When we were younger, my lifelong best friend and I always had one dream: to go to the Grand Canyon together. I’m not even sure why, but we became obsessed with the idea, and talked for years about how we would one day… one day… make that trip happen. So when a few years ago I decided to take a (mostly) solo road trip to Denver and back, we knew it was the perfect time to make it happen. More than a decade after the plan was originally concocted, she’d join me for a leg of my journey and we’d finally see the Grand Canyon.
I picked her up from a flight late one night in early October, and the very next day we made it to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We got there in the evening, just barely in time for sunset over the canyon. As we rushed along the path, racing the lowering sun, we clung to each other arm in arm, barely able to contain our excitement. We kept our eyes down, shielding our view with the brims of our baseball hats. When we finally felt our way to the railing, we took a collective breath in and both looked up in unison. That moment and that view took our breath away.
It was a full half hour before we realized we had only spoken in whispers since approaching the rim. We were mesmerized and so incredibly content with where we were in that moment, that it seemed like raising our voices above a soft whisper would somehow shatter the magical bubble we’d found ourselves in.
On that beautiful evening, the Grand Canyon became one of my happy places. One of the special places in the world that lights me up just thinking about it.
That place was perfect to me. In total, we spent less than 24 hours there, but we managed to catch a sunset, a sunrise, and a hike down into the canyon during that time. And that was enough to completely fill me up with wonder and joy and hope and a little bit of magic (actually, a lot of magic). Every time I look at the picture I have saved as my laptop desktop (of the sun setting in the canyon), I am reminded of all of those beautiful feelings.
The Grand Canyon is just one of my many “happy places.” What I mean by that is the kind of special place that just makes me feel totally and completely good. They are the special places that I will return to, time and time again, that are as wonderful and exceptional each new visit as they were the last.
For me, other happy places include:
- The Oregon coast (even when you end up bundled up in a jacket to keep warm from the wind, you can still have your toes in the sand and look out over the expanse that is the Pacific Ocean).
- Vashon Island, my childhood home (I can feel the difference just driving off the ferry dock onto the island).
-The San Juan Islands (which are filled with so much magic on warm summer evenings that it’s hard to contain the boundless joy that comes out in me).
- My parent’s garden (specially in late afternoon when the sunshine cuts through the trees. The birds chirp, the flowers and vegetables thrive around me, and my feet get to dig into the dirt while I eat fresh raspberries off the bush. Nothing beats that).
These places never fail to bring me joy. They lift me up. They make my heart feel full. They let me know that everything is OK in the world. They give me the strength and energy to return to day-to-day life with renewed vigor.
Have you taken the time to find your happy places? Whether they are close to home, miles away, or even on the other side of the world, where do you go to find joy, center yourself, and get refueled?
Finding those places, and then returning to them as often as you can, will help you feel full and alive. When you are feeling lost or heartbroken or just inexplicably “off” and not yourself, go there. Rest. Get filled up. And then keep on with your life.
Even if you can’t physically get to your happy places often, the very act of envisioning yourself there can do loads of good. Conjure up the images, feelings, smells, sounds, and emotions of that place. How does your body feel? How does your heart feel?
I’d love to hear about your happy places. Are they filled with sun, snow, water, or trees? Are they places you go alone, or that you associate with time with friends or family? What is it about that places that makes you really, truly happy? Share in the comments below.