave behind, and that was my self.

Dealing with it

There I was, having just cleared the last USD 1,000 out of my bank account for this trip, then realising that I had grossly underestimated the amount of money I’d need for a month-long training trip.

Then there was the travelling light. I’d travelled too light, with just one carry-on backpack, so that meant not bringing a laptop along with me. Not that it would’ve mattered, as the Wi-Fi in the gym was sketchy at best. Oh, and I couldn’t afford data.

That meant that by the time eight o’clock rolled by, the gym would be a ghost town, leaving me alone with my thoughts, accompanied only by the tune of crickets and the occasional baying of a stray dog.

That was when I’d learned that I had lots of demons to get over, and it didn’t matter where I went—they’d be there for as long as I didn’t address them.

In The Now Small Group

When hi-res camera phones still weren’t a thing.

Party of one

I made some friends, though, and after one night of pretty hard drinking (the nak muays there have somewhat of a celebrity status, which explains me being able to party on a tight budget), I returned to my gym dorm with no one to talk to, having just waved my new friends goodbye as they whizzed off to their snazzier hotels around the area.

It was then that I broke down, after realising that not only had I failed in running away from my problems, I also had nothing to return to once this was all over. I trudged to my room, eyes blurry from tears, when the stray dog that’s been whining every night decided to walk alongside me.

So I talked to it.

Yes, I really did. I invited it in, gave it food and water, wrapped it in a warm blankie, then talked its ears out. I figured it was the least the dog could do, after the countless nights of me listening to it before I went to bed.

As crazy as it sounded, it actually helped me identify my common problems. Well, I mean, it could’ve also been the alcohol, but I’d like to think that having a non-judgemental living being around did encourage me to verbally identify my issues.

And you know what? I actually did feel better after that. I felt that I was taking the first step in dealing with life, and it opened up my mind to new opportunities that I wouldn’t have considered otherwise.

In The Now Doggo

The doggo that helped me admit I had problems.

Preparation meets opportunity

I had sent out a ton of job applications before I left for Thailand. I had logged on to Jobstreet and sent in my CV to every post remotely interested me. Teaching, marketing, accounting, you name it.

Also included in this run were the three writing applications I’d sent out on a whim. Two of them came back with job offers. In contrast, I must’ve sent out some fifty applications to other companies and none even replied.

Had I been in my old mindset, I would’ve just let the opportunity pass me by. Why even bother, with the sketchy Wi-Fi and all? I didn’t even have the experience, either. And starting over? Was that something I really wanted to do?

But I was feeling better after my little chat with the doggo (I never saw her again). For the first time in my life, I felt a brief spell of optimism, and I rode it out until I landed my new career.

A big group of people standing in front of a Muay Thai ring

I wouldn’t know it yet, but this would be one of the biggest turning points in my life. Try finding me.

Finding myself

I won’t say that that trip to Thailand changed my life, but it certainly taught me how to live in the moment. It also taught me a new appreciation for this quote: “If a man is right, his world will be right.”

It showed me that despite being broke, and despite staring down an unforeseeable future, it was still possible to choose to be happy, to be content with myself, to love myself. Because if there’s one person that I’ll never get away from, it’s myself. So why not learn to enjoy my company?

My future ‘getaways’ might not come in the form of a training camp in Thailand. It could be that next job offer, that new house, or finally writing that bestseller. And while looking forward to those things can be nice, it shouldn’t be the conditions that I should base my happiness on.

What’s more important is that I learn to be happy wherever I am, whenever I am. Because if I can’t do that now, then I probably won’t be happy anywhere else.

80 thoughts on “If You’re Not Happy Where You’re At, You Won’t Be Happy Anywhere Else

  1. “The problem? There was something I just couldn’t leave behind, and that was my self.” Oh my, how I have had that revelation myself as well. Great post!!

  2. Hey Stuart. Great post. I was pleasantly surprised but the content. Great to know you more. Experiences make us stronger and more resilient. Our thoughts follow. Great life lesson. Thanks for being so candid.

  3. I absolutely relate to all of this. It’s very much like to perspectives isn’t it and gratitude. If we are always chasing chasing chasing the next best thing, we are essentially never standing still to enjoy the fruits of our labour.. Thus, how could we ever be happy?

    • Yes indeed. Sometimes we just need to take a step back and appreciate that this moment will never repeat itself. That usually puts things in perspective, especially when bad things are happening. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

    • It’s still very much an ongoing process for me as well, as it’s not easy to remain grateful. Thanks so much for your comment, and I wish you all the best on your appreciation journey!

  4. Great post. The subject is quite dear to me as, aged 47, I’m planning to move again, start afresh again, look for a happy steady life, again…

    • Go for it with all your heart! I’m rooting for you. Yes, it’s always tough to start over, and your brain will be asking you why the heck you’re doing this, because you could continue the way you are and be fine.

      But life is about not doing the best you can, isn’t it? So show it what you’re capable of. Wishing you all the best!

  5. So true! Lovely post and a reminder of when someone challenged me about all my travels and asked me “what was I running away from?” I denied it of course, but it got me thinking. Happiness is in the heart. Blessings Joy

  6. First of all, you are daring and brave 😂

    This is a really good and relatable post. You will run but you will still have to deal with it. Sucks that it works that way 😂

  7. A good and self-aware post, Stuart. Thanks for sharing. I related to your story because journaling does for me what the dog did for you. I started journaling around 2012 and have had an off and on again relationship with it depending on how busy I was in my life. But nowadays I’m sticking to it very regularly, and it’s quite nice to use it as a vehicle to get my thoughts out of my head to a non-judgmental recipient (my recipient being the Day One journaling app). Talking with a person about things is always good, but sometimes I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to hear someone’s opinion about my thoughts. I just want to get it out. That’s what journaling does for me. it’s my dog. :)

    • A fellow journaller! I’ve been doing it every day myself, and it does help me work out my problems, mainly—I think—because it helps slow down my thoughts when I focus on the specific problems, and allows my own mind to reflect over what’s going on with more clarity.

      Thanks for sharing your story. Here’s to wishing that we have more outlets throughout our lives!

      • Yup, very true. Slowing down and thinking things through is the key. Writing guides me through that process, sentence by sentence. Enjoy the hobby!

  8. I’ve never traveled, but I remember when I used to commute by train to the big city for grad school, the issues I was having were magnified as soon as I stepped on that train. Before my class, instead of meeting with other students, I’d wander around, carrying them with me. I went to two different schools, and at the first one (which I dropped out of) I was so lonely and out of place that I couldn’t take it anymore. I wound up going to another school and finishing the degree but it was so hard because I felt out of place. It was like an imposter syndrome thing. I didn’t feel confident at home and I felt 100% less confident there. I should have solved the issue here, not expect it to be fixed there.

    • That’s such a valuable insight. At least you’re starting to learn the problems that follow you, and thus can’t be solved by simply ‘escaping’. I think a lot of people never actually discover that difference.

      Still, actually addressing the problems aren’t as easy though. Wishing you the best on THAT journey, Hetty!

  9. Stuart, a great read – it really resonated with me and helped solidify the mindset I have been working on recently. Thank you x

  10. OMG I read “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” a million times! And, I read like a thousand other worry books… Um…I still worry. Ha! Anyway, I relate. You can’t run from yourself, no matter how hard you try.

    • Lol yeah, I’ve learned from reading so many self-help books that applying one small lesson is infinitely better—and harder—than reading every lesson everyone has to offer. Thanks so much for weighing your thoughts!

  11. Very insightful post. Thank-you for sharing. It’s inspirational reading posts by other writers and reading their own personal struggles and realizations about life.

  12. A most enjoyable piece, and a nice little reminder that happiness does indeed come from within. I was thirty before I realized happiness was entirely my choice, and not to be determined by external circumstances! I work hard to maintain that outlook, but a little reminder like this article is always of help.

    • Yeah, it’s quite enlightening to know that we have all we need inside us. Maintaining it, on the other hand, is a totally different practice altogether. One that I have to keep working at. Thanks for sharing your wonderful thoughts!

  13. Loved this. Especially the part about if you aren’t happy at home you won’t be happy anywhere. ( and I’m writing this happily from home ❤️)

  14. This is such a wonderful story! And a great solution to the problem of being unable to go anywhere without bringing yourself. Much like any travel companion, our selves can be difficult at times, but there’s always a better chance of things improving if we choose to work with and accept them rather than wishing they’d just leave us alone.

    • Yes! That’s exactly the message I was going for, and I’m so glad you saw it that way. We often try to push ourselves away, not knowing that it’s the acceptance that leads to an easier time, even though facing our demons isn’t as easy as it seems. Thanks for this wonderful comment!

  15. I enjoyed reading about your experience and insights. Sounds like a good basis for a novel btw. The flip side of the coin is maybe that sometimes getting away helps you to reinvent yourself and get out of a rut. Starting over can become a habit of its own, though :-)

    • Indeed, most of the characters in my novels—and sometimes the setting—are inspired by the events and people from these experiences, so I feel blessed to have gone through this.

      Yeah, I totally agree too, and I’m going to mention Jim again for his wonderful comment here saying that perhaps I came to this conclusion exactly because I was there in Thailand, lol. Thanks for your thoughtful words!

  16. This was really interesting for me to read now. I’ve been guilty to looking to change the external factors of my life that I’ve been unhappy about (eg. job, living situation). My therapist and husband said at different points that changing jobs / living spaces probably was not going to make me happy. I got mad at both of them for saying this because I thought they were telling me to remain stuck. But they had a point which you also made here, in that I needed to get at the root, because otherwise, changing circumstances or scenery wasn’t going to make me any happier.

    • But sometimes, like Jim said in a comment above, it’s doing these things that make you realise that perhaps it’s not the answer. Maybe you wouldn’t come to the same conclusion otherwise.

      No matter which you choose, I too hope that you get to the root of it, and not just try to smack a band-aid on a gushing wound.

  17. Pingback: If You’re Not Happy Where You’re At, You Won’t Be Happy Anywhere Else – curiouskida

    • That’s so true! Confronting our demons isn’t that big of a deal when you think about it, but when it comes time to actually face them, it takes quite a bit of strength! Thanks for stopping by!

  18. Wow. This is exactly what I needed to read at this exact time and place in my life. Thank you for articulating your thoughts and feelings so well, as they helped me realize my own. I enjoyed this piece and look forward to more! Thank you for sharing!

  19. I feel like we have a good deal in common. Or maybe you simply write really well. Your post tells the same story as mine except every detail, place and event is different. In the end, I had no choice, none, zero, but to look inward for happiness. I did find it. I also found that you have to work on it. It strikes me that the balancing energy to this is that we work on being unhappy too. Only that is lot easier.

    • Oh yeah. Sometimes I’m glad I got ‘forced’ into the option of looking within, so to speak, and yes, I too agree with you that it takes work. Just because you decide to be happy with what you have doesn’t mean it automagically happens. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I love your thoughts in this one.

  20. Thanks for stopping by “Write in Your Pajamas!” You have some great ideas here. Hope to see you again…
    Molly/aka JazzCookie

  21. Great post !!! Gosh!! I have not read this kind of thing for so long!! I have been looking for a perfect place to live. I’ve tasted five continents in my life and I still did put root anywhere! I always want to “go”. This post of yours told the truth – escaping. And yet, the things I tried to go away from will always be going with me because it is me! LOL –

    • Whoa, five continents is a lot! In a way, it’s great that you didn’t put your roots in anywhere, because that just helps us realise easier just how important it is to deal with our internal world instead of the external. Thanks so much for this wonderful comment!

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