Recently, I talked to many people surrounding me, friends, co-workers and new acquaintances. Somehow, we often quickly ended up talking about money. During those conversations, I realised that I changed over the last year. Many changes have happened. Because the jist of the conversation for my counterparts consisted mainly of the opinion: "Money brings happiness. Hence, money is the most important goal in life to pursue happiness." For a long time, I thought like that too, but now I could not disagree more.
Why am I in Poland and not in Germany?
Some of the people I talked to, prefer to go on "holiday on demand" instead of a sick leave, some others prefer to work night shifts, to get 20% more salary per night. What am I doing instead, you ask? I try to arrange to have as many holidays as possible. I prefer to work through public holidays, cumulate my holidays and take them off when it suits me better. Because there is one thing I realised: If you don't have time, you cannot even spend your money.
That brings me to the next phenomenon. People ask me: "Matthias, why do you live in Poland? In Germany, you can earn so much more and be much happier." People seem to be confused that I am here. I am not here, to make money. I saw many Poles leaving the country, pursuing a better life, only having in mind to earn lots of money abroad, get stuck in jobs they don't like and return to Poland after a few years when they are "rich". But then I ask myself: "People leave the country for happiness, but the only thing they get, is money. They waste 3, 4, 5 or even many more years just to gather money and work in simple jobs, although they invested in their education, learned foreign languages and much more." Pursuing money makes blind. And those people mostly hate their jobs. So my biggest concern here:
People leave their country for a better life, but in fact, it's getting worse. They don't like their jobs, work 12 hours a day, work in the night, are tired, have negative energy and don't become happy. They get richer, for sure. If you want to be rich, that's a good strategy. But to become happy, I highly doubt it.
Coming back to the question, why I prefer to live in Poland rather than in Germany.
I hear stories from my family and friends, in which I can see, how the working life in Germany looks like: Officially, you have a 40 hours workload per week. Mostly starting at 8am or 9am in the morning and finishing at 4pm or 5pm. But if you leave the office punctually at the end of your official work day, people start telling you that you are lazy, even though you finished your work already before time. You just have to stay longer, to show what a good employee you are. Otherwise, you are getting called "lazy" and your reputation in the company rapidly will be decreasing. I realised that myself working in a German company abroad. I guess, there are similar values. Connected to that, I see at which time some people come home on a daily basis: It is mostly in between the span of 7pm to 11pm. Or I heard people saying: "My life is perfectly balanced. I leave my flat at 8am and return at 9pm. Then I have two hours of private life. That is enough for me. And then I go to sleep."
In contrast to that, in Poland, I very rarely stay longer and I even would not mind at all, to stay one hour longer one day not getting compensated for that. But two times, I had to stay 30 minutes longer at work, due to a conference. And then, I was totally surprised when I was asked: "Hey Matthias, when do you want to take off your 30 minutes you stayed longer?" So yes, in Germany you might have more money, but no time for spending it.
I guess, that explains everything. I might have a lower income than the European average, but I have a life! I sleep for 6 or 7 hours, work for 8 hours and have 9 or 10 hours for my private life. Another thing that is really important: I work in a job that I really like. It's not like "oh gosh, it's Monday again." No, I like to work with those people, I like improving my skills in retouching and spending time at the office. Without it, I would feel empty, I guess. And I do like it, because I know that I still have plenty of time to fill my day with other things I like. That is why I am in Poland: I love my job, I love the work-life balance and I love the possibilities I have here. It is about the attitude you have, not about the amount of money in your pocket.
Coming back to the statement "Money brings happiness. Hence, money is the most important goal in life to pursue happiness." First of all we need to find an answer to the question: "What is happiness?" - Wikipedia says:
"Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Happy mental states may also reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being."
