You are browsing through social media on your phone, from a gorgeous hotel room on the shores of Lake Naivasha. You gave yourself this treat after a brutal year of relentless work, helping thankless clients.
The views are breathtaking, the Wi-Fi fast, the food savoury and the shower working properly (showerheads are the Achilles heel of Kenyan hoteling, we hardly get it quite right).
You are on full board, paying 30 grand a night. Not ridiculous dough for you, given your pay grade, but still, it sounds significant. It’s not the kind of money you would go telling your momma you spent on “just food and a bed.”
You don’t know exactly why, but you are not happy. Not as happy as you should be watching graceful zebras graze from just a few metres away, or the thrill of feeling the ground tremble at night as hippos walk by your room.
Something feels off. You are there, browsing the net, snapping and posting selfies of yourself “having fun”, and repeatedly trying – and failing- to focus enough to read a book you had packed.
You thought that making the sacrifice to fork out that kind of money to give yourself an experience would make you happy. Turns out, you can’t force your brain to just shut up and let you enjoy things. You are short-circuiting your brain by saying to yourself, “I am paying a lot of money for this hence I must be happy at the end of it.” Because your brain knows what makes you truly happy, and what is only a proxy.
Personally, I have found out that whenever I take some time off work, I am happiest when I can dash to shags, or go ride a bike in Karura with my people.
For me, shags offers the simplest, warmest pleasures of life. Especially if I go there when it’s all quiet and sleepy. Say mid-week outside of holiday seasons.
The phone network barely existent, hot showers alien, toilets pit latrines and unlit – to take the dump, you’ve got to take the lamp.
Also, you have to light a jiko to keep warm, and to roast maize if you are lucky.
But it’s all heavenly. The chats you have with your folks as you indulge in thick, sugarless milk tea are to die for. I doubt I would be happier on a cruise ship. Well, admittedly, I cannot proclaim zero bias on my part until I have cruise ship kind of money. It might be jealousy posing as contentment!
Anyway, let’s speak of something of a lower ticket than luxury cruises – food. I have had the opportunity (but not always the stomach) to eat lots of varying stuff, including exotic dishes in hallowed eateries, here and abroad.
No matter what I try, nothing beats some lovingly prepared matumbo, terere and ugali. I can eat it till my eyes bulge. Miss me with your six courses at The Intercontinental.
I have learnt that my daughter is the happiest not when I buy her pricey Disney dresses, but when she gets to bake something with her momma. Or when we go for our Sunday walk, plucking little flowers from low trees and competing to count birds.
If you are like me, then all you need to be truly happy, it turns out, is the feeling of a genuine connection to other humans and to nature. But you wouldn’t know that from glitzy Instagram posts or from the ubiquitous YouTube travel vlogs.
Speaking of how we spend money, Why Are We So Bad With Money? Would Financial Education In Schools Help With This Issue?