365 Grateful: Get Off That Highway

highwaysWhat’s the allure of travel for you? I travel because I want to see unusual things, live new experiences, explore a world that’s wonderfully different from my daily existence.  So, I guess travel is my vehicle for getting to a place where that waits for me.

I think I’m mistaken.

Have you ever looked at highways from above, especially with time-lapse video? They’re streams and rivers that merge and diverge and flow inexorably toward some far-away ocean, carrying vehicles – us – with them. I used to think of them as a means to an end – a way to get to where I wanted to be quickly, easily.

Once in the pull of that current, we’re a bit like ships. We just steam along, not really paying attention to the journey, not heeding beckoning paths, ignoring potential wonders, and dismissing unseen surprises. Those paths and surprises are what glimmer just past the banks of our asphalt rivers, but, God forbid, we can’t take that exit! First, we “can’t just stop on a dime, you know,” and second, we don’t have time because “we have to get there” – whatever “there” is for us.

Well, I beg to differ. Goals should include more of “here” and a little less of “there.” Maybe we should take more time to live life and enjoy the moments, not just travel through them speeding off to the future. Funny, isn’t it? The only truth is the now, the present, today, this moment. The past is cold and done and no longer true. The future? Here’s a secret: it never actually arrives. All we really have is today.

My childhood is peppered with memories of my Dad saying, “let’s go for a drive.” We’d pile into the car and just drive. No destination, just exploration of where this road went or that lane led, and what we might see along the way – haystacks? Cows? Horses? A friendly person to wave at or even pass a few moments with? A bunny? A deer?

My Great-Aunt Jo understood. If mom and dad planned a last-minute trip through the West Virginia hills and invited her, you could count on Aunt Jo’s answer: “Packing my bags now.” Twenty-six years after her death, I’m still grateful for the lessons in her attitude.

There are such interesting things to see beyond the limited view from our rivers, whether they’re made of asphalt, water, or our own aspirations. Life is like that. It happens and unfolds as we rush along.

Buck the current, I say, and take more unexpected side trips. After all, life is in the living of moments, which are found in the small exits along the way, not in the destination itself at all.

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