This is the final installment of Cups from my foreign adventures to Australia and Asia.
Happiness doesn’t require much.
It was 10pm and pitch black when we met Kham.
Standing just over four foot, ten inches, and eight months pregnant, she greeted us with a thick accent and the most captivating grin: one part warmth, one part mischief.
My partner in travel crime and I had found Kham and her husband Henri-Pierre through Airbnb, which had been our primary source of accommodations while traveling through Asia. Preferring to keep our travel spontaneous, we booked the listing the day before we arrived and planned on staying in Luang Prabang for two days before exploring other cities in Laos.
She led us to a pickup truck and instructed us to climb in the back. I glanced at my partner: we shared the same nervous excitement about the adventure before us. After a chilly ride, we arrived at the homestay, which they’d built themselves in order to start hosting travelers. Kham showed us to our room (which had been meticulously prepared) and then asked us a simple question,
"Would you like to eat dinner with my family?"
Kham and her family had prepared a mouth-watering feast of noodles, fresh veggies and meat served with such warmth and hospitality. We instantly felt at home as we connected with the family in broken English, shared bottles of Beerlao and learned more about all Luang Prabang had to offer.
It was clear we’d need more than two days.
Luang Prabang is a simple city alongside the Mekong River. With 50,000 people and a heavy Buddhist influence, the small city is filled with beautiful Buddhist temples and streets lined with tuk-tuks and fresh food markets.
Over the course of the following five days, we explored every nook and cranny; taking Kham’s Hello Kitty themed Vespa over bumpy, rooster-lined, roads around town and out into the country to explore jungles and waterfalls and to meet elephants.
We’d explore all day before returning to Kham’s house where Henri-Pierre would make us a drink with LaosLaos Whiskey (a local favorite) while Kham cooked a delicious meal. The meals were slow and relaxed and we would stay at the table long after we were full.
Despite it’s economic troubles (a third of the Laos’ population lives on less than US$1.25 per day), Luang Prabang is a place where people find happiness within the simplicity.
We saw examples of this wherever we went. The best night of the stay involved a boat tour up the Mekong where we discovered a bar (essentially a wooden shack on the middle of an island) where locals were enjoying their Friday night playing cards. We stopped for a beer and before we knew it, they’d invited us into their circle and treated us like we’d always been a part of the crew.
No electricity, no frills, no gadgets or gizmos: just good people, good food, and laughter.
That’s how it felt wherever we went in the city—but the feeling was strongest when spending time with Kham. She wasn’t a traditional Cup but her charm and generosity made for an unforgettable experience and a lesson I wanted to share:
Happiness doesn’t require much.
It seems the pursuit of happiness is never-ending. We look for the latest and greatest thing that will make us happy: the diet that will transform our bodies, the book that will transform our mind, the technology that will solve our every want and that magical amount of money that makes our troubles disappear.
But the truth is that you don’t need many things to find happiness.
You can find it within the simple moments: an unexpected adventure, warm smile, delicious meal, and long conversations with kind people.
You find it in the moment.
Happiness is the moment.