Today we are traveling for 2 months. We have seen and experienced so much already. At the same time, I notice I have become more relaxed and philosophic. Which I like a lot… Today I want to share some of my thoughts with you. Feel free to respond, as I am very curious about your view on this.
Almost 33 years ago I was born in Geldrop, a small village in the Netherlands. As this was the first part of the world I got to discover and the part of the world where I spent most of my time living. It set my standard of what is normal in life. But what is normal in life?
While traveling we get to see and experience so many different cultures, habits, and opinions. All of them with their own view on what is normal and what is bad and what is good. And all of them have evolved during the years to where they are right now and all are true in some way. How interesting would it be to compare the effect of these different cultures? Like what is the result of them on our happiness and how sustainable we live?
One specific topic of all these cultures got my attention these past weeks. The difference in each culture in our standard of comfort in life. How much comfort do we want and need and how much do we appreciate it? I have the feeling this is very different in many cultures, and we can learn a lot from each other.
To get a good view on this, let’s first define the word ‘comfort’. The dictionary of Cambridge defines it as “a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint”. To me it stands for feeling safe, living painless, making things easier and/or making us feel good/happy (for a while). This last part – ‘for a while’ – is something I got more and more aware of these past 2 months.
In the past decennia, I have the feeling we as humans have been striving for more comfort in life as a goal by itself. Looking at the definition, comfort could have a big impact on our happiness in life. But does it truly make us happier in the long run?
Let’s look at some examples:
- a warm shower instead of cold
- food that is ready in a couple of minutes with the microwave
- all groceries are delivered to our home address
All these examples sound much better. But do we still enjoy them all just as much, now that we have gotten used to them? Do they truly make us happy?
It is now a hype with the Wim Hof method to take cold showers again as it would be healthier (resulting in better blood flow, higher resistance, and more) and could give us a better feeling about ourselves as well. It makes us feel alive!
A thought that struck me: could comfort make us feel less alive as fewer senses are stimulated? A little bit of discomfort wakes us up, and makes us feel adventurous and excited. In addition, comfort often results in more time left for other things. A dishwasher means we don’t have to do the dishes ourselves. Ready-to-eat meals mean we don’t have to cook ourselves. But what do we do with all this extra time? And are those activities in some way maybe good for us as we do something with our hands instead of our head?
Now that I am spending time with locals here in Senegal, I got to see a totally different culture with different standards of comfort than I am used to in Geldrop. The people here live remotely and off-grid with several families together. They don’t have a tv or internet. During the day everybody has their own tasks. They farm, cook, clean, and built, all done with their hands. They don’t have much money, products, or a full agenda. The products they use are mostly made by themselves or by somebody else in the village, just like the food they eat. They eat what the land provides them and what they worked for together. Products from the region and season. In this entire process money has a minimal role.
A very different way of living than I am used to. At home, I earn my money without working with my hands. With the money I earn, I buy what I need to live. I have many products to live in comfort. Products they do not have here. I think it could be interesting research to compare cultures and their comfort and happiness.
Comfort is often seen as a luxury. But is it still a luxury when you are used to it? Or is it the opposite as we have so many different products and services to choose from? And not having comfort (for a while) when a product is broken, could even make us unhappy In addition, our footprint increases with almost all the extra comfort we have realized. If we don’t truly appreciate it anymore, could we maybe skip some comforts? Or use them sometimes instead of always? To appreciate and enjoy it again and decrease our footprint at the same time?
What would happen if we would strive for more balance with nature and our planet instead of comfort? Something I know for sure is that working towards living more sustainably is something that truly makes me feel happy these past years. I understand it is a luxury to be able to strive for this, as in many cultures primary needs are the goal of the day. But as I have the luxury to do so, I am not done with this topic. I even have the feeling it might give me answers on how to make our lives more sustainable without decreasing our true happiness.
Feel free to share your thoughts on this topic, as maybe we can find some answers together.