I love road trips. In fact, just filling my tank up with gas makes me feel like anything is possible, even if the only thing that is possible at that moment is getting to work on time. I can choose to keep driving at any moment and explore what is down the road. I almost always go to work, but the idea is that I don’t have to choose work—I can choose anything. There is an old saying that is the epitome of trite: “life is a journey,” or for me, a road trip. The older I get the more I understand that all of those hallmark sayings I thought were trite were actually quite profound and can be cornerstones in living a good life. I know that sounds cheesy but allow this to unfold and let’s see if I can get us there.
Let’s start with an exercise so that I am not the only one working here. Pull out something to write with. I want you to think of a great road trip or lots of road trips, whether you went on them either as a kid or as an adult. Think about where you went, who was with you and what you did. Think about the journey, discovery, the mess-ups etc. … Let’s start to list and document what specifically made them good.
1. Make a list of 5-10 events that made a trip fun or engaging.
An example for me might be: “a beau and I get a flat tire in Scotland and pull off into a driveway of a tiny farmhouse complete with puzzled farmer and we laugh our asses off.”
Another example from a different trip: “on the trip cross-country from NY to CA with my best friend on a bio-break, we choose a cheese stand we had seen a million bad billboards for that had 45 types of spreadable cheese and much, much more.”
2. Now take that list of events, pull one of them out, and break down the characteristics of those events. Break those moments into simpler, smaller pieces. Distill what made them good or fun.
For me, components of that flat tire event in Scotland were: adventure, a partner in crime, lots of laughter, building inside jokes from stressful situations, intimacy, overcoming an obstacle with someone.
For the cheese stand example, the components were: getting to stop to pee when I wanted to, food, the bizarre, someone who shares the joy of the bizarre and can dive into the moment, discovery, laughter, more food, kitsch (which could be listed on bizarre but there was so much it gets its own spot), spontaneity.
Now look at those distilled moments you have on your list and their characteristics. Aren’t those very components of a good road trip the very things that make for a great life? They do for me. So approaching life like I would a vacation, an adventure instead of something I have to drag myself through, an ordeal, puts me in a completely different mindset. I am open, looking for fun, curious about what might happen, bringing in people I enjoy to share times with, taking care of myself with a true devotion to wellness and worthiness.
If I see my days stretch out like the road ahead, it can be overwhelming because I just want to get to my destination. When I start to pay attention to the quality of those days instead of only the vacation days or weekend days, I build something good. What makes a journey good for me is stopping to pee when I need to and not to do the pee-pee dance for an hour thinking I should have stopped when my bladder told me to instead of pushing on, stopping to eat when I am hungry, stopping when I am tired to sleep or stretch. How many times during your day do you put off these things because you are busy? We delay things that are foundations of basic human need: eating, sleeping, moving, and finding a moment to go to the bathroom when you need to instead of between projects, meetings or chores. Really, no wonder we sometimes find our days overwhelming and stressful and we get burned out. If you don’t want to be burned out, stop living like your hair is on fire.
Go back to those road trips you listed, those moments of savoring an adventure. Even when the scenery was ugly, you still had a good time. You remembered then to step back, breathe, laugh, play with a friend, eat some cheese, maybe even add some wine, and love exactly where you were in the moment, because this too shall pass like a bad billboard on the side of the road. Tally ho!