Finding happiness on my way to the pot of Rome


One week, three days, 5 hours, 15 minutes, and 20… 19… 18… 17… seconds. This is the small amount of time (but what feels like eternity) standing between Rome and I.

24 weeks – another set of numbers that has had significant meaning for me. I have a love/hate relationship with this number. On one hand it represents my commitment to do everything I can to have a great time on my upcoming trip. However, it has also been the main culprit in my weekend binge sessions of caramel popcorn (I’m talking an entire bag in a day).

Another one bites the dust.
Another one bites the dust.

Here’s the problem:

For the last 6 months I have been eating the exact same thing for breakfast and lunch with very little variation. Veggie sausage sandwich for breakfast. Salad with toppings for lunch. In the beginning it was fine. On the morning drive to work, it was me, my sandwich, and the radio enjoying the last few minutes of peace and solitude before I arrived at my destination. By the time lunch hit, I was craving my well-put together salad. Sometimes I had dried cranberries with almonds as my toppings, then I switched it up to humus and tomato. I was happy to do it. I did it all in the name of Rome.

Travel. Food. Clothing. These are the top three things that I spend my discretionary income on. Each has its very own spot on the hierarchy, with travel coming in at #1. When a trip is being planned, which is usually always, the other two take a back seat. I become like an eagle, totally focused on meeting my travel budget, while cutting off the many things and activities that I find gratifying. In the past, this has worked out very well. But as I enter the seventh month of my mundane eating habit, I find myself growing very tired. Tired to the point that I’ve simply opted for pretzels and humus for lunch for the past two days. I noticed that I no longer looked forward to my lunch breaks as much as I had in the past. Instead of being excited about what I was going to eat, I was just happy to be out of the office. This wasn’t me.

As with travel, food is another opportunity for me to experience something new, exciting, and just plain ol’ good. But for almost half of the year, food had just become a necessity, something that was necessary to keep my energy up just enough to get through the day. This gave way to my weekend-caramel-popcorn “habit.”

Then, thankfully, I broke. One more day of the veggie sausage sandwich and salad mix and I knew I would scream my head off. Something had to change. By the time I gave myself permission to look at other options that could fit into my very strict weekly food budget, I was already nearing home base. I was just a few hundred dollars away from my fund-saving goals, and what had been months that stood between my trip, had turned into only a couple of weeks. I was almost there, but knew I would go crazy the way I was going. What bothered me most though, was I seemed to have lost a bit of happiness along the way. Although I am comfortable in routine, it’s not good for me. I get bored. My creativity plummets. I no longer really think, my brain simply goes on autopilot. I become very zombie-like, just going through the motions.

So one day I decided to change things up a bit. Nothing major. The weekend before my “new-new” took effect, I went grocery shopping for the items I would need. As I looked over the recipe and the accompanying photo that had been emailed to me with such perfect timing, a wave of excitement came over me. I had yet to cook. I hadn’t even tasted the dish yet. But there I was excited about eating lunch on a Monday. Such excitement over the simple things in life had gone missing during those previous months. I was totally focused on meeting a goal.

I am happy to report that I met my fund-saving goal, and in the few weeks leading up to my departure, I have also enjoyed breakfast on a Thursday, lunch on a Tuesday, snack on a late Wednesday afternoon, and a great cup of tea while reading through emails on an early Monday morning. In such a literal way, I learned that it’s great to have goals, but it’s also great to find pieces of happiness along the way to the pot of gold, or for me, the pot of Rome. I am not so happy to report, however, that my caramel popcorn habit is still in full effect.

How do you find happiness while focusing on meeting your travel goals?


Featured Image Photo Attribution: By Paolo Costa Baldi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

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