Red-eyed and sleepy after hours of weather delays, I read a story in an in-flight magazine late last night about the happiest man on the planet. He’s a young man, 24 years old, and he’s not been educated in the traditional sense. Instead, on a small piece of land in western Colorado his family raised him to pursue what he wants… and only what he wants. Read when you want to read, play music if you want to play music, and ski and snowboard if you want to ski or snowboard.
The result, according to the article, was not a spoiled brat who got what he wanted—indeed nobody handed him anything and he lived in his own shack 12-feet by 7-feet since grade school. Rather, he became a young man mature beyond his years, one who travels for days at a time through nature, surviving happily on the land and helping others realize that less is often more.
He is a survivalist in ways, but only to demonstrate to others that it is the experience of life that matters, and living on those experiences is what’s important. He talks of the misgivings of what is normal in America. “People go to school and study hard to get good grades so they can get into college. They go to college and study hard so they can get good grades so they can get a good job. They get a job and work really hard so they can make money to buy the things they think will make them happy. I decided, if all this is about getting happy, I can take a short cut. I can be happy right now.”
He smiles often and takes joy from nearly everything that surrounds him, and he sings with his friends but not to get onto American idol—just to sing. He catches trout with his hands and starts fires with sage and a stick. Perhaps most interesting to me is his take on religion: he is a dedicated Christian but he insists on not rejecting any other beliefs. We could probably use a little less rejecting right now.
I think of my own boys and wonder what I can do to encourage them to purse their own interests, to forget the “things” and pursue the “experiences”. They surely love to travel and I will take them on a big trip this summer. I wonder how I can encourage that trip to translate into a daily focus on life. I write these blogs specifically to remind myself what is important (I like writing, it’s not work to me). If any of you run into me or my boys, please give us a gentle reminder about what it is that matters. Happiness now sounds pretty good.
I hope to see you out there,
Founder & Director
Natural Habitat Adventures
True, “nature guy” is an extreme, but as you point out, extremes can provide valuable reminders about maintaining balance when we start getting caught up in the “more, better, faster” mindset. Especially important for those of us trying to raise kids with core values that’ll help them find true happiness (without relegating them to a shack out back!). Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I hear you. I, too, have obligations AND try to get “out there” as much as possible. I could never pull off the same free life this guy does (kids, job, etc., all of which I love!) but it just sorta’ reminds me of what is important. Take care and keep on riding!
I read these articles from time to time, extolling the virtues of freedom and non-materialism … everything described in this wonderful, inspiring article. It’s all good, and who could argue? But you know, I am WAY materialistic, I LOVE to make money so I can buy things. And you know what? I’m happy too. I’ll bet I’m every bit as happy as that dude singing when he wants to sing and riding when he wants to ride.
No, I can’t do those things everytime I want to, because I’ve got some obligations that don’t always allow it, but that’s okay, I’m fine with that. I sing and ride plenty often enough, and enjoy it all the more when I do. Perhaps most important of all, I don’t get hung up on my materialism. I love it and it makes me happy, but I DON’T let it get in the way of all the other things that I enjoy. That’s the key. It also makes me really happy to help others be successful … and often times that means in their own materialism … so be it.
Either way, it’s all in your attitude, and I’m happy with mine.