How often do you reflect on your life experiences?
Maybe when you have to write up a new resume, or try to fix an argument you’ve had with a partner? Perhaps when you read a good magazine article on a topic you’ve been avoiding, or after your retirement party is over and you have to think about a new schedule for your life.
What about your travel experiences?
I don’t know about your travel routine, but when I come back, I have photos, souvenirs, and stories which I share with friends over a cup of tea, laughter infusing the stories with glee and good humor. It’s a good gig.
But there’s more to glean from these experiences than that, it turns out. I have a framed print by my bed that reminds me:
“she always got so much more from a book when she paused to savour and integrate and just smile into space. maybe life was much the same.”
It reminds me to value the experiences I enjoy on a deeper level, not just racing through them (as I did last Friday night reading Sad Desk Salad: A Novel [aff link: see note below] and moving on. So I’m going to try processing my last big trip, a November road trip to Nova Scotia and back (that’s about 3,000 miles), now that I’ve got some perspective on it.
Nova Scotia’s First Lesson:
Your life is not linear.
I am delighted to be leaving behind the details of my day job after this, my final week in DC: from being the go-to guru on finicky webinar settings, to learning about transmission tower reliability requirements, to placating a Devil-Wears-Prada-like client.
But I know that many of the skills I learned in the past will help me in future, and so while I’d like to put those transmission towers in my rearview mirror, they may well come back to haunt, or help me. Lesson? Don’t toss random skill sets aside; you never know which arrows it will be helpful to have in your quiver later; appreciate what every experience has to teach you.
Here we have a photo representing more of my present reality: a foggy marshland. Many things changing, assumptions being questioned, and too many balls in the air to see very clearly through the thick of them.
This is a clearing at the top of the Franey Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. I had about 2 hours of light left by the time I got to the entrance to the park, entranced as I had been by the Cabot Trail and its unique craft shops. I chose the Franey with this in mind, my ears full of advice about moose and bears from the ranger on duty.
I crossed paths with no one but myself that afternoon.
I went up purposefully, only to get to the top and see that I was completely fogged in with no view. But being in the forest most of the time was a wonderful enough view for me, so I laughed to myself and then started downward. Not too far from the top, I came out of the forest to see this clearing, thinking it would be perfect for moose to be grazing, but after a few still moments of observation with no sighting, I moved on.
The moose sighting came later, as I was noisily, hurriedly making my way down the ATV trail, and I suddenly got the sense of being watched. I slowed, stopped, and turned to my left. Two of the prehistoric-looking creatures were standing stock-still about 25 feet from me, standing in the undergrowth. Lesson? Be aware of your surroundings; keep an open mind, and what you’re looking for may find you.
Here is my immediate future: walking out on the breakwater, and the safety of shore looking very, very far away. This photo was taken from the lighthouse by Samoset Resort, and brings to mind another quote:
A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. — John Augustus Shedd
The safety of that shore– the comfort of that day job– are what wear down that impulse within each of us that says ‘Go! Create! Spread Beauty in the world!’ The key here will be launching from that breakwater outward, casting off into the sea, and not staying in the harbor, grumbling about it. Lesson? Don’t stick with what is considered safe; you may need to try something different to find your own life purpose.
And here’s the future a little further on: the sunlight pouring through the clouds showing me the hope that lies ahead. This is from the November day when I returned to Maine on my way home, stopping to hike up a shoulder of Champlain Mountain in Acadia National Park.
I made sure to carve out a time for a hike by spending the night at an inn by the Park and skipping the (included!) breakfast to go hiking as the sun rose. I had to get to a friend’s house in Vermont before it got dark and stormy, so I really had to squeeze it in at the literal crack of dawn. Good thing I’m a morning person.
Lesson? Go after what you want. It will be worth the climb.
What lessons have you gleaned from your travels? What insights have they given you about your ‘normal’ life? How do you honor your past, present, and future, while still ‘living in the moment,’ or do you?