“Happiness only real when shared”
Those are the famous words that Chris McCandles wrote down in his copy of Doctor Zhivago, next to a passage about unshared happiness. I doubt that many people had ever heard of Chris McCandles before the movie Into the Wild came out, or at least, where I’m from that is definitely the case.
In all honesty, I had never heard of him until my first trip to Alaska, back in the early summer of 2007. I was assistant guiding an outdoor trip then and the tourguide thought it would be fun to drive our truck up on the Stampede Road, eventually becoming the trail. After getting stuck in the mud and digging ourselves out with our bare hands, I got obsessed by the story and back home the first thing I did was order a copy of the book. Less than a year later, the movie came out. Before the end of the movie, I cried my eyes out. I still do, each time I see it… I believe many others suffer the same.
It’s not even a week since I came home from Alaska and I feel miserable. Not just because of the jetlag but because I miss Alaska. I’m not sure if there is a way to describe a feeling that is greater than missing, but really people, my heart is in pain. I knew it would be like this because it’s always like this when I return home from Alaska. The first time it lasted a week, the last time (before this trip) was back in 2011 and it lasted nearly a month. A MONTH! For a whole month, I felt restless, sad and disappointed in life. Restless because of the crowded streets and lack of wilderness back home, sad because I left my heart right there and disappointed because of Dutch society. Society where everything has to be perfect. Where judgements are based on appearances and where enough never seems to be enough.
Right now, I’m feeling the same. Only worse this time, as this was one of the most intense trips I’ve ever been on. Not only the second longest but also the one where I spent quite some time by myself. Leaving me with lots of opportunities to muse on all that I had seen and experienced.
Is happiness only real when shared?
Back to the phrase “Happiness only real when shared”. Four years ago I didn’t have a smartphone so I didn’t share my pictures and experiences, at least not right away. This time I have a local simcard so I could make phonecalls without facing an extremely high phonebill upon return back home. To my surprise, the 4G network is awesome in Alaska and I had internet almost everywhere. So I shared my happiness with you. It kind of comes with the job when you are a blogger but even as I made this trip as a non-blogger, I shared my shit. Mostly on my personal Facebook page but some of it on my public channels. My friends started to send me messages. That I looked happy, being back in Alaska, and that they thought I’m a badass for ice-climbing with my bruised ankle.
Was it happiness?
All of this made me think … and it made me happy, or at least, that’s what it felt like. Was it happiness though? Would I have felt differently if I didn’t share those pictures? To tell you the truth, I don’t know. I makes me think about why we share all those happy moments. Would you still enjoy the same amount of happiness when you don’t share it with anyone? If you just keep it to yourself and, if that’s the case, the person you are with? A couple of years ago, I decided to become “a blogger” and share my life with everyone. Or at least, some of it. It seems like the more followers you get, the more you share. One year ago I could easily leave social media for a week or longer. That’s different nowadays, or at least that’s what it feels like. Sometimes it makes me tired and I want to run away from it all as fast as I can, this whole thing called sharing happiness. Because basically, that’s what I do. I don’t like to share my sad moments, because that’s not what people want to hear. Sharing happiness is what I do…
For those of you who shared your support by liking or commenting on any of the pictures I posted during my Alaska trip – thank you! Really, from the bottom of my heart, it’s much appreciated! In this case, sharing my happiness made me a happy person, but not necessarily happier.
Back again to the phrase “Happiness only real when shared” because I’m pretty sure that Chris McCandles didn’t mean sharing happiness on social media when he wrote that down. On some of my happiest moments in Alaska, I was all by myself. For example when I sat down and watched the sun set over the Talkeetna Mountains at the Caribou Lodge or when I saw a moose at the Knik River Road.
In case you didn’t see this picture on any of my social media channels, I was driving back “home” to Wasilla, when all of a sudden I noticed a moose standing in a pond next to the road. I pulled over, stopped the car, opened the window and just sat there, observing him, for at least 15 minutes, while he was searching for food in the water. He looked back at me, for just a second or two, not even bothered by the fact that I was ther, less than 10 meters away. This was one of the most beautiful moments of my trip, just me and the moose. This moment I shared. But there are a ton of moments I didn’t share. Such as sitting on a glacier, soaking up the sunshine while my body was freezing due to the wind blowing down on me from the Stairway Icefall. Or the moment when I took a roadtrip down on the Kenai Peninsula and the sun started peeking through a thick pack of clouds, lightning up the mountains in the distance. Right at that time Spotify was playing “Guaranteed” by Eddie Vedder, from the Into the Wild soundtrack. It’s of the most memorable moments of my trip.
Does it mean that the moments I wasn’t alone I wasn’t happy? Or that the moments I enjoyed most, were when I was alone? Definitely not! Iceclimbing on Root Glacier together with Martijn (the only 8 hours we really got to spend together, other than flying home on the same flight) was one of the highlights of the trip – and so were the moments I spent with some Alaskan friends I made over the years. Seeing the first black bear of the trip was a another definite highlight and yet I was surrounded by 11 others at that moment, all trying to take the same picture from behind the windows of the van we were in.
However it means that I don’t agree with what Chris McCandles wrote down, regardless whether it was a question or an observation. And what possibly many people agree with. Happiness is not only real when shared. It’s just different…
PS For those who are wondering about the bus … it’s not the real one, the one in the picture is the one that was used for the movie and is located at the 49th State Brewery near Healy.
How do you feel about sharing your happiness? Whether online or in real life? I’m curious to hear your opinions!