The last few days I’ve been pretty depressed, but today changed all that.
I got the Airbnb in Haifa and had a great Friday with a new friend. But Saturday was garbage (see: Screwing Up Plans). Sunday I overslept again, wasted an hour trying to find a way to Masada/the Dead Sea, then bailed on that after hotel rooms were $400 a night. Wasted another hour finding a hostel in Jerusalem, then finally got out the door at 4pm.
I got on the bus to Jerusalem, and was I feeling depressed the whole way.
I couldn’t quite figure out why. I knew I was upset at myself for screwing up a bunch of plans on Saturday, not being able to make the Masada trip work, and constantly oversleeping. But taking all that into account, I was still feeling a disproportionate amount of “ungh.”
I got to Jerusalem, checked into my hostel, and walked into my room. My roommates were two German girls, an Irishman, and an older man from Seattle (who we all suspected might be a chainsaw murderer). The Germans were in the middle of avoiding a conversation with a very intent chainsaw murderer, and shortly after I walked in they asked if I wanted a smoke… clearly looking for a subtle way out.
So the three of us went and sat on the roof. As they shared a cigarette, we started talking. And I started to relax and feel happy again.
Afterward, they went to bed and I grabbed dinner with the Irishman and another American girl who’d been traveling for 3 years. Sitting outside, eating a falafel sandwich, and talking to them made me feel even better.
Today, the Germans and I spent the whole day together. We went to Bethlehem and Temple Mount this morning, took a bus to En Gedi and swam in the Dead Sea, then hitchhiked back with a Russian tourist and his two young children. Sometimes we’d talk, sometimes we’d ride in silence, but the entire time - I felt great.
They went off to Tel Aviv, and on the way back to the hostel I stopped to get some shawarma. I ended up talking to a nice couple from San Francisco who got married, quit their jobs, and have been traveling together for the last 7 months.
That’s when I realized why I was unhappy before, but so happy today: I don’t like traveling alone.
I don’t particularly like even being alone. My happiness levels went up significantly when I stopped living by myself. I’m always happier working around friends, even if we’re working on different things. And I’ve always preferred couch surfing over staying in hotels… so it makes sense.
My happiness levels plummeted when I stayed by myself in that Airbnb in Haifa. Then they rose the minute I walked into this hostel. They shot through the roof when I was with my new German friends all day today.
I’m happier when I’m around people. This isn’t a huge surprise, but I’d never been slapped in the face with it quite this hard before. In Seattle I might feel a bit down, but with the inevitability of daily life, I’d eventually feel better. When traveling, especially as spontaneously as this trip has been, the feelings were magnified and there was no daily routine to accidentally fix things.
Other big things I suspect contributed to this feeling that don’t warrant a whole blog post: erratic sleep schedule (being unable to fall asleep until 4am and sleeping until 2:30pm), erratic eating schedule (waking up well after lunch will do this to you), and poor diet (way too much bread/candy). I’m sure there are more, but these are definitely the most obvious factors.
With these in mind, I’m going to start redesigning aspects of my life to include more of the things that make me happy. I’m going to start thinking about the answers to questions like:
- How can I work with people more?
- How can I not travel alone?
- How can I develop a system that discourages wasting hours before bed and just going to sleep instead?
- How can I lock down my diet?
- How can I eat more “on plan” when traveling?
- How can I eat more consistently when traveling (and at home)?
If you have any recommendations or answers to these questions, or want to share what makes you happy and how you find ways to work those things into your life, leave them in the comments.
While the Germans and I were sitting on the rooftop talking, a horn blew. Suddenly, it was like the entire city burst into song. Every night, at the same time, every mosque all over the city begins their evening prayers. Huge crowds of people gather at hundreds of sites to sing. It might sound kind of hokey, but it reminded of the end of this famous Doctor Who quote:
"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, the sea’s asleep, and the rivers dream. There are people made of smoke and cities made of song.”
That’s what it felt like. A city made of song.