Jewel Finds the Road to Happiness
In her fourth in a series of exclusive blogs for The Boot, Jewel talks about "fishing" for happiness and her newfound affinity for motorcycle riding. Read below, in the illustrious singer/songwriter/author's own words, and also enjoy her personal photos from the road.
Ty shared a story with me the other day. He said a man was fishing and he thought to himself, "I really love fishing. Maybe I should try doing it for a living." So he got himself a boat and began to make money doing something he loved. Soon he realized that if he made a little money fishing with one boat, he could earn twice as much with two. So he saved up, bought another boat, hired a man to run it, and was soon really making money. In fact, he began to build a fishing fleet, and he became so busy being successful running his business that he no longer had time to go fishing!
Sometimes we set out to do what makes us happy, and somewhere along the line, we need to reevaluate if those things still make us happy. Are we slaves to our lives, or are our lives really working for us and making us happy? Do the people around us make us happy, or hinder it?
First of all, what the heck is happiness? A lot of us don't actually know what truly makes us happy - just what we THINK makes us happy. Most of us answer with vague things like "sunshine makes me happy," or "money would fix everything," or "if I could just ..." Defining it is the first step. The answer will often surprise you, as what we spend most of our life chasing isn't what actually brings us happiness. And we end up puzzled - working so hard for what we think we want, yet we become more and more unhappy. It is very personal to each person, and it isn't what we are told or sold on TV or in movies, either. Do we really need so many things to be happy? What is quality of life?
Ty and I have worked hard our whole lives to accomplish impossible dreams. He saddled broncos and bare back horses, and broke the world All Around Record with 7 titles, with 2 more in bull riding, founded the Professional Bull Riders, and put a beautiful ranch together with rodeo winnings - no small feat in and of itself! I worked my tail off to sell 27 million albums as an earnest singer-songwriter - which everyone told me was impossible - and scraped and fought my way to health and happiness. And amazingly, we both did it on our own terms, fortunate enough to make a living doing what we love. But at some point, we have had to stop and ask ourselves - does it still make us happy? How much is enough?
For most of my life, I felt like it was my responsibility to do my best work. I felt an almost crushing obligation to live up to my heroes - to write my best book, to write my best poem. But as I started to look at the personal lives of my literary heroes, I began to notice their work was great, but often the quality of their lives suffered. Many had at least one divorce, and were estranged from their kids. In the end, all they had was their work. I always thought doing my best work would make me happy, but if that was the case, why do so many artists die miserable and unhappy?
Sometimes life can feel like a hamster wheel we get stuck on. I have seen just as many unhappy rich people as I have seen unhappy poor ones. Maybe even more. So Ty and I recently took a step back and said, "what can we simplify in our lives?" Basically, Ty and I wanted to go back to "fishing."
For me, the simpler I keep things, the happier I am. We want to enjoy life now before we get too old to enjoy it. We don't want more success or work at the cost of our lives passing us by. So we have committed ourselves to still following our passions, (I will keep making albums, and Ty will continue with the PBR, but we decided to stop chasing things. Instead, we are going motorcycle riding. Yup. We each took some classes, and got BMW adventure bikes.
I have a BMW 650 GS.
And Ty has a 1200 GS.
Now I'm the last person who thought I'd like to ride a motorcycle. Since I was 18-years-old, I have driven and flown around the world nonstop and the last thing I thought I'd ever want to do with my time off was travel more - but I was wrong. Being on my bike, I have reconnected with my original joy for traveling because it's not for a job. It has brought back the innocence of discovery, which is a precious gift!
We had already heard BMWs were well-made bikes, but didn't know much about adventure biking. The more we heard about it, the more we knew it was for us. When we discovered we could have a bike that would perform well, be reliable and safe, and allow us to indulge our love for taking off on long road trips comfortably (cruisers are uncomfortable for long trips) while still allowing us to turn down a dirt road when we ran across one (the bikes have versatile tires, allowing you to go off-road like a dirt bike), well, we were sold! Adventure biking is like being on a horse, except you see a lot more country, a lot faster. But you still get to experience nature and the country you're riding through – all the smells and sensations of camping, riding horses and hiking, all rolled into two wheels!
The reason I find riding my bike so relaxing is because I can't think of anything except riding. It's like an active form of meditation. Your mind has to focus on the tasks at hand and so all your other worries and cares just fall away. When I drive a car, I am able to let my mind wander to worry about work, or even to write a song. But on my bike, safety is first, and it forces me to focus and live in the present, and so the scenery and the day and the air and curve in front of me fill all my senses – it's great.
In fact for Christmas this year, Ty and I headed out for a 3,000 mile ride, all in our home state of Texas!
We went to Big Bend National park...
Way down to the southwest corner of the state and followed the Rio Grande along the border of Mexico...
Around the horn near Terlingua...
Into the Great Plains area, all the way over to Corpus Christi and up through the famous Texas Hill country...
And back to our home in Stephenville.
We felt like kids again. We were free and thought of nothing except the road in front of us. We discovered great people and great places, and the best part is I got to do it all with my best friend in the world - my husband.
Texas is a widely varied state, and we came across all kinds of terrain and weather - from mountains to gravel roads, to deserts, to high mountain ranch grassland, to low southern pecan groves to snow to rain to blistering heat! We got to enjoy some good food in amazing places - like this lady's house in Comstock called Holley's Place that was converted into a restaurant/bar. You eat in her kitchen, and then you can drink and play pool in the living room! And her kids played some hoops with Ty while she cooked, next to the toilette that was now serving as a plant holder - priceless!
We like it so much that after my album is released in June this year, I think we are going to take off in July and August to ride our bikes from Texas to my hometown of Homer, Alaska. I have never released an album and then just taken off, but I figured if not now, when? I will always be too busy. Ty and I have really made it a goal of ours to enjoy life while we are still young. It is so easy to get caught up in our careers, in trying to stay ahead, or make more money. But we decided who cares about any of it if we aren't enjoying what's truly precious: each other and our health. So basically, we are just going to make time, so we can choose each other and get out and see this amazing world of ours while we still have the energy to see it.
It's great to have discovered these extended trips that Ty and I can do together. It's not about thrill-seeking, but is about really focusing, paying attention and having a blast. We've both traveled for work our whole lives but being on a bike is different. It reminds us that riding a bike is a lot like life – it's not the destination, it's the journey. It's fun and engaging and, ultimately, great for a marriage.
So while we are out there on the road, I will toast each one of you reading this – here's to all of us finding our way to the simpler things, to learning it's ok to say "no" sometimes so we can spend time with family and loved ones. Here's to being thankful for what we have, and to all of us getting back to the things that brought us joy in the first place. Let's get back to "fishing!"