Our “big” annual vacation typically happens around May-June. But at least six months of preparation precedes it, and my levels of preparation (which D has now been almost coerced into) might be considered way too orchestrated for practical purposes. My defense is that in all probability, this would be the only time we visit the place, so I’d like to make it as hassle-free as possible. Also, the fear of missing out.

As a species, we are uniquely capable of projecting our future in our own minds. My plan is supposed to make us happy. The expectations are already set. And that means that things can go wrong in many ways. For instance, things might not go as planned because of events outside of my control. Or we see other possibilities once we’re in a place but we’ve already committed to our plans in terms of time/money/emotions!

This fantastic post at Brain Pickings has some excellent insights on happiness. Happiness is related to contentment and satisfaction. It is about being reassured, a sense of security, and “often ends up in a placidity on the edge of boredom.” I can relate to that last part – happiness can get normalised. Just like pleasure, except it works on longer time frames. Thus my own future self’s measure of happiness will be vastly different from the one right now. On the other hand, joy is about exploration, stimulus and discovery. In that sense, joy is unpredictable. Sita Kotuwa in Lanka is a classic example, so is that evening in Cherrapunjee. If I had to take this year’s example, Zagreb was joy and Dubrovnik was happiness.

Many a time, and this comes up especially after vacations, I end up wondering, what do I really want – predictability or serendipity? :) In other words, happiness or joy? In my view, it is difficult to simultaneously optimise for both. How does one know what one wants at what time? My current boss gave me an insight into how he approaches it (work in progress, he said) – by training his intuition, allowing it to fail, and learning from the process so that he can more or less predict what would work for him at any given point in time.

It’s funny how these holidays capture this thought – when we’re on vacation, I really enjoy the new sights and experiences. But the moment I unlock the door to our home, there is a wonderful sense of familiarity and comfort.