The world has created a society of consumerism, leading us to live a life of full time work, with little time to live a life of ours. It is a mentality of living to work, rather than working to live. The more we work, the more we spend, and the more we need to work again in order to pay for the things we most likely are not able to afford. And don’t need.
We have maxed out credit cards, mortgages that take a lifetime to pay off, car payments with laughable interests. We want to treat ourselves with shiny things because really, we deserve it. So we consume to follow the trend, to show we are doing well, to feel good about ourselves. We surround ourselves with materialistic things to make us look good.
Really, why do we want money so badly? To drive a nice car? To have a fashionable wardrobe? To eat at gastronomic restaurants? To add decadent decor to our home? To travel to luxurious all-inclusive resorts? In fact, we want money for the image that it gives us: We look successful. We look accomplished. We look good.
A lot of people think that happiness comes from the things that we have, or the image that we reflect on others. Looking successful is important. But does that make us happy? I believe success is happiness. And I don’t believe it starts with money. In fact, I believe money is a poor illusion of success, and that people often wrongfully associate being rich with having money. Wealth should be defined by who you are, and not by what you own.
When I travelled to Thailand over a decade ago, my first trip overseas, I spent some time in the jungle of Chiang Mai. We trekked for 2 days, carrying supplies to a family living in the midst of the dense forests. Their location was so remote that they never ventured further. They bathed under the waterfall, fed from their garden and livestock, and played with whatever nature delivered them. With tourism expanding, they accepted to trade their home for supplies that travellers would bring along. They were so isolated, that the little boy was amazed at my friend’s blond hair and blue eyes, as he’s never seen such a thing before. The tribe was all smiles, pure and wide, as if they were the happiest people on the earth. I understood that they were happy because they never were exposed to the wants. They had a shelter, food and water, their family, and that was all they needed. And that was enough.
When I returned to North America, I found myself standing still in a middle of a time-lapse, as if everyone was rushing, living life on fast-forward, forgetting to pause a moment and breathe. It was a race against time, like what was waiting for them after life was more important than right now. I told myself I didn’t want to be part of this system. I wanted to have an authentic smile just like that family back in Thailand.