Bike tour - My Fascinating and Unexpected Journey

2016: A Most Fascinating and Unexpected Journey

Derek Personal Stuff, Perspectives 73 Comments

Bike tour - My Fascinating and Unexpected Journey
The year 2016 really was a fascinating and unexpected journey for me. It was an extremely happy journey, to say the least.

Okay, maybe I had a similarly brilliant year when I was 9 (after all, that’s when Krissy accepted the bracelet I gave her in the elementary school playground) but my memory is somewhat foggy at this point to know for sure. As far as my adult life goes though, let’s say after age 18, last year was extraordinary.

Now I could tell you that the happiness that persisted throughout most of 2016 stemmed from my travels. After all, it was certainly a year to remember as destinations such as India, Brunei, Philippines, Taiwan, Mexico, Lithuania, Romania, Cuba, Nepal, Maldives, Oman, Jordan and Israel filled my itinerary. It was one intriguing land after another.

Petra - My Fascinating and Unexpected Journey

But, alas, my happiness was actually not from the travel.

If travel was indeed the root, then I should have reached this level of crazy happiness every year since 1999, when I started wandering the planet. Those travels over the past 16+ years were without a doubt rewarding and beyond awesome but they all took place without the benefit of the extremely important lesson that I learned in 2016.


One Frightening Moment

Earlier this year, my unexpected journey began when I managed to finally start the process of breaking through most of the defenses I had built up over time, defenses that admittedly kept me from dealing with and overcoming my fears and personal issues, and as a result, kept me from enjoying myself as much as I wanted to. One day in Mexico, a particular person appeared out of nowhere and managed to somehow show me what was really missing in my life, what was standing in the way of real happiness and why it was vital for me to do something about it. Whatever part of me I was holding back, whatever I was keeping inside, needed to be released.

I remember very clearly the exact moment everything changed, when all that I had been holding back for so long started to burst out. It took place in front of a wall of graffiti. It was powerful, it was unexpected, it was mighty beautiful and yes, it was frightening.

Graffiti - My Fascinating and Unexpected Journey

Now this might seem obvious to many of you, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t to me. What I realized at that moment – I mean, really realized in a life-changing way – was that the happiness we all seek does not come from the destinations we visit, the activities we participate in, the work we do or, I don’t know, the food we eat (except for this place in Tel Aviv, it will actually make you happy quite quickly).

Instead, it comes from a belief that we actually deserve to be happy. That’s step one, nothing else. Without that step, we can’t progress, we can’t advance along the happiness chart. I know. I was stuck for a long time, thinking that I was entitled to only a certain amount of happiness in life and that I would need to accept that amount as sufficient.

However, wouldn’t you know it…once we realize that we do deserve to be as happy as humanly possible, well, it turns out that we can really be as happy as humanly possible. Okay, I don’t really know the official limits of happiness but I do know that I have now felt happiness in a way that I hadn’t felt before.

(I know, the dog looks a little freaked out.)

Coca - My Fascinating and Unexpected Journey


My Description of Happiness

The kind of happiness I’m referring to is when it doesn’t matter if I’m in the USA, Maldives or middle of nowhere Mexico or anywhere else, it doesn’t matter if I’m traveling or not, it doesn’t matter how much money I’m earning…it’s the kind of happiness that can take a simple night time walk along an empty street or being stuck at Jordanian immigration for 3 hours or any situation or moment for that matter and turn it into something special.

It really comes down to finding that spark, finding that positive state of mind and not letting go. Yes, for me, it was a special person that showed me the benefits of accepting and spreading such positivity all the time. And before I knew it, it filled me up and I was happy to be anywhere and doing anything, confident that I could handle whatever the world threw at me.

With this mindset, you can’t help but naturally spread that same positivity to others. The bigger taste you get yourself, the more you want to share it. When you show up completely soaked and shivering at a small restaurant in Jerusalem, after wandering the streets lost in a torrential evening downpour, the smile is still there. It’s not forced, it’s just there. And that smile passes on to the waitress and to all those you come in contact with. You don’t even think about it. The positivity just spreads on its own…and it’s a spectacular experience.


