Chelsea Roff: Recipe for a Happy Year… and Fulfilling Life

Close your eyes. Imagine for a moment that you had a year — 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes — to do anything you please, with $100,000 to cover your expenses. Would you travel? Would you continue working and give the money to charity? Would you take the time to simply do nothing, maybe go on retreat?

Last week, Mallika encouraged Intent-ers to consider what they would do if they had a year off. I have to say, my first inclination was default to the “make-the-world-a-better-place” answer– give it to charity, of course! I mean, I know this may sound crazy, but I love working. Even if I had a year off, I don’t think I could bring myself to drop my job and do nothing. So if my ideal year would include working anyway, why not give it away, especially when we know that contributing to others’ happiness is a much greater source of joy and fulfillment than anything money could buy?

But as I thought about it more, I remembered the words of a friend I have who keeps trying to convince me of the important of “leisure” and “pleasure” in my life. I know, foreign concepts for the modern workaholic, right? A few months ago, when I went to visit her in Miami, her assignment for me was to get a pedicure once a month — which has been surprisingly difficult for me to actually follow through on. I have a hard time slowing down, relaxing,  engaging in an activity simply for the sake of enjoying it.

have always wanted to travel. I’ve never ventured outside the US (not even to Mexico or Canada), and I’ve long wanted to visit other cultures — learn about how they find happiness, purpose, and meaning in their lives. Taking a year off for travel… now that would be cool. But would it be fulfilling? Would I be mentally, physically, and spiritually satisfied with taking a year off to travel?

What if, I thought, I could combine those three things somehow? Create a year-long project that would combine the work I love (writing),  giving back (service/charity), and the leisure (travel)? What would that project look like?

Here’s what I came up with. If I had $100,000 to take a year off, this is what I would do:

  • Take a writing tour of charity organizations in four different countries around the world, spending three months deeply immersed in each community
  • Listen and learn about how each organization’s programming is benefitting the community and transforming individuals’ daily lives
  • Document the experience through a series of articles (published here at Intent, of course!) that synthesize personal stories, scientific research, historical background, etc
  • Highlight major social issues effecting underserved communities (poverty, violence against women, water shortage, climate change, HIV/AIDS, etc) and what people are doing to help
  • Record interviews with staff, volunteers, scientific researchers, and other involved professionals at each nonprofit to shed light on best practices
  • Compile all the articles into a book at the end of the year

So that’s my dream year. Heck, maybe that’s my dream life. I think it’s a good recipe for happiness: find meaningful work, connect with people, give back to your community, and take time to enjoy the ride. I guess, really, you don’t need $100,000 to do that.

What about you? What would your dream year look like? What do you think is a recipe for a happy year and fulfilling life?

Gold Peak Tea is giving away $100,000 to one deserving person to do whatever — whether it be travel the world, write a book, start a nonprofit, or simply kick back and enjoy the comforts of home. To enter, you can fill out the application on their Facebook

Photo: Circle for Togetherness by Alamsyah Rauf on 500px