little campbell lake, anchorage, alaska

UPDATE: Thanks to one of our readers, we now know the original source of this story: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinrich_Böll.

I was going to unload everything I learned from my recent trip to Taiwan and Japan but my fiancé told me this story on our 3 hrs drive to her parents’ place this afternoon, and I have to share it. I suppose it counts as a travel story as we were traveling. Don’t judge me.

Also, I don’t know the source of the story nor if it were told as a folktale or not. So, if you DO know the source, I would love to find out from where it came and to properly credit such source. The story goes like this:

A businessman on travel to Taiwan was having drinks in a local watering hole. It was a fishing village. As he was bantering about with fellow travelers, a man came in with a string of fishes. They were huge. All the travelers were very impressed. So the businessman approached the fisherman and asked him how he was so good at fishing and if he had any secrets. He guessed that the fisherman had to work very hard from early in morning to reel in such a catch.

The fisherman nonchalantly replied that he didn’t have any secrets. He went on to explain that he’d wake up whenever he wanted, go find a fishing spot, catch a few plump ones, sell them for a good amount that was enough to support his family with a little bit left over to put in his savings, play with his children afterwards, take a nap with this wife in the afternoon, and drink with his friends in the evening before retiring for the night.

The businessman was even more impressed but thought the fisherman was wasting his vast talent.

“You’re doing it wrong,” the businessman said. “I’m a businessman and I can help you get rich.”

“Well, what do I have to do?” the fisherman asked.

“If you turn your knowledge into a business, hire people to fish for you, form partnerships with restaurants and supermarkets, advertise your company’s expertise, and work really in this regard, you’ll make a lot more money,” the businessman replied.

“And how long will this take?” the fisherman asked.

“With my help and your hard work, you’ll be rich in 5-10 years.”

“And then what next?” the fisherman asked.

“Well, you can use that money to invest in the stock market, buy smaller companies to gain a larger market share, go public with an IPO, and be rolling in so much money you won’t know what to do with it,” the businessman excitedly explained.

“Then what will I do then?” the fisherman asked.

“Well, when you’re that rich, you can sleep in as much as you want, maybe go catch a fish or two leisurely, play with your kids, take a nap with your wife, and go drink with your friends,” the businessman replied.

The fisherman handed his catch to the cook and received a wad of money for the sale. “No thanks, I can already do all those things. Why would I spend all that time getting rich when I’m perfectly happy with what I already have? I’d rather be poor and happy.”

The fisherman walked out leaving the businessman perplexed indeed.

Take from this story whatever you want. Maybe the fisherman is a fool for leaving all that money on the table, but I think he made a good choice. It’s good to be ambitious and hungry, but we should also learn to appreciate the good already in our lives. We often work ourselves to death with the belief that we can enjoy life later, but there’s no guarantee we’d even wake up tomorrow. Work hard, but enjoy life as you go along. What I’m trying to say is… go travel, explore the world and enjoy the fruits of your labor as they ripen. Otherwise, the fruits will rot while you try to hoard more fruits.