An Unexpected Journey, But Not Perfect

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not wandering around with a blindingly glowing aura of pure joy emanating from my body every second or anything like that (assuming that’s how auras work). Oh my, no. I had plenty of down moments this year too, just as we all do every year. I made mistakes, messed up, hurt others, had rough patches, lost a loved one recently (RIP Leo) and felt really crappy about myself at times.

Nothing goes perfectly.

This isn’t enlightenment I’m talking about. Far from it. In fact, I killed a mosquito the other day without hesitation.

All I’m talking about is pure, genuine happiness. It’s real, it’s there for us to experience whenever we can, and for me, it’s been a trip beyond my wildest imagination.

Dead Sea - My Fascinating and Unexpected Journey


What’s the Point?

I hope this doesn’t come across the wrong way.

My point with all this unexpected journey and happiness talk has no roots in superiority or anything close to that. After all, I’m 39 years old and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m still learning lessons about life that I probably should have learned a long time ago.

My main goal with this post is to give one example of something that I didn’t think was possible in order to show that, wait a minute, it is possible.

It’s no different than why I write about my travels in the first place. I still think it’s ridiculous that I’m doing all this travel, having started with only $1500 to my name back in 1999. In fact, because it’s so ridiculous and because I’m no different than anyone else, if I can do it, there’s no reason why you can’t travel like this, or in any way you want, too. That’s why I blog, to stress that point.

This post is along the very same lines. It’s just not about the travel.

Instead, it’s about finding a deeper, life-changing level of happiness in 2016. And again, if I can achieve something like this, I want to try my very best to help anyone else that might need a boost, just like I clearly needed, achieve it as well.

Here’s to your happiness!

Thank you so much for following along over the past year. I certainly look forward to hearing from you in 2017 and learning all about the goals you’re achieving, the lands you’re visiting and of course, the happiness you’re hopefully enjoying!

With love,
Derek

How was your 2016? What’s your thoughts on happiness? Any big goals for 2017?


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Comments 73

  1. Ramona

    Thank you for this writing, Derek. Really, thank you! It somehow made my evening. Made me think, but in a good way.

    All the best for your future. Keep feeling happy. Keep travelling. Keep inspiring yourself and others!

  2. kim

    Derek,
    I don’t think we ever quit learning lessons no matter how old we are. I so enjoy your blogs because you give me hope that one day I can enjoy a sunrise and sunset on foreign soil. Thanks so much 🙂
    Kim

  3. LifeOfBrian

    We all look for something that we are missing in ourselves or in our life. You can look for it in the art, like de Botton suggests – http://alaindebotton.com/art/ But of course, art is only a part of life. And traveling around and contacting people is one of the most direct form of life experience, settling down and working there being the most authentic, of course. In Mexico, I would have chosen a traveling route that reflects some of the Castaneda journeys – from wilderness to civilization, bring my newfound integrity with me. Of course, it could all be just indulgence after all.

  4. Alex Steven

    Hey Derek, thanks for sharing such a beautiful write-up on the positivity in life.You’re absolutely right, happiness is found within ourselves.Keep up your positivity.Good Luck!

  5. James Long

    Another great post Derek,
    Like the fact that it isn’t the usual wrap up of where I went in 2016 etc or best destinations etc. I have to say that everyone should at some point realise that you can all be happy. Of course that is different to each and everyone of us. Travel without happiness is akin to travel without a passport. Overly difficult and at times pointless in the restrictive nature of it. Plus no one is happy 100% of the time. When that sinks in I think that helps everything. People are constantly told they need to be happy all the time when in fact you wouldn’t realise the high points if you didn’t have the low.
    May 2017 be as good as that year with the bracelet….or even better who knows.
    Cheers
    James

  6. Rebecca

    This is such a great post. I can relate so much. I’ve struggled to be happy living in London with the pressures of life here. This year myself and my partner take our savings we were building up for a home and we’re off to travel the world! It’s important to be honest with yourself instead of listening to others opinions!

    Rebecca x

  7. Arianwen

    Lovely post. I’ve struggled to be happy this past year. It seemed everything came at once: a failed relationship; a failed visa application; and health issues that left me feeling tired and unmotivated. Finally I have the energy back to pursue new plans and I’m so excited! I actually think sometimes those bad patches are good because they put everything in perspective and make sure we don’t take happiness and health for granted 🙂

  8. Anu(TH)

    Your positivity and simplicity is truly contagious. We come so far in our lives and realize small things which we should have known all along. But when it DOES hit us, the message never leaves us 🙂
    Wishing you more of happiness. Cheers!

