Journey, not destination

In the last couple of weeks, I have spoken with many friends about the concept of happiness as it pertains to life’s pursuits, which has forced me to give thought to my past experiences and the reasons why happiness eluded me for so long in my life. The following is the sum of my thoughts.

A surfer finds joy on a blustery day in Tofino, BC

A surfer finds joy on a blustery day in Tofino, BC

Life is not about destinations. Or perhaps I should argue that a happy or satisfying life cannot be about destinations, because destinations are temporary at best and completely illusory in truth.

We have been taught that it is important to set goals, to aim for a destination, and to a limited extent, I agree. Where I struggle, however, is in the assumption, the programming that suggests the goal will bring happiness, that at your destination, you can rest.

For most of us, this sets up a couple of problems.

If we do not succeed in achieving our goal or reaching our destination, then not only have we failed, but more insidiously, we see ourselves as failures.

But even in those situations where we achieve our goal, arrive at our destination, we are faced with the daunting and disheartening revelation of “Now what?”

In Costa Rica, when you finish exploring the jungle, there is still the mountain to climb

In Costa Rica, when you finish exploring the jungle, there is still the mountain to climb

For despite the momentary glow of success, we cannot rest. We must seek the next goal, identify the next destination. And the cycle repeats, ensuring that for all but the rarest of us, we will fail, we are failures.

Part of the challenge is that for many people, the idea of a goal or destination presupposes that we are not sufficient in the now, that our lives are incomplete and would somehow be better over there.

We don’t make enough money. We are alone. We have not achieved the heights for which we are destined. We—as we are today—are not good enough.

It is good to push boundaries. It is good to strive.

And while those two statements may sound contradictory to the questions I raise above, to what I have decried, I don’t think they are.

Pushing. Striving. These are actions, not endpoints. And that makes all the difference in the world.

A goal or a destination, a predetermined endpoint, is fine, but only in so far as it gets you moving in a direction. After that, it is meaningless.

Life is in the movement. It is in the process. It is in the journey, regardless of where that journey takes you.

Destinations and goals give us opportunities to shift the direction of that journey, but they are not the point of or the reason for the journey.

We are like photons in the universe of our lives. Without movement, a photon has no mass. When we cease to move, we cease to exist.

It is our movement that gives us life, and our interactions during that journey that gives that life meaning.

Feel free to set a direction, but be prepared for and welcome the changes that come along the way, for it is in that journey that we will truly live and ultimately find happiness.

It is enough to experience the world; you do not need to conquer it (Montezuma, Costa Rica)

It is enough to experience the world; you do not need to conquer it (Montezuma, Costa Rica)

An example from my life:

Early in my writing career, I worked for a magazine in Washington, DC. Every year, my boss and I would set goals for the next 12 months; e.g., 3 features, 10 department articles, 20 short pieces. And being a little Type A, I would accomplish my benchmark within 3 months. At the end of the 12 months, I might have tripled or quadrupled the expected output.

I would demand a promotion, and I would be told no…there were apparently other factors not included in my annual goals before I could be promoted. This pissed me off.

But surprisingly, even when I received the promotion, it was not enough. I needed the next one. I set the goals and again, felt held back despite achieving the goals.

And very quickly, the job I loved, the job I practically ran toward every morning in anticipation, became a leaden weight. I ceased to write for the love of writing. I was miserable.

In hindsight, I can see now how much I learned on that job—not the least of which was “office politics”—but at the time, all I could see was failure. It was the journey that helped shaped the man I am today, not the endpoints. I might have been happier had I realized that then.


The following video is a rather clever summation of my thoughts. Thanks to my friend Agah for pointing me to it!

Slitherers of Costa Rica

Before we left for Costa Rica, my brother warned me about hiking on jungle trails.

“Be careful what you grab when you climb a hill because that may just look like a branch.”

“If you have to step over a fallen log, step with a walking stick first to make sure the only thing under the log is dead leaves.”

“Tap out your shoes before you put them on in the morning to make sure only your toes reach the end.”

Okay! I get it! The creepy crawlies aren’t just beautiful. Can we go now? You first!

Luckily (I guess), the only significant nasties I managed to see on our trip were housed in a serpentarium near Volcan Arenal. And as I suspected, they were quite beautiful.

Water course

Despite our best efforts to stage life with garden ponds, nature has a way of making them her own in very short order.

I find myself enraptured by the epic stories told in such confined spaces, losing hours of my life in these mythic displays.

(These photos were taken in Montreal; Volcan Arenal, Costa Rica; Kona Kailua, Hawaii)

Life is messy

Reflections on things we cannot control

(Respectively, photos taken in Toronto; Hope, BC; New York City; China Beach, BC; Chilliwack, BC; Volcan Arenal, Costa Rica; and Montezuma, Costa Rica)

Waterfalls…but only when pushed

Considering my fear of heights (I can’t even watch a film of a cliff face), my fascination with waterfalls intrigues me. There is something about the descent of all that water that just amazes me.

Maybe it’s the power. Maybe it’s the freedom. I know there’s a thrill.

The following photos were taken in a variety of locations, including British Columbia, Costa Rica and Las Vegas.

Loathe to sloth

I have to be the only person I know for whom the mammal sloth and the deadly sin sloth are seemingly unrelated.

As I traveled Costa Rica recently, my eagle-eyed brother spotted an amorphous blotch in the tree tops at the side of the highway, so we stopped.

After a few clouds parted, the blotch slowly unwound and took the form of a sloth…a very active sloth, in fact…wait, two very active sloths.

The following photos were taken between Volcan Arenal and La Fortuna.

Man, who woke me up? I took lots of photos of a bundle of mossy fur, only to suddenly have her unfurl and make a move up the tree.



Mom, why is it suddenly so bright? We were astounded when we realized it wasn’t just one sloth but a family.


Hey you, with the camera, bugger off! Look at that face…for an animal that usually looks dead, this one is pretty animated. Wondering if baby has something to do with it.



Who you yelling at, mom? I can only imagine how large the baby’s claws are and what they would do to mom if she didn’t have that thick shag.



Snack time.


The great thing about photographing sloths is once you have a good angle, you have all day to click away. They move, but not very quickly, and given their roost about 50 feet off the ground, they don’t really have to.

Birds of Costa Rica – Volcan Arenal

On a recent trip to Costa Rica, I had the pleasure of spending time with some avian friends who seemed quite relaxed about having their photos taken. The results make me crave a decent telephoto lens.

The photos that follow were from a couple of days in the area of Volcan Arenal, which had annoying gone dormant a year before my arrival.

This little guy seemed a bit distracted, so I had more time to take his picture.



Every time this fellow tried to make any headway at a feeding station, he was chased off by the whack-jobs known as the Montezuma Oropendula.



Patience is a virtue and he was extremely patient with me.



The whack jobs themselves. I am still working on capturing movement.



Vultures are everywhere down there. I liked the contrast against the cloud. There’s something both ominous and majestic to me about these birds.



I wish I’d gotten a better shot of this fellow–his plummage was gorgeous–but he was not very patient, spent a lot of time moving through branches, and I was losing my light.