And undoubtably, as it is a human emotion, it is very subjective! In my opinion, happiness is a temporal state of mind. Once you found it, it does not mean it will stay. You need to take care of it. I think, it can be compared with a flower or even a relationship: The more you stop taking care of it, the more it starts dying, crumbling and falling apart. So now, let's approach this topic from my personal experience:
About 2,5 years ago, I started my professional working life in Poland. In the beginning, I just started somewhere, to have an income after my studies and to survive abroad. So I worked as a tele-marketer and translator in a start-up company on the minimum wage. Then I changed my job to get more money as an accountant, although I studied geography. Landing this job was easy for me, due to the fact that I am a native German speaker. But as you can imagine, I did not like that job. That was the first time, when I started to realise that I come home after work and I felt that I am just wasting my lifetime. I lived during the weekends, because during the week, I had negative energy from work, so I escaped from it with photography, but after a while more with playing video games and watching tv series. I could just not stand dragging myself down any longer, so I knew it was time for a change. That was the moment, when I realised that I want to pursue happiness and not money in my life. Hence, I quit my job and changed my career path again completely to work as a journalist. At first, it was a nice job, since I came closer to what I wanted: Working with photographs. But after a while also that job did not end well and my contract has not been prolonged. I was crashed. I lost my job from one day to another, without any warning in advance. That's the downside of the Polish law, while being on probation. You just get to know it the very last day. That day, my friends, who worked even on the same level in that company, were shocked and offered me to meet up, talk about it and help me. What happened then, was the weirdest thing for a long time. My friends said: "You are all the time smiling. I have never seen you that happy before!" I realised that I was again stuck in something I did not like. But someone else ended it for me, luckily. I obviously needed to be free. Finally, I could live again. I was unemployed though for two or three months, but I survived even with a small amount of money per month. My new gained freedom, allowed me to make one of my dreams come true: Living and working in Norway.
That was the new chapter of my life. I tried to pursue happiness and I found it. I found a job that allowed me to travel, to see all the beautiful places in South Norway. I moved to Stavanger and started working as a tour guide. At first, I was totally afraid, because I had to guide groups of tourists through places I haven't even been to myself in person. But I studied quite intensely and prepared myself, so I was quickly able to tell my friends: I finally found a job I am good at and that I like! I had human interaction with tourists, inspired them and they appreciated my inspiring stories. Also, I could hike to my dream destinations, I dreamed of for many years: Preikestolen, Kjeragbolten and Trolltunga. I was even 30 times (!) on Preikestolen and got paid for it. I would have never imagined to be paid for that! As my job was just a part-time job, I did not earn much money but I learned to reduce myself to the essentials. But then some crazy things happened and my tourists started to tip me a lot. This tip allowed me to quickly replace my broken camera. So, once you do things you like, money comes by itself. I was proud of it and shared this experience with my friends and flatmates in Stavanger. But then, the greatest thing ever happened. Even though I got tipped a lot, I started to not care about it that much anymore, because there was one thing shining brighter than money: Faces! Lots of tourists came to me, after the tour, shook my hand and said: "Matthias, that was so inspiring! I needed that. I wish you all the best that your dreams come true! I had a really great day today." They smiled at me and went back to their cruise ships. I realised: Happiness has to come from the inside. Once you find it, share it with others and make them happy.
Apart from my job, I also went on several hikes, as I already mentioned. Those hikes were life-changing for me. When I got stuck in nature people always helped me out: I was stuck in a village in the Lysefjord without any inhabitants and the ferry did not arrive, so someone drove me home by car. I froze in the mountains and someone gave me his woollen shirt. I could not go back down the mountains due to a serious lack of sleep, but someone motivated and accompanied me. My bus, the only way back home, did not arrive and someone took me by car. I lost my wallet in the car and this person sent it with all its money inside back to me. I hiked up the mountain, had an accident and a flesh wound on my knee and someone medicated me. In the end, all the bad things turned out to be good and made me meeting people and collecting unforgettable experiences.
The bottom line here is: Once you show happiness and trust in people, you gain happiness.
I learned to believe in the good side of people, knowing that everything works out. When I asked people what I owe them for their help, the typical Norwegian reply was: "We helped you, so next time help someone else. Together, we can make the world a better one, starting from the small scale. And that's what I did: Someone needed shelter, I invited him into my tent. Travellers needed a cheap place to stay in Stavanger, I offered it to them. Someone needed food, I shared mine.
I scratch your back, you scratch my back. One hand washes the other.
Once you believe in the good side of people, trust people, they will feel valued and don't want to abuse your trust. This life lesson I learned in Norway. It was the key step on my way to pursue and find happiness.
After my job in Norway, I returned to Poland again - to my own surprise, actually. My one dream came true: I lived in Norway and hiked up all the fjord attractions I wanted to see. With lots of positive energy I came back to Poland and gave a 2,5 hours speech at Sztuka Wyboru in Gdansk about my experiences in Norway. Here, just a small excerpt from the end of my speech.
