Why travel? There are as many reasons as destinations: to expand horizons, see new sights, build relationships, develop skills, tackle a challenge, rejuvenate, be inspired. And though a four-day whirlwind to New York City is a completely different animal than two weeks sailing the Greek Islands, both provide opportunities to learn and grow. No matter the destination or duration, I never fail to return with new insights into myself and my world.
My latest trip was a doozy.
On the introspection spectrum, I hit everything from “shower thoughts” to “life-altering thunderclaps.” It makes sense in retrospect. I had 19 days on the road with my dearest friend, and apparently 35 years of history sets the stage for deep musing and conversation. We were also outdoors nearly every day, hiking in Yosemite, Death Valley, and everywhere in between. I had ample time to think - hours upon hours inside my own head. If you’re ever feeling the need for peace and clarity, take a hiking vacation. It does wonders.
So what did I learn? A bunch of stuff, but I’ll focus on three ideas that have wormed their way into my brain, taken purchase, and will not leave. They’ve stayed long enough, I’ve dubbed them the three R’s: Rightmindedness, Renewal, and Resolve.
This one starts at the beginning, as many things do: I didn’t want to go on this trip.
I’d just returned to Oregon from living 3 1/2 months on the other side of the country. I hadn’t seen my husband in over 5 weeks, and in the measly 20 days I was home, we purchased a new home. I’ve had so much change in the past couple years, my head regularly threatens to pop off trying to come to terms with it all: both kids left home for college, we started our own business, sold our home of 18 years, moved twice, started new jobs, …. Enough! I wanted to stop. Stay. Settle.
But I really wanted to go on this trip.
Karen is an adventurous spirit who spends five months each year traveling the world. She has routinely invited me to tag along, but I always found reasons to decline, usually because I couldn’t bear to miss my kids’ activities. I figured there’d be time later once the boys were off doing their own thing. Well they’re off. Plus Karen had a rough year, and I’d had a rough few years. Maybe we could heal a bit together.
In short, I desperately wanted to be two places at once. That’s not technically possible so I spent the first couple days on the road in a funk. I put on a happy face and mustered what positive energy I could, but with a heart divided I couldn’t ease the pit in my stomach or silence the clanging in my head.
I needed to make a decision. Or as my mom would more indelicately put it, “piss or get of off the pot.” Either apologize profusely to Karen and go home, or get right with the decisions I made and stay. I’ve never been one to post inspirational words or phrases around my home, but I’m sorely tempted to paint “Be where you are” in big bold letters. Fretting over the past is fruitless, and yet it’s a leading cause of my angst (and periodic insomnia).
Have you ever struggled to be fully present? Took work along on vacation, replayed a conversation over and over in your head, or focused too much on the negative since things would be SO much better if only you’d done ___ instead? Living in two places isn’t living. Be where you are. Work like a demon possessed before takeoff so you can sink into vacation. Confront issues that need to be addressed with friends, family, co-workers. Forgive yourself for not being perfect, accept your decisions, find the positives (glass half full!), and move on.
Once I got right in my head, the sky was bluer, the sun warmer, and I felt about 50 pounds lighter. I had the trip of a lifetime because I decided to show up for it.
Within a week of returning, I attended a dinner party where the host asked “What has most recently inspired you?” The answers were as varied as the assembled guests: A friend battling cancer, getting back into the work-trenches after years of high-level management, connecting with friends in the outdoors, getting punched in the face by a little Irish guy.
While on this trip, I took in the splendor of Yosemite from the top of Half Dome, marveled at a lavender sunrise over the Mono Lake tufas, and stood gobsmacked at top of Mt. Whitney. It was hard not to feel inspired when faced with a daily onslaught of awesomeness. Standing in a windy mountain pass at 13,000 feet with sun shining and miles of gorgeous in every direction, I felt like I owned the world and that anything was possible. Anything.
I don’t feel that often enough.
It’s vital to be inspired, energized, motivated. Both freed, and filled up. To have inner desires revealed, and to face the day with excitement and purpose. I certainly got all that and more while away, but you don’t need to travel to be moved. Where do you find inspiration? Friends? Books? Meditation? Driving on the open road with the windows down and radio blasting?
Make time to revitalize. Schedule it and set it aside. An inspired life is a joyous life.
I don’t know if it’s adrenaline, endorphins, serotonin, or a combination of those and more, but an inspirational high is a feeling that can’t be beat. When in that zone, I feel limitless and all-powerful and inevitably make resolutions for things to do/see/change: find meaningful volunteer work, engage more with friends and neighbors, stick to a killer new workout routine. In the high of the moment, it’s a given that I’ll be more efficient, more productive, a better friend. Can’t wait! It’s going to be amazing!
And then reality hits.
It’s all too easy to lose passion and focus in the demands and distractions of life. So how do you grab this tiger by the tail? How do you retain that energy and turn inspiration into action?
To be honest, I’m still struggling with this. I capture thoughts using various tools (a simple notebook, Evernote, OmniFocus) and enter to-dos into my planning calendar. But deadlines pass and tasks drop when I become mired in minutiae, things take longer than expected, and new challenges arise.
I wish I had a pithy answer or quick solution, but I think it comes down to: Do the work (another contender for wall-words). Just do it. I’m reminded of Stephen Covey’s analogy that life’s tasks are rocks in a jar. If you continually fill with small rocks first (lesser, easier tasks) there’s no room left for the big rocks (the important stuff). If the activities born of inspiration are big rocks, treat them as such. Make them a priority and take action. Big rocks are the heavy-hitters with life-changing impact, but if not attended to, they can become rocks in your pockets, dragging you down.
There you go. That took about 1200 words to say “be present, get inspired, and take action.” I hope you’ve got this nailed, or at least experience shining moments of success. I’m definitely a work in progress.
This article is one of many written about a 3-week road trip spent hiking and camping in the Eastern Sierras and Death Valley. To see all articles, check out this trip summary.