Happiness in the most unlikely places…

Traveling to many countries we would consider 3rd world, I am buoyed by the spirit and love for life that I see from people who live day-by-day.  The people of Phnom Penh and Cambodia in general were some of the most optimistic and life-loving people I have ever met.  Morning Worker-2 My Lunch

Walking around town, I was amazed at the relative ease in communicating with the locals, even though I only spoke at the very basic level of Cambodian (1-month crash course prior to my trip), and they had very limited – if any – English skills.

After graduating in the USA, I found work managing a bicycle & ski shop which allowed me to pursue two great loves: cycling and working on bicycles (skiing was a 3rd hobby, but clearly took a back seat to cycling).  While walking the streets, I met two very energetic and busy guys who had a cycle repair shop on the streets and were very happy to try to explain their work/life/happiness in doing what they did in Phnom Penh.  Generally they agreed that: “We are lucky, and we get to travel back home to see our families every year…”

Moto Mechanic 3

Life is not so much a collection of material goods, but a collection of experiences from which you decide on your happiness.  Lao Zi, the author of the Dao de Jing, once wrote (Chapter 44):

  • 名与身孰亲?
  • 身与货孰多?
  • 得与亡孰病?


  • Your name or integrity, which is more dear?
  • Your health or money, which is worth more?
  • Your strife for gain or time with those you love, when facing death which is most important?

Fulfillment does not come from the admiration of other, but with admiration of yourself.  When you know when to stop & to love, the whole world belongs to you.

Look into your heart, and decide what is real and what is true.  Know when to stop, reassess what is right and then follow your spirit.

Phnom Penh-1

16 Comments on “Happiness in the most unlikely places…

  1. I love how you focus this post: Life is not so much a collection of material goods, but a collection of experiences from which you decide on your happiness.
    The friendliness and materialism made me remember that once at a party, a German guy said that he was once living in Paris. It was so impossible to see a smile in daily life (unless you meet up with a good friend or you’re in a touristy area and the tourists are flipping over some famous building) that everyday in the metro he would feel like kicking someone just to see SOME human reaction – even if it were anger or being hit back 🙂
    Here in Barcelona, sure, the shopkeepers around where I live wave to me everyday and chat back to me, but when I’m not in my area, trying to get anyone to say any word other than the price is like an alien affair… The lovely smiling faces in the photos here show warmth and friendliness that is hard to find where I live. xx

    • Thanks Sofia, it is so true. I think people seem to find my greatest happiness when not surrounded or thinking about the materialism that takes up so much of our time in life. In Hong Kong, it is exactly as you mention…can be a very cold city, human connection does not happen freely. It is nice when you find pieces of real happiness and very nice when there are areas like where you live that has such a warm feeling. Of course, there are many nice things out there to be enjoyed and I think we find in so many areas (musicals, concerts and meeting great people), but it is surprisingly rare these days. I think in smaller towns and places where there is less chaos and less focus on wealth, time spent with people becomes more valuable…that is pretty neat. Wish you well…and of course happiness 🙂

  2. Inside our own books (some of them well written, some others oh! so boring) we were meant to stay and live forever, you come out with these stories and everything seems to change…

    • There is nothing like getting out and finding new stories and books in places we never could have imagined before. Wish you a good week Luana.

      • I’ve had a terrible week (smiling now) – What about yours?… you know how it goes…Nothing can be fixed. Everything can be healed…

      • Have a couple more days in the States before heading back to HK/China…always too much to do in too little time 🙂 I like your thought, and I think if we accept healing (and forego the idea of fixing) then it is easier to move forward. Cheers to a good week.

      • Certain things can not be “fixed”, unfortunatelly. I was saying that as the frustration of not being where I wish I could be in these moments is eating me alive…But this is another story….too complicated to talk about it here. Thank you very much for the wishes, wish the same to you.

  3. You point to something very interesting in this post. How people in what we in the Western world consider the third world, often seem more open, relaxed, friendly and happy in their lives. I am not trying to paint a romantic picture, because I have certainly seen enough hardship in these countries, but when people don’t starve and are able to manage a stable life, I find this often to be true. As always I love you photos, Randall.

    • You are so correct, for most everyday life is difficult & at times pretty frightening, but they find the great joy of happiness where they can and it is such a bright/incredible happiness. Thanks Otto.

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