  9. Jim

    Hi, Derek, I was so surprised to open your blog and find your post on happiness, since I wrote my own happiness post this morning–it will appear on my blog (http://mindfulsearcher.blogspot.com) on Tuesday, which is when I try to post each week. In part, this is what I said:
    “if i could refine the essence of happiness, i would say that happiness is the ability to take life on its own terms, relishing each moment, readily forgiving oneself and others for any shortcomings, realizing that perfection is not the goal and is instead the enemy of happiness. gratitude, acceptance, openness, love–these are the cornerstones of happiness.” Reading your post filled me with happiness!

  10. Bama

    Happiness is contagious, people say, but it has to be a genuine one. I know someone who is constantly trying to be happy, but the more he pursues happiness, the more it stresses him out — and others around him. Happiness is something you should feel, not think. Glad that you had that big shift of mindset, Derek. Here’s to a year filled with more happiness, wherever life takes you!

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  11. Craig Brown

    Greetings Derek!
    Please don’t take this wrong, I’m super glad you are so happy, for whatever reason, and I don’t want to rain on your parade, but I felt let down by the lack of details in your story. What actually happened at that wall? My best guess is that you fell in love?? In the letter connected with the blog post you refer to how the reader can become happy too. But the most detailed thing you say is to believe that you deserve it. Don’t most people think they deserve to be happy? I think they would say so if you asked them. And it’s not so easy for anyone to go out and fall in love at will. People are trying to do that all the time, with great earnestness, and it often just doesn’t happen. Are you permanently changed? What if she/he just turned and walked away? I’m a follower and great admirer of you for while and I’d love to hear the details of what happen to you and how it affected your psychology. I doubt most readers will feel they can do much heavy lifting on “believe that you deserve it.” In any respect, I’m happy for you and I hope your feelings last forever and that you have a great 2017.

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      Derek

      Hey Craig – Thanks for the comment and actually, it wasn’t that I fell in love. It was just a major shift in my way of thinking. And while there were of course more details, the thing is that there’s a difficult conflict for me in terms of sharing my personal life on the blog versus my personal life being the only thing I keep to myself. So that’s why I didn’t go into more details…every now and then I like to keep some details of my life just for me since I do share a great deal about myself on here.

      As for people already deserving to be happy, I think on a superficial level, yes, we would say we do but I don’t think that’s actually the real case. For whatever reason (justification of our decisions, situation, perhaps), in my experience, more people are trying to take their situation and make themselves believe it’s as happy as it gets versus them believing they deserve to be really happy and then making the changes they want to make in order to actually reach such a higher level of real happiness.

      Most people aren’t overly happy it seems and come up with excuses as to why that’s okay. I’ve read articles about social media and how those who appear the happiest from their FB posts are actually the least happy…they are trying to justify their lower level of happiness in front of others to make it acceptable to themselves. So it seems that people don’t think they deserve to be really happy based on that.

      Anyway, it’s an interesting topic, that’s for sure. All I know is that I wanted to share, in the most comfortable way possible (for me), a major change that occurred in 2016. My apologies if it felt short.

      1. Craig Brown

        I’m actually glad that it wasn’t that you are in love (not that that also wouldn’t be a nice thing). If it was something to do with just your own perspective, then no one can take that away from you. Happiness, of course, is a big subject and a bit mysterious. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories about people who won the lottery and six months later they were at their previous level of happiness, whether that was high or low. And the opposite…people who had a major loss and also returned to their “normal” after awhile.
        Obviously, when someone has a great epiphany everyone wants to know what made it all come about, in hopes they could possibly replicate it, but no need to apologize for wanting to keep your privacy. Perhaps you have heard of Victor Franks’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning”? Regardless of one’s personal temperament, it does seem like a sense of meaning is important to most states of happiness, even when it’s a meaning for your suffering. You have lived a brave life and you have inspired others to live more authentically. From the outside at least, it’s pretty obvious that you deserve happiness. I’m glad your inside now matches what can be seen from the outside!

