The other day I stumbled upon a post by one of my favourite FB pages berlin-artparasites. It said "Beware of Destination Addiction - a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job, or with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are" (Lauren Britt). The statement reminded me very much of my own journey, so I decided to write a few words about it.
I think my greatest Destination Addiction happened when I was a teenager. I had constant quarrels with my mum, I was bored at school and I thought that there were too few inspiring people around me. I was sure that life would be much better as soon as I would be at university. Guess what? That never happened. I hated most of the courses of my undergraduate degree and studying was quite a pain. What is more, the ratio of "interesting" to "not-so-interesting" people around me was the same as before. And the quarrels with my mum? Instead of arguing face-to-face we were now arguing over the phone.
Another case of Destination Addiction happened when I chose Cambridge as the university where I would do my PhD. Cambridge is known for its beauty, its famous researchers and its rich cultural life. Just what I was looking for. But again, the reality was disillusioning. I mean, I love Cambridge - but the day-to-day life of a PhD student is the same as everywhere else. After the first few weeks of excitement, you start thinking more about the weather and your laundry again. And you learn that even the most renowned researchers in the world put on their pants one leg at a time.
So I finally started to realise that happiness has very little to do with where you live and study. But I don't mean that we're not in charge of our happiness or that we have no choice. Quite the opposite actually. Instead of just moving somewhere new or hoping that a change in our environment will solve our problems, we need to be much more proactive.
In my own case, I realised that my relationship to my mum will only change if both of us work on our attitude towards each other. With regard to exciting topics at work / school, I found that it's not the big changes that made a difference, but the small changes. At each of my universities, I had to put a lot of effort into the choice of my courses until I finally found topics that I love. It was not the university that mattered, but dealing with subjects and papers of my choice. In terms of friendships, I realised that it's normal that you cannot identify with a lot of people around you. But it pays off to invest in friendships and cherish the few that you really click with. I had to be proactive and understand what I really need to be happy - instead of focussing on labels and shallow ideas.
In the bottom line, Destination Addiction is the false belief that happiness comes from outside yourself. It's easy to blame your circumstances and say "oh, once my situation has changed I will be happy", because it means that you're not in charge yourself. In reality, however, being happy comes from taking responsibility and working on your attitude. Learn how to get the most out of what you already have and understand that even if you move to that better place (new job, new relationship, new city), your basic problems will still be the same. They will only change if you change from within.