“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ursula K. LeGuin
Something I know for sure, is that it’s the experience of the journey that counts more than arriving at the destination. It feels great to complete a task, or arrive at a place we are aiming for, but what we learn on the way is the stuff that every day life is made of. Having a destination and arriving at it is important, but if we miss the joy and excitement, and sometimes sorrow and uncertainty of getting there, the end result pales.
My husband and I are motorcyclists who ride every chance we get. Sometimes we have a destination, but often we just ride. We make it a habit to turn left or right on a whim, and experience the intrigue and excitement of seeing all new stuff and wondering where we’re going to wind up. In our five years of riding, only twice have we wound up on dead-end roads where we’ve had to turn around and retrace our steps. But the two times that happened, we took the opportunity to see how things looked and changed by viewing them from the opposite direction. You might be surprised at how a landscape changes when you view it from the north instead of the south.
For our honeymoon, Ireland was our destination, but the seven days spent on our motorcycle while there was an unforgettable and exciting journey. We had no reservations and no agenda. Every morning we’d get our map out and decide which direction we wanted to go. We slowly meandered through the countryside and saw parts of Ireland that are not included on a tour. Because we had no agenda we could take the time to meet people and even sit and have conversations with the local folks. We found many out-of-the-way, unmarked places and became explorers in our own right, which created an extraordinary experience for us. Had our focus been on the destination, there are many events, people, and experiences we would have missed.
It seems that many are in a big rush to get where they’re going. Perhaps road rage is a by-product of people rushing to a destination. I read the other day about something new called “sidewalk rage.” It seems people are in a hurry even when they’re walking and if someone is walking slowly and is blocking their path, they’ll push, jostle and curse, and even knock others out-of-the-way in order to get the person to move. When I read news like this, my first thought is usually, “What’s the rush?”, followed by, “Where’s the fire?”, and “What will happen to you if you slow down and arrive ten minutes later than you wanted?” Perhaps when we’re focused on our destination instead of our journey, we forget about virtues like patience and temperance.
There are a few rules that I live by that help me enjoy the journey. I share them with you and if you choose to use any of them, I trust they will work as well for you as they do for me.
Be present to yourself on a moment by moment basis. Pay attention to what’s going on within you, what you like and dislike, