No. I don’t think so.

I think traveling, especially when you’re traveling alone to someplace far away, will only enhance whatever feeling you’re feeling at that particular moment.

The thing is this: our feelings can be expressed through different outlets.

Those who are sad can wrap themselves up in a blanket or go out to party all night long. Those who are angry can punch a wall, swear on the top of their lungs, plot a revenge, or make a painting with black ink.

The thing is when we travel, our feelings stay the same.
Most of the times, it is our outlet of expression that shifts.

When we are sad, traveling won’t actually make us instantly happier. But being in a new place, meeting new people, or forced to be in an unfamiliar situation, enables us to navigate our sadness differently. We are still sad, but we are channeling our sadness in a different way–a way that may not come to us naturally.

And this is what, most of the times, feel like happiness.

But is it possible to travel sad and come home happy?

Sure, it is.

However, instead of focusing on ‘how to be happy’, maybe we need to focus on ‘how to be sad’ instead. Sadness, or other ‘uncomfortable’ feelings such as disappointment, anger, or shame, is present to build us up as a person. They are present because we need them in our lives. They exist to impart a wisdom, a lesson, a message–but most of the times, we are so eager to push them aside so as not to feel them entirely, simply because we’re too focused on the neverending chase of the so-called ‘happiness’.

Many things masquerade themselves as ‘happiness’–or the feeling of contentment.

Well, ‘masquerading’ may not even be the exact word, because when we’re giving enough time for the less comfortable feelings to be processed internally, sometimes those feelings find their most appropriate outlets of expression, and transform into a more comfortable feeling, like happiness, contentment, fulfilment, peace, or even pride.

A few years ago, I attended a talk by Dr. Dave Logan about how to feel your anger and use this feeling to ‘unleash your dark side‘. Think of your favorite superhero movie: a lot of superheroes use their anger or sadness as fuels to do something good: something that is much bigger than themselves.

Valiant Budi, a good friend, befriended his sadness, depression, confusion, and pain as he was recovering from a brain hemorrhage, through writing. Recently, he published a novel called Forgotten Colors, where the main character who suffered a hemorrhagic stroke is trying to make sense of the world around him as he grapples the space between imagination and reality.

Writing is also my outlet of expression.

It helps me to process the less comfortable feelings inside of me, and an outlet I am comfortable to use when giving self-discovery retreats, classes, or workshops. For this reason, when I was sad, angry, disappointed, or lost and decided to travel, I would travel to a secluded place where I could write without interruption.

But sometimes, my feelings find different outlets of expression, too.

I told my friend once about this, “When I’m sad, I don’t travel to be happy. I only travel to be sad somewhere else.”

Traveling alone, for me, is not an escapism; not in a sense that I am running away from whatever feeling I am feeling at the moment.

Traveling, for me, is a way to let those feelings in (not out), completely.

It is a way for me to process those feelings clearly–without having to be interrupted or compromised with prior commitments, work meetings, house chores, daily habits, or well-meaning friends wanting to take me out to ‘have some fun’.

Being surrounded by unfamiliar things when we travel forces us to find a different outlet for expression to channel our feelings. When I travel, instead of writing, sometimes the outlet turns into meditating, reading, practicing yoga, joining art workshops, walking by the beach, or even working on a new passion project.

We can feel okay being sad, angry, hurt, or disappointed–when we can find constructive outlets of expression, instead of destructive ones.

And sometimes, traveling to an unfamiliar place, force us to find those constructive outlets of expression, that in return, makes us feel okay, happy, or even content.

It’s not about pushing the feeling away. It’s about feeling the feeling until it becomes love (or at least, something closer to love).


8 Responses

  1. Hello Hanny :*
    Very interesting points, but doesn’t depends on what makes us sad?
    If our sadness comes from something around us – for example family, friends, weather, culture – a change of environment will help.
    Like removing the source of unhappiness.

    1. Indeed. That’s why sometimes I also feel the familiar feeling of ‘relief’ when I travel and (mistakenly) think of it as ‘happiness’ 🙂
      However, most of the times, the seed of unhappiness is still there, on the back of my mind, waiting for me.
      It doesn’t leave me just because I decided to leave it “at home” 😀
      And this is what I’m trying to grapple with during my travels, even if in the beginning, the reason to travel is merely to escape the unwanted feelings or situations.

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Legs and Apples
Do it because it’s fun. Because it brings you joy; because it’s meaningful to you. Do it because it gives you simple tiny pleasures. Do it because it makes you smile.
The view from De Klok
I took another digital detox this weekend—I limited myself to a 5-minute screen time on Saturday and Sunday to quickly check my business account. I closed my social media account for the rest of the days.
Hanny illustrator
I am an Indonesian writer/artist/illustrator and stationery web shop owner (Cafe Analog) based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I love facilitating writing/creative workshops and retreats, especially when they are tied to self-exploration and self-expression. In Indonesian, 'beradadisini' means being here. So, here I am, documenting life—one word at a time.