It’s not every day you see a 1985 camper painted like a giraffe.
I’d spotted this distinctive vehicle a few times over the past week and a half. But as luck would have it its driver, Steve pulled in behind me at the post office parking lot. Across both sides in large white letters reads, “The World Happiness Party.com”
I could have jotted down the web address or taken a photo with my smart phone. Rather than create a digital distance, I walked up to the cab of his camper and waved.
He began rolling down his window before I’d gotten close enough to exchange conversation…
“So I’ve got to ask, “, I said, “What is the world happiness party?”
“It’s a rigorous branch of psychology which studies how people can learn to be happier.”
I simply nodded, hoping he’d continue to explain; which he did in many of the same words written on the above mentioned website along with a few added twists.
In the first paragraph, it states, “The science of happiness is a rigorous branch of psychology which studies how people thrive and enjoy fulfilling lives.” A little farther down it offers:
“7 WAYS TO INCREASE HAPPINESS”
1) Strengthen friendships & family ties.
2) Get proper exercise.
3) Smile & laugh more. Savor life’s joys.
4) Cultivate optimism.
5) Practice generosity & philanthropy.
6) Develop a purpose in life.
7) Manage stress.
Had I not gotten into a face-to-face conversation with Steve I’d probably had less patience to scroll down the stark-white single home page of seemingly endless text. But some 3,500 odd words later it did end; repeating his mobile number several times and listing 24 pan-human character strengths:
“Strengths of wisdom and knowledge”
Creativity: thinking of new, sometimes artistic ways to do things
Curiosity: finding all topics fascinating; exploring and discovering
Love of learning: mastering new skills and knowledge
Open-mindedness: openness to alternative ways of thinking
Perspective: being able to offer wide counsel to others
“Strengths of courage”
Authenticity: speaking the truth in a genuine way; taking responsibility
Bravery: not shrinking from challenges; doing what’s right regardless
Persistence: finishing what one starts despite obstacles
Zest: living life with excitement and energy
“Strengths of humanity”
Kindness: caring, helping and doing good deeds for others
Love: valuing close relations with others
Social intelligence: being aware of the motives and feelings of others
“Strengths of justice”
Fairness: treating all people fairly, justly and without bias
Leadership: offering encouragement and direction to groups
Teamwork: working well as a member of a group or team
“Strengths of temperance”
Forgiveness/Mercy: forgiving others; not being vengeful
Modesty/Humility: not thinking oneself more special than one really is
Prudence: being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks
Self-regulation: being disciplined; controlling one’s appetites and emotions
“Strengths of transcendence”
Appreciation of beauty & excellence: … in nature, art and science
Gratitude: being aware of and giving thanks for good fortune
Hope: believing that a good future can be brought about
Humor: liking to laugh, play and smile
Religiousness/Spirituality: belief in higher purposes
The “7 ways to increase happiness” jogged my memory about a book I read on my first long journey entitled, “Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness: Walking the Buddha’s Path” The Noble Eightfold Path goes as follows:
1) Right view
2) Right intentions
3) Right speech
4) Right action
5) Right livelihood
6) Right effort
7) Right mindfulness
8 Right concentration
Both ultimately strive for the same purpose in slightly different words. Musing on this I tried to look up the dictionary definition of the word eupsychia (from theworldhappinessparty website)—to no avail.
A few pages into the introduction of “Vagabonding”, Rolf Potts says he’s never found the word [vagabonding] in any dictionary, along with noting, “It made me realize that, whatever name you give it, the act of vagabonding is not an isolated trend so much as it is (to crib a Greil Marcus phrase) a ‘spectral connection between people long separated by place and time, but somehow speaking the same language.’”
So, crack open his book to the contents page and just focus on the bold lettering of each chapter:
1) Declare Your Independence
2) Earn Your Freedom
3) Keep it Simple
4) Learn, and Keep Learning
5) Don’t Set Limits
6) Meet Your Neighbors
7) Get into Adventures
8 Keep It Real
9) Be Creative
10) Let Your Spirit Grow
11) Live the Story
So is the science of happiness, the noble eightfold path and vagabonding at essence the same?
In conclusion I “met my neighbor” who’d converted, as he said, “The world’s ugliest vehicle.” into something better camouflage for the African savannah. This bold camper transports Steve on 6 month rotations between one city to another, and everywhere in-between. Much of the time he lives under the giraffe cloak parking at places like Wal*mart (which allows free camping) for the night. During our brief conversation we talked about the crumbling structure of rural communities– within America and around the world—and how travel shapes us.
“My home is a 43 foot horse trailer.” I said, “and I’ve camped at Wal*marts across the US and Canada. I also write weekly for an independent travel blog.”
“I’ve actually studied the psychology of travel more than happiness.” Steve replied.
He wrote down his mobile number and email address on the back of a blue slip of paper and handed it to me out his window.
The front reads: “FREE TICKET to EU-PSYCHO-TOPIA!”