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          Derek

          Hey Craig – Well, actually, I am in love. I was referring to your question of what happened in front of the wall specifically, and that was a big shift in my thinking, which put me in a completely new and life-changing state of mind. But that event did take place because of someone special, someone who forced me to stand in front of and stare at that wall because she knew what I needed at that moment. And yes, I did fall in love with her, very much so. So it’s been a combination, that specific moment which then allowed me to experience love in a much more complete, intense and beautiful way, which resulted in the happiness that I speak of.

  12. steve

    Derek,,
    A person doesnt understand “tall”,, untill they’ve seen “short”!! or can’t comprehend “bright” – till they’ve seen “dark”!! and most of all,, cant appreciate good luck – untill theyve tasted bad luck…. if ive learned anything in my life worth remembering,, it’s that..

    you need a little bad now and then to know what good is………………. glad your happy,, if fact im Happy for you…………travel safe me friend!….steve

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  13. Tyler

    Excellent post man, I love these insightful pieces that you do. I still feel blessed to have met you. You truly changed my life and continue to be an inspiration. Happy New Year!

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  14. Clelia

    This post put a huge happy smile on my face! I can relate so much to what you wrote about happiness, as 2016 was a year of “enlightenment” on so many levels for me as well. Happiness, real happiness, is exactly how you explained it: first, you need to understand that you deserve it and when you do, it magically (or not so magically) happens. And it’s also true that when you are genuinely happy, you want to spread it all over, to other people, maybe because somehow it’s too much to handle or it would be selfish to keep it all by ourselves! 🙂

    Cheers to a great start of 2017! I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason, and 2016 was a perfect example of this belief. It makes me happy to read positive stories like yours! For all the people who are still looking for happiness, start by believing that you truly deserve it, never settle for anything less than that. It might take a while and a few scars and mistakes here and there but it’s a very small price to pay for what awaits you when you finally find it 🙂
    Thanks for the inspiring read Earl,and safe trips as always!

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      Derek

      Hey Clelia – I’m happy to know that you had a year of enlightenment and that you could relate to the post! Safe travels to you as well this year and here’s to more happiness as well!

  15. Alyson

    Y’know, something very similar happened to me this year too. I put it down to hormones. But I just can’t stop smiling. Waving at ya from Maramures, Romania 🙂

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  16. Wheelingit

    Lovely post…totally 100% with you. My own journey to happiness came from a dark place and took work to get to, but it exactly echoes the thoughts you posted here. Well said.

    Nina

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      Derek

      Hey Nina – I think the dark place sometimes needs to be experienced in order to see the other side of course and whatever the journey was for you, seems like you achieved the goal you were looking for!

  17. Bruna

    Hi Earl,

    I´ve just ofund your wbesite recently, but I already subscribed and I like to read the posts. I have a question, if you can answer me. Regarding your trajetory, you said you first got jobs, saved money, jobs again, then later got to find remote jobs. I am currently very interested in working remotely. I would like to know if it took you much t ime to be approved to start a remote job, for processes are generally slow and with many stages. I am applying to many, some answer me for interviews, others not, so I would like to know if it took much time to actually get this kind of job, which, I believe, is the meaning of freedom. Keep up with the good work. 🙂

    Best regards,

    Bruna Bonatto

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      Derek

      Hey Bruna – My jobs weren’t remote jobs in terms of working for a company but working from remote locations. My work was all online, work that I created for myself, so I didn’t need to go through a process.

  18. Jessica

    I never really read your posts, although I am a subscriber (I get enough emails!), but I’m glad I read this one 🙂

    This is my final day before I start winter semester… Although my struggles are different from yours, as I’m quite rooted to one place at the moment, I think I can definitely take your lesson of positivity and enjoying life, all of the ups and downs, and apply it to my situation all the time. I hope to go abroad soon, sometime this summer, and when I have travel complications (maybe I will also wait 3 hours at immigration? We’ll see!), I’ll remember to think positively and see the good in a situation, no matter how gloomy it may be.

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      Derek

      Hey Jessica – Ha, that’s all good and I’m happy this post connected with you! Seems like you’ll be well prepared for the time when you get out there and start wandering the world!

