Gustafson: Notes from the road
June 13, 2017
Familiarity isn't a bad thing, but when we drive or walk along the same paths and roadways day in and day out — to the bus, the store, to school and to work, and home again — we sometimes cease to see. We can begin adopting a way that can sometimes start to feel like sleepwalking, almost training our muscles to move through our daily routines without thinking.
On occasion, breaking up those routines by dropping off the radar and onto the pages of a road atlas can help stimulate us out of such monotonous trances. When the mind feels numb, there is no better cure, in my opinion, than to hit the road to help reawaken mind and body.
On my recent drive to Seattle, I've found that there is still something to be said about spontaneous road trip travel, particularly the type with low expectations. The kind where you don't try to get anywhere in a hurry, or search to get anything out of it, because you may not. And you don't try to achieve anything specific because you can't. The point? To just be. Just be. Breakup the routines in your mind and find out a little bit more about our world and how we all fit together, perhaps about what we want it all to mean.
Not all travel has an intrinsic purpose, but it all leads us somewhere. It's an opportunity to acknowledge that wherever we end up and with whatever we happen to have, that is the only place. I noticed a plaque on a rock on a small side street near Baker City, Oregon, that said simply, "Welcome to this moment." It helped remind me that there is no destination that can fulfill all of our desires. Happiness isn't somewhere, it's everywhere or nowhere, a choice, and this moment, well, it's as good of a place as any for the first day of the rest of your life.
Waking each morning in a new place also seems to more fully awaken all the senses.
When cell service is spotty and wireless is limited, it's easier to be in the present. On the road, time as we've grown to know it ceases to exist in the same confining way, and the regular demands on our daily lives feel less hourly and more sporadic, weekly even — the way it was before mobile communication devices held our vacation time hostage.
Evenings on the highway spread themselves along slowly, darkening softly to night. And sunrises prepare the senses for the onset of a new day, subtly and comfortably. Like the dusty shoulders of the interstate, the days run together indistinguishably. Excepting only for dusk and dawn, you could easily loose track of where you are or what time it is as the outside world with all of its routine obligations begin to blend with the blurry scenery that is zipping past.
Waking each morning in a new place also seems to more fully awaken all the senses. During those brief moments before you are certain of where and even who you are, and which way is up.
At times startling and at other times reassuring, those seconds after the first fully conscious breath — when the dream is still within reach but the new day is taking hold — offer the chance to give pause in a way in which I would like to greet everyday. Each day filled with so much uncertainty and potential, not just the traveling days.
There's a whole world out there flying by. And it seems at times all too easy to miss it as it passes along. Each moment already in the rear view mirror before the dust has had time to settle.
Let's exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind, after all, if we always agree, what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.