There is no road to happiness, happiness is the road.
One man’s search for meaning in life’s third stage …
In this travel adventure, Pete Martin experiences the joy of providing housing, schooling and football training to street children in Ghana. Subsequently, he embarks on a journey of discovery across various parts of Africa – a journey on the outside becomes a journey on the inside. The author comes to terms with the change in his life stage, from one of achievement to now one of quiet satisfaction, of being able to now say no to being indiscriminately busy and committing only to the right things, of surrendering to the present and enjoying the now as he travels in South Africa, Morocco, São Tomé, Senegal and Cape Verde. There is no road to happiness, as happiness is the road.
Soul searching for my true calling, the one activity to give myself up to that will replace ‘work’, I’m invited to a volunteering project – developing a football academy in Ghana. My initial wonderment in providing housing, schooling and football training to street children is soon lost in confusion as I observe the levels of poverty and the alien culture of the African continent.
I soon find joy and amazement in the elephant parks, ostrich farms and penguin sanctuaries before post–Apartheid South Africa leaves me with a sense of a country still remaining in racial divide. A poignant visit to Robben Island is followed by an emotional trip to a township kindergarten. I receive the warmest hospitality by Cape Town strangers, yet this jars with the discomfort of joining a group of white cyclists, the affluence of downtown Cape Town and the guilt of a night of luxury with the whites in Johannesburg. The bemusement in how Africa works only leaves me wanting to explore more.
Car accidents, conflicting desires and ego hinder the football academy’s progress. At the same time I am introduced to guardian angels, shamanism and finding joy in the present. The ups and downs of the Moroccan landscapes combined with the joy and frustration experienced in the imperial cities become metaphors for the struggles in finding my bliss.
My dissatisfaction with the football academy returns when I am back in Ghana. I witness young boys who dream of ‘making it’ to Europe for a better life, wondering if they should have such big dreams when the likelihood is that they will never achieve them, only ending up back in poverty or being exploited. Endless waiting becomes hard to tolerate. Incompatible styles of behaviour and a lack of fun are tough to accept to the extent that my values are severely tested. I have to make a brave decision to leave the academy. The lessons learned with the academy and with Africa itself – being respectful, treating others the way I wish to be treated and having fun – become symbols for those in life.
Now free from the academy, the harrowing remains of the slave trade sites in São Tomé, Ghana and Senegal can be observed only with humbleness and horror and yet they, and the friendliness of the people of these countries, provide a new perspective. A local healer in São Tomé gives me an insight into shamanic journeying and I begin to deal with the corruption that horrified me so much initially. Finally, in Cape Verde, I come to terms with the beauty of Africa and its people, realising that happiness and joy can so easily be found.
Thriving Beyond Stress & Burnout 24.11.17
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher
“Onipa ho anto no a, na efi ne nneyee.”
(If one is unhappy, the cause for one’s unhappiness is within oneself).
“There is no way to happiness,
happiness is the way.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, and others
LFC DNA in EL-FNA. Watching Liverpool FC beat Dortmund in Marrakech.