  19. Byron

    That was a great post, thank you! I’m trying to achieve that level of happiness as well. Maybe it will happen this year.
    For the first time in my life I’ve been away from home for more than 3 weeks. I’ve been travelling central/South America for the last four months and I think I’m on the way to your described happiness. No matter how long I spend on busses, or how dirty the hostel is that I’m staying in…. I always push myself to be happy because I’m free for the first time in my life

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      Derek

      Hey Byron – Nice! I know that feeling too. When you find a certain level of happiness, it doesn’t matter what comes your way as your approach and outlook always stays the same. Keep on enjoying your travels down there!

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  20. Rainiero

    Hi Derek, very glad you’ve managed to feel this way! At the end, isn’t happiness what we are all looking for? I’ll start a trip through Europe, Asia and maybe Africa this year. I was having some doubts about the blog I’m starting, but reading an inspirational post from one of the people you admire really helps 🙂 Thanks man, and have a great 2017!

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      Derek

      Hey Rainiero – That’s cool to hear and congrats on the upcoming trip! Seems like quite an adventure ahead for you. Just enjoy it, stay focused on that blog and remember that every obstacle is a learning experience. Keep me posted on your travels!

  21. Catia

    I used to believe that happiness had limits; it took a long time to grow past that, and it’s such a profound realization. So happy you found it! We’re planning for a June 1 start date to get rid of (almost) everything and hit the road for as long as it works. You’ve been a huge source of inspiration for making this dream come true, both in practical information and your creative spirit. A million thanks, and I hope to meet you on the road somewhere!

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      Derek

      Hey Catia – Congrats on that big change and I’m really happy to know that the blog helped out a bit! I really do wish you much success and rewarding experiences as you take off and of course, I’m sure we’ll cross paths at some point. Looking forward to it!

  22. Gillian

    It’s great that your perspective shifted, allowing you to experience happiness from within, no matter what is happening outside of you, and especially that you at last have come to realize your own worthiness of it. Likewise, 2016 was a tremendous year of discovery and transition for me, and my gratitude is unending.

    I have to say, though, I’m a little disappointed you didn’t share the story of what happened that shifted your view so dramatically. Perhaps it was too personal to share, and that I can understand and respect. I just thought that was what you were building toward. Perhaps you’ll feel inclined to share about it in the future?

    All the best to you in 2017.

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      Derek

      Hey Gillian – You got it right. It was very personal and while I don’t mind sharing personal aspects of my life on here, I do tend to keep some things to myself, for the main reason that it’s also nice and comforting to keep some parts of my life just for me. That’s always a challenge with trying to share as much of my journey as possible!

      1. Gillian

        Understood. You live a very public life on your blog, and you need to choose the things you keep just for yourself. Happy wanderings!

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  23. Richard

    With regard to your question about goals…

    I’ve set goals for most of my life and, for the most part, they’ve served me well. When I was a kid I picked strawberries, Marionberries, and pole beans, and I remember my mom helping me set goals to pick so many crates or pounds a day. In fact, those days gave birth to a goal of my own to never work for someone else again.

    At the age of 19 I dropped out of college in favor of jumping into a screaming hot real estate market and started setting performance goals for myself. I worked pretty hard, and over the years, setting goals for myself paid off and I enjoyed a level of success that exceeded that of most of my peers.

    Then, some years ago I read an article about a woman who boarded a commercial flight only to have such a bad feeling after boarding the flight that she decided to get off the airplane before it departed. The airplane crashed and all on board were killed.

    During an interview, the woman was explaining the phenomenon to a reporter, saying that she believed God “spoke” to her producing the awful feeling she felt in her “spirit” causing her to get off the fateful flight. The reporter asked her why she felt God only spoke to her alone and not any other passengers on the flight. The woman responded saying she believed God did speak to everyone on the airplane that day, but she was the only one that listened and took action. That statement was beyond profound to me. It stood out in the article like it had been written in red.

    I pondered for weeks, even months over the idea of having a purpose in life and receiving some kind of direction during one’s life to serve that purpose. The idea of avoiding tragedy and being directed to accomplish a mission instead of a self-created goal fascinated me.

    I began to think about events in my life that did not turn out so well. Looking back, I can honestly say that in many of those situations I did in fact, have an uneasy “feeling” that I just kind of blew off as it did not line up with a particular goal, or at least a desire, I had for myself. I continued to ponder.

    Fast forward to the present. As I sit and type this, all the material fruit of my life’s efforts is gone. At 60 years old, I’ve lost everything. I have nothing more than memories to savor and stories to tell for the years and years of hard work I endured. Every material goal I ever set now feels meaningless to me.

