I just got back from a road trip. I drove from my home in the upstate of South Carolina to Nashville, Tennessee. Now I know that doesn't seem like a long distance trip, and I have certainly driven further. But it was long enough for me to think of some interesting parallels between various parts of a road trip, and various twists and turns in our own lives; I thought I would put a few examples down for you - and as usual, I'd love to know what you think.
Now you know my starting point, and my ending point. Just as all of us start from different points for a road trip (because we don't all live in the same place - ha!), the same can be said for where everyone starts their lives. What do I mean?
Where we are born and what we are born into has a little to do with how arduous the journey of life might be. Just like a road trip, a lot of how the trip turns out depends on what we make of it; expectations, desires, perseverance, attitude.
If I start off my road trip thinking I will take the trip and everything will go just as I planned, and that nothing can go wrong, then I might just be setting myself up for disappointment. But if I am realistic, and understand that sometimes bad traffic happens, or certain restaurants closed since the last time I visited a certain destination, then my attitude could affect whether I enjoy the trip or not. Our starting point in life is not all that different.
For example, a certain neurosurgeon was born into a poor family. He was surrounded by poverty, and crime, and violence. He was surrounded by circumstances that he could have allowed him to succumb to bad influence, a life of crime, or a life of violence. Instead, he persevered and rose above stereotypes. He went on to medical school, and even made some amazing strides in the field of neurology. Of course the man I just described is Dr. Ben Carson.
Fyi - I started from my house for my trip to Nashville. I expected a smooth trip; I took what I thought might be an easy, quick trip there, and still hit a couple of traffic jams. But alas, I persevered, and eventually reached my destination.
Speaking of directions, I had to use some to get to a residence of some very nice people who opened their home to me for a few days. I didn't exactly know how to get there. I cheated and used GPS; Google Maps. But it was handy; I listened to whatever the little voice on my phone app told me. It gave me advice on how to go another route some of the time; sometimes I listened; sometimes I didn't. Oddly enough, when I've listened to the little voice of the app on road trips with my son, sometimes I regretted listening and following what it said; other times my son laughed at me as I regretted not listening. No kidding - there was one point on our last trip together to New Orleans, where the GPS took us on so many wrong turns, my son and I BOTH wanted to throw the phone out the window.
Life is like that sometimes. We encounter people along the way that genuinely want to help us get to where we're trying to go. They are trying to help us accomplish this or that. They're sometimes trying to lead us astray, and we have to determine if it's in our best interest to listen - or not. Sometimes we think we know right where we are going, only to find that there was a detour, or something that is not quite like how we pictured it or remembered it. My wife would read this far into this post and gladly point out that, sometimes, you just need to stop and ask for directions. We should approach life in a similar fashion... and face the fact that sometimes, we are just going to be wrong, or even led astray. But how do we react to that?
This brings me to the topic of attitude. What happens when things we don't like about our trip occur? It's all about how we handle it, isn't it? Every time I ran into a traffic jam, or got stuck behind that one driver that never made up their mind to drive fast enough (but went just fast enough to not pass), I focused on the music. That's right; I sang to the radio. I'd listen to which song was playing, and if it wasn't good enough, I'd change it to a song I did like. And I'd sing it like it's nobody's business. Or maybe I'd just get off the road altogether, and do something else that I know will make me happy - EAT! That's right; I'd find a good place to eat.
What about when life happens? What about when those things that we just don't expect get in our way? How do we handle it? It comes back to attitude. I could pout, and grumble, and complain, and focus on the negative. I could dwell on the issue itself, or I could try to fix it. I could try to focus on something else for a while, and come back to it if I have to. But life definitely throws us some 'traffic jams' and slow pokes, doesn't it? What if I talk to someone else who has the same problem, or just handled a problem similar to mine? Sometimes that can help. And as on the road trip, sometimes food makes everything better :)
But I digress - our attitudes can easily make our trip either worse, or better.
The roads between cities like Greenville, SC, and Nashville, TN, have various twists and turns. Regardless of which route I take to get there, I am bound to come to some long, straight roads. I am also going to come up and down a lot of hills; some steep, and some gradual. Sometimes I can just coast along, and be perfectly happy. But sometimes, that can get a little boring. Sometimes I might come to a hill, and have to give it a little gas; make the old truck work a little harder to get up that hill. Driving through the mountains, I may have to hang a curve or two. Sometimes I may have to go around obstacles, even when they appear in an instant; I have to adapt and adjust my course of travel, and maintain control. Once again, is life so different?
Sometimes we can just coast through life, but when we are, is it really fulfilling? Sometimes I need to do something to enhance the journey. On a trip, maybe I'd take a more scenic route. In life, maybe I try to achieve my goals by changing my approach. Or maybe I stumble upon something new, or discover I'm good at something new. Maybe I take a different route altogether. Sometimes, I might have to work harder to achieve what I want. Sometimes I'm forced to take an alternate route because certain doors are closed to me. Sometimes other people are competing with me to achieve similar goals. I might just have to work harder than they are; I might have to pass them.
Then of course, when it comes to road trips, do you travel alone, or do you take someone with you? I traveled to Nashville alone, and I think I need a trip by myself sometimes, just so I can think. But at the same time, I'd rather go on trips with someone else most of the time. I take short weekend trips with my wife sometimes. I take long road trips with my son, and I think it has helped him learn a lot of important things about the world around him. But when it comes to taking a trip I have to take, or a trip with an ultimate destination, I want to take that trip with someone. Not everyone is like that, but I can say without a doubt that my long term goal, when I retire, is to take long road trips with my wife to discover the still yet-to-be-seen states of this great country. I don't want to take that trip alone.
Life is one big long journey for most people. Whether you want to go it alone is situational, and really up to each individual. But me, personally? I can't imagine taking my life journey with anyone else but my wife at my side. She's in the passenger seat; and she's awesome at telling me what we want to see next. I always found it funny that despite all our differences, the main things we want in this journey called life all line up perfectly. How about you? Have you thought about any of this?
My road trip - my self-road-trip to Nashville this past weekend - was awesome. I loved it. I took the more urban route to Nashville; I took the more scenic route back home. I listened to plenty of music to help the road go by. I stopped and ate at several satisfying restaurants. I took the twists and turns in stride. I enjoyed accelerating at times, and at other times I wished I could just stop driving. When I got to my destination, I had a host family there to welcome me. While I was there, I got to learn more about the writing world with people with similar goals to mine. I even got to moderate and lead discussions on panels of authors, and met several intriguing and intellectual people... and saw some old faces, too.
But in the end, I came back home, and I came back home to my family. My wife and dogs and son were all happy to see me, and I got right back on my normal journey.
And when you get right down to it, aren't we all just trying to get back home? That could be another post altogether :)
I'd love to know what you think? What are some of the things you've experienced on road trips? What about life? I'm an open book, and love to talk to folks. Please don't be a stranger.