Destination Unknown…

My assignment today for Writing101 is to use a quote for inspiration.

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“The journey not the arrival matters.” – T. S. Eliot

While searching for inspiration for a tag line for my blog I came upon some great quotes about travel. My nickname “Trip” has a lot of different meanings but one of my favorite is “a journey or a voyage”. I tend to see my life as a crazy unpredictable adventure – sometimes awesome and sometimes not so much, but definitely never boring.  While I can chart a course I can’t always control what will happen along the way and often end up somewhere completely unexpected. I’ve learned that the journey and what you learn from it are often much more important than the destination.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

As a child I was just trying to survive – a rowboat in a hurricane, huddled in the bottom of the boat and hoping for a break in the storm. As I got older I began to see a glimmer of light on the horizon. I realized that my reality was not the norm. I learned so much from people who passed through my life and gave me little glimmers of hope without even realizing it. When I reached my teens I grabbed the oars and started rowing towards the faint light in the distance, towards my future. As I lifted my eyes to the horizon, I realized there was a great big world out there to explore that I had never noticed because I was too busy just trying to survive.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine

My first experience traveling alone was at the age of 17 flying to visit a university. What I remember the most is the feeling of lifting off the ground and soaring over the clouds. The feeling of freedom and safety overwhelmed me. At the time I probably wasn’t able to verbalize it, but deep down I knew that I would be able to break free and make my own way in the world without the chains of my childhood. That experience fueled my love of adventure. I began to see the world as a fascinating place full of new things to learn, people to meet and places to explore.

“I don’t know where I am going but I’m on my way.”

– Carl Sagan

When I was younger I was pretty shy and soft spoken. A childhood friend said he remembered me as the shy girl in the back of the room always reading a book. Somewhere along the way someone taught me to act “as if”. Act “as if” you aren’t scared and eventually you won’t be. Act “as if” you are as confident as someone you admire and eventually you will be too. I tried it out with smaller things and as I realized it worked, became more daring. I learned to be comfortable traveling by myself. I realized I actually love exploring new places, meeting new people and even eating at restaurants on my own.

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

As an adult I’ve lived all over the U.S. and even traveled internationally a few times. People across the globe have a lot more in common than they think. We love. We make mistakes. We want a brighter future for our children. We laugh. We cry. We want to make the world a better place. Yes, there are people in this world who choose to create chaos, who lack empathy, who do horrible evil things. I learned that very early in life, but I believe they are the minority. Most people are trying to do the right thing, to bring a little light to this world. They aren’t perfect. None of us are. We are imperfectly perfectly human. I wish everyone took the time to travel and get to know people who are not like themselves. It is difficult to hate someone when you know them personally, have sat at their dinner table, met their friends and family and learned about their lives.

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.”

– Dalai Lama

I’ve also marveled at the beauty of our world. Watching the sunset over the ocean, feeling the wind on my face as I enjoy the view from the top of a mountain, admiring the beauty of a tiny flower or seashell. I feel the most grounded when I am outside enjoying nature. In a world full of technology, I wish everyone had the chance to unplug and engage with Mother Nature. It is easier to dismiss news stories about how we are harming our own natural environment if you don’t have personal experience with the world we stand to lose.  A forest you have walked through is more personal than one in a photograph. A river you have paddled is much more personal than one seen on the evening news. The ocean is so much more powerful and precious when it has washed over your toes.

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck

Somewhere along the way I upgraded my rowboat and no longer have to franticly paddle. I picture myself in a beautiful sailboat big enough to have a warm dry berth for sleeping, a motor to help me navigate when the winds aren’t going my way and plenty of supplies for my journey. I’m still floating along at the whim of Mother Nature. Life isn’t all calm, clear water and smooth sailing. I’ve had storms, high winds and waves. I’ve been knocked off my charted course more times than I can count. My goal is not to try to control the things that are far beyond my reach. I want to make the choices that are mine to make and then enjoy the adventure. I know that after every storm, the sun will eventually rise, the clouds will part and once again I will enjoy a bright sunny day. In the meantime I admire the beauty of the clouds and dance in the rain.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

– Mark Twain

My wish for you – that you will step out of your comfort zone and seek out adventure. You don’t have to do anything crazy or be anyone but yourself.  I’m not an athlete or someone you read about in a magazine. I’m a middle aged, out of shape mother of three. All of us can seek out new experiences even in our own backyards. Find a nature preserve or park near your home where you can take a walk and enjoy the natural world. Take that class you have always thought about – art, music, writing, martial arts – anything you always wanted to learn. Explore a different part of your city or a nearby town. Eat at a restaurant that serves a kind of food you have never tried. Smile more. Introduce yourself to new people. Get to know people who seem very different from you. Listen to what they have to say. Sometimes I think we get stuck in a comfortable pattern not realizing that too much routine narrows our view. We need to step outside our comfort zone and engage with the broader world around us.

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” – John Steinbeck

Two years ago I was hit by an unexpected storm that left me huddled below deck just hoping to make it through. I had to turn inward and focus on myself and my family. I didn’t have the energy to even think about trying anything new. As the sun slowly crept over the horizon and the clouds parted I realized I had been thrown so far off course that retracing my path wasn’t an option. I had weathered the storm, but the storm had also weathered me. I was given an amazing opportunity by an organization called First Descents. They offered to send me on a kayaking trip with other people my age who had been affected by cancer. They helped me regain my zest for life and figure out how to navigate the new water of cancer survivorship. I’m now back at the helm but I’m not really charting a course for a particular destination. Just being out on the water is more than enough. I may choose a destination eventually, but for now serendipity guides me. I’m not sure where I’m going, but I’m definitely on my way. As First Descents would say – I am “Out Living It”.

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