Back in Poland, I had lots of positive energy. But I did not know that it was about to break very soon: I struggled hard to find a flat. For two months I constantly visited flats, but it was a living nightmare. In the end of summer, everyone here in Gdansk wants to win the jackpot with exorbitant rent prices for low standard rooms. It really dragged me down. I got depressed. All the positive energy gone. I wanted to escape from it, as I usually did: Traveling. But due to my new job, I was not allowed for the first three months to take a day off. So I was faced with a challenge. I knew that travelling makes me happy, but I could not. I felt trapped and thought about running away to another country. But that was no option. My job is too important to me. Most of my friends were in a relationship, I was alone. I returned to the place with memories of my previous relationship and faced those memories. I contemplated in my room, I did not like, about the meaning of life and became sad. That had to end, so I searched for new ways of becoming happy.
The weather was bad in November. Lots of rain. But I grabbed my camera and started shooting urban environments, what I haven't done that much before. But I also knew that I am already pretty good at photography and life is too short to only master one thing.
In the past, before I dedicated my life to travelling and photography, I used to play piano for 10 years, organ for 2 years, tennis for 4 years juggling for 5 years, magic and cardistry for 6 years. Weirdly, I heard people saying or commenting under my youtube videos: "This dude has no hobby and no life. He has too much time." And those are probably the people, only hanging out on Youtube and watching television. Anyway. As you can see, I had quite a bit of things in my life to focus on and to find passion in it. And for a certain time I obviously did. Otherwise, I would not have pursued it for that long. Anyway. I knew that sitting at home, causes me to be unhappy. So I tried all the best to stay away from it.
I met with friends in bars, talked about my issues. It made it sometimes better, sometimes worse. So I had to finally stop thinking about negative things. I learned in Norway to think positively, to focus on the good sides of bad events and it was already gone? No way! So I started to engage in sports. I went running every second day in a nearby park. The flat and the district I lived in, were ugly, but the park beautiful. Finally, seeing the good in the bad. Luckily, after a while I found a new place to move to, but it was away from my beloved park. I wanted to do sports, but running on asphalt was not that much joy. So I took my bike instead and explored regions of the city, I still had not visited that time. That was great! But the bummer was about to come: My bike had been stolen. But somehow, I was in such a good mental shape that I even did not get angry and people said: "At your place I would be so angry now. I guess it was expensive." Instead, I thought about the next solution to do sports: The sports card from my company. I ordered it and now I pay about 20€ each month. I can use it for a climbing hall as well as for my favourite swimming pool and sauna. So I went there everyday after or before work, one day for swimming, one day for sauna. It became my refuge. For three months already, I live like that. I was done wasting my lifetime. I did not want to stare again into a screen after 8 hours of work in a dark room with a bright screen. And it worked! It balanced me, it took my mind off the bad things distracting me, I got into shape, I can eat whatever I like (chocolate/ burgers) and don't have to worry to get fat. When people started seeing that I even post a new picture every day on my Instagram feed, additionally to all the sports and the full-time job with 6 hours of sleep, they asked me:
"Where do you get this energy from? I wish I could get this motivation. But for you it's easier. You have your passion for photography. That makes it easier."
To be honest here: Passions are not just coming to you, you need to try new things. So now, after reading this text, I guess you know where it comes from. I don't want to sit around and wait until my life is over. I want to be the director of it and as soon I realise that I am not happy, I have to change something about it.
It is not about money, it is about your mindset!
After my bike had been stolen, my friend said: "Man, you should try longboarding. I think it might suit you." So I thought back to my childhood, when I always admired skaters and played lots skating games. So i bought a longboard and started skating. I was always afraid of doing "dangerous" sports. A bunch of years ago I had accident in the swimming pool and broke my spine. I am still alive! So I want to feel alive! I faced my fear! I go every second day to the swimming pool. I was afraid of skating, now I do it two or three times a week. Just yesterday, when the weather was fantastic, I did not want to sit at home. Instead, I grabbed my board and skated 17km along the beach and back through the city. I finally feel alive!
And you still think that money makes you happy? - It's a lame excuse.
When have you tried something new the last time? - Passions are not just coming to you. You need to find them yourself.
Have you faced your fears?
Try it! Once you did it, I can tell you it feels great!
While trying something new, search buddies with the same interest, via Instagram, facebook groups or any other kind of event or platform.
I unexpectedly found a great new friend for skating and hanging out, just by posting into a facebook group and being spontaneous.
We had such a blast and one of the best evenings for a long time. I just turned off my head, had fun, let out my inner kid and started forgetting that I'm 26.
Age is a number, nothing more.
Does it matter what the society expects from you?
Just be yourself and be happy!
In that sense:
Fuck the money, start exploring yourself and having fun!