    I woke up a few weeks ago with the article about the woman and the airplane crash already in my head. I’m so intrigued by that woman’s decision to listen to whatever still, small voice she heard, or the feeling she had. Think about it. One simple decision based on one obscure, but real feeling. Her life was literally spared because of it and everything she’s done from that point forward… every person she’s touched or accomplishment she made, is because she listened. That is beyond profound.

    Moving forward I’ve decided to change the way I do things… the way I live my life. I’ve tried living a self-directed life, and while I don’t necessarily have regrets, I do wonder if I have a purpose or at least what I might have missed because I didn’t listen. Besides, directing my own life it hasn’t really produced the end I envisioned. Now, since I’ve been presented with the opportunity, I want to try something different this time.

    So it begins as I’m starting over with nothing. I’m going to try to live my life differently that I have in my past. I’m making a conscious decision to listen to my heart, my intuition… my spirit. I will make decisions in my life not to accomplish goals I’ve set for myself, but rather to seek direction and attempt to determine and fulfill the purpose for my life regardless if it seems logical or not at the time. Up to this point, I’ve directed my own life… now, I want to live a life directed.

    Here’s hoping yu all discover your purpose in 2017…

    Richard

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      Derek

      Hey Richard – Thank you man. Thank you for sharing that with us. It’s powerful stuff to start off the new year and I think it’s something we should all read over and over. I wish you all the best with your new journey sir and I look forward to more communication with you in 2017. Thanks Richard!

  24. Michal Pipinowski

    You are a broken man and you will never be truly happy. The girl will grow tired of your superficial lifestyle and move on. You won’t, though. Just saying. All the best for 2017 anyway. Love the blog.

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  25. Mark Baron

    I might be wrong, but I think that the first blog you have signed off with “Love Derek” you must be happy. 🙂 All the best in 2017, and looking forward to another year of blogs.

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  26. Karen McCann

    Words to live by, Derek, especially now, when so many of us are a bit anxious about what 2017 will bring. I will hold on to the thought that happiness comes from within and we all deserve it. Thanks for that, and for all your great writing.

    Cheers, and happy New Year,
    Karen

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  27. Karen McCann

    Words to live by, Derek, especially as so many of us are a bit anxious about what lies ahead in 2017. I will hold on to the thought that happiness comes from within and that we all deserve it. Cheers, and happy New Year!

    Karen

  28. Adrienne Fermoyle

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Derek. For me, what you are describing is what I call contentment…. When I feel connected to that internal sense of equanimity no matter the external circumstances.

    As you stated, I don’t always feel or respond from that place, but now I know when I am not and try to move myself back there as quickly as possible.

    I know that 2017 will give me lots of opportunities to practice 🙂 !!!!

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      Derek

      Hey Adrienne – That makes perfect sense and I think that connection is what helps ensure we don’t lose our way too often or we don’t dip down into a dark place for too long whenever things get rough. Good luck with 2017 🙂

  29. Jen - Jaunting Jen

    Derek, this is awesome. Glad you found happiness and a special someone. I hope that 2017 is even better. Only good things come out of Mexico. I can’t wait to go back, although I think we’re going on a Pacific Northwest road trip for most of this summer. Moving to AZ made me realize there is so much in the U.S. to see. Travel has changed so much since the turn of our century. Happy New Year 🙂

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      Derek

      Hey Jen – Well, the Pacific Northwest isn’t a bad option either for a summer trip…and to be able to do it for most of the summer is even better than a quick trip! Enjoy that experience and I also wish you a brilliant 2017!

  30. Ray

    Really enjoy reading these inspirational posts from you, Earl. Thanks for stressing how important happiness comes from within. I’ve never bought into the idea that “buying things” will make you happy since I value experiences over possessions. Happy to hear you found someone who could show what true happiness really is. All the best to you in 2017!

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      Derek

      Hey Ray – That’s a great realization to make, the “experiences over possessions” idea. It’s difficult sometimes to hold on to, especially with all the ‘stuff’ out there trying to get our attention and get us to open our wallets, but the more simple, rewarding experiences you have, the ones that generate happiness from even a few minutes of conversation, definitely prove more powerful in the end!

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