We all have one. Some of us have more. Those places, those moments that we take ourselves to, that instil a sense of complete calm. Whether we’re at a bus stop in the pouring rain, or in yet another stressful meeting, travel to a happy place is sometimes, the only thing that keeps us sane.
None of these destinations need passports, transport or money, which is what makes them so wonderful. It’s travel without the hassle, trip-taking without the expense, pleasure without the pain. Let me explain:
Happy place #1
I’m nine years old. It’s a warm August night on the Presqu’île de Giens peninsula. Lying down with my mum and my gran, cool sand cradles my back. It’s almost 3am and I’ve never been allowed up this late. Above us, showers of shooting stars are exploding like fireworks every ten minutes. An intense silence is broken only occasionally by the gasps of others watching the spectacle. The action overhead is happening on a grand scale. It’s larger than the sea beside us. It’s the first time I’m conscious of how impossibly small I am.
Happy place #2
I’m 22. I come around slowly to the gentle lapping of water and the stranger sound of what I recognise as scuttling crabs. My tent is hot as dawn has long been broken in Punta Sal, northern Peru. Coming out into the world I’m tired but happy. As I watch the cool waters of the Pacific drop from the pale pink horizon and hit golden sand, complete calm washes over me. The day ahead holds little of note, but will eventually create vivid memories.
Happy place #3
It’s 2012 and I’m underwater. Looking upwards I pick out the eerie silhouettes of reef sharks in front of strong boat lights. Below and all around me, darkness cloaks the reef. I can only hear my own breathing and feel very distant from the outside world. Movement from my diving companions catches my vision in the light of a single torch beam. Across that same beam, tiny silver slithers of fish dart and dash for safety from larger predators that slip past the skin of my wetsuit. Surprisingly, dread of the unknown beyond my torch is overcome by pure pleasure.
For all the money and time we spend on travel, the purchase of invaluable experience pays us back in dividends. Steadily, we accrue a range of destinations that need no flight, no preparation nor introduction because we are already there. We can always find pleasure in our mind; happy places can alter our mood wherever we are in the world, whatever our situation.