How do you define happiness? All humans can relate to each other when it comes to happiness, because we’re all in search of it. But where humans differ from one another, is how easy or difficult it is for each of us to obtain. This has often come to mind as I’ve explored different countries around the world. What has always intrigued me about traveling is seeing the different ways people find joy in their lives.
I am captivated by Netflix’s new show Street Food. The first episode, set in Bangkok, is about a woman named Jay Fai. After a fire in the 1980’s destroyed her home, as well as her seamstress business, she decided she needed to learn to cook in order to make money selling street food. Today, she is one of the only street-food cooks to hold a Michelin star, thanks in part to her world-famous crab meat omelette.
During my visit to Thailand with some friends, we met and befriended a taxi driver by the name of Worawit. We came across his car in a taxi line, while looking for a driver to take us to one of Bangkok’s famous markets. Worawit was more than just a taxi driver, he was a tour guide and a friend. We were able to learn about his life while he was able to learn about ours. It did not take long for Worawit to start cracking jokes that made the whole car explode into laughter. He explained to us that he, his wife, and kids have never been able to afford to travel outside of Thailand, so getting to know his taxi passengers from around the world was his form of traveling. Worawit and I are still Facebook friends to this day.
It amazes me to see a glimpse of the world from someone’s eyes who has lived his/her whole life in a developing country. What is happiness? For impoverished people in Asia it could just be feeding their families. Vastly different from parts of the Western world, where happiness is often defined by Instagram likes, a sturdy resume, being in love; where so many are unhappy with what they have and always wanting more, not realizing we have more than most people on the planet. Jay Fai and Worawit have never had the kinds of choices I am facing today at the young age of 23 — a masters degree or a law degree, whether I should take a certain job or hold out for one that offers more money, which country I should travel to next on a very tight budget. The only choice they have had is to make enough money to feed themselves and their families. So they have each decided on ways to make money and developed their passions from there. And I’d bet if you asked them, they’d say they’re happy.