When turning the last page of Guillebeau’s Happiness of Pursuit you almost start wondering how you’ve managed to stay this happy with your comparatively uneventful life. Your one-year trip to a foreign country after graduating from college isn’t worth mentioning anymore, on the contrary: it’s embarrassing you decided to come back at all.
This sudden awareness of one’s unadventurous lifestyle and the hidden discontent that lots of readers probably have (why else would you start reading this book?) might be exactly what the book is aiming at.
In his book, Guillebeau asks the reader a couple of questions: is there something you feel unhappy about or which bothers you and which keeps lingering in the back of your mind? Do you have a great – but slightly crazy – plan that keeps asking for attention while you are desperately trying to live a ‘normal’ life? Are you really aware that one day you won’t be here anymore? Is there anything you feel deeply passionate about and you want to give it the attention you think it deserves, even when others won’t understand and won’t give their support?
If you have answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, chances are there’s a seed for a Quest planted somewhere inside of you, and it is trying to grow and turn into a beautiful flower (or a shrub, or – with any luck- a giant sequoia).
Guillebeau’s Quest was to travel all countries in the world (he succeeded) and afterwards he decided to find and interview like-minded people who had Quests of their own. The Quests aren’t all about travelling the world: we read about Hannah who decides to move to Israel and hike the National Trail, or about Phoebe Snetsinger who set the world record for the most sighted birds, but also about Julie, who decides to train her own guide dog after learning she will gradually become blind, or A.J. Jacobs who read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in one year. The described Quests fall into different categories such as ‘Exploration’, ‘Athletic’, Self-discovery’, ‘Documentation’, ‘Academic’ and many others. By discussing so many different Quests (although all of them meet certain requirements) the doors are opened for the insecure reader who feels the urge to change his or her life, but has no clue on where to start.
One of the tips given in this book is making lists: start with a ‘bucket list’: a list of things to do before you die. Start writing and see what comes up. After picking a quest (or a task – to start off small), start calculating the costs and start listing the steps you’ll have to take to make the Quest a success.
“Why go through all this effort while I can sit on the couch and watch Netflix for the umpth-time?”, you might wonder.
Maybe this book is not entirely about having a Quest, but about shaking you up a little. For some (author included), the necessity to see life as it is (a once in a lifetime-experience, pretty painful and awesome at the same time, and definitely not something to let wither away) and doing something with that insight, is much more important than avoiding risks and being moderately content all the time. Having goals, quests and/or adventures to tick off your list show you – quite literally – that you are not taking this life for granted.
As Guillebeau explains to us: some of life’s struggles become more bearable when there is a sense of purpose. We tend to work harder when we feel passionate about something, we tend to feel more useful when we have something to work for, en we become more grateful, more confident and feel more alive when we work to achieve something and see that this hard work pays off – whether financially or emotionally. For those who feel the urge to change their life a little or a lot, The Happiness of Pursuit definitely puts you in the right state of mind to begin.
Inspired by Kristen Goldberg – who created a life list (things to do while alive) when she was sixteen and is still ticking off the boxes on that list- your author has made a list as well. Enjoy.
- Travel through the Southern States of America (preferably by Greyhound) for at least a month.
- Go on a World Cruise (on a big ship, please).
- Sail the Orinoco.
- Be a passenger on a Mississippi River Boat.
- Go on one big trip with my parents.
- See whales.
- See a white shark from a cage.
- Go to the Storytelling Festival on Cape Clear Island once more.
- Visit an old sanatorium.
- Do a course on phytotherapy.
- Learn Portuguese.
- Course on speed reading.
- Course to eliminate the fear of flying.
- Course on Southern Gothic Literature.
- Learn to bake at least one spectacular and delicious vegan cake.
- Run for 10 kilometres (I know, it’s nothing).
- Become so good at yoga that I can stand on my head (maybe a course in India?)
- Start eating vegan for at least one month.
- Start writing more often and more regularly, focus on essays. Write an essay every two months and get at least one published during my lifetime.
- Make traditional corn bread in a skillet (buy a skillet).
- Volunteer in an animal shelter.
- Live in a climate neutral house.
- Have my own vegetable garden in my own garden.
- Pay off my debt before May 2019.
- Raise and have my own dachshund and go on adventures with her (boyfriend and kids allowed on the adventures as well)
- Hatch quail eggs and keep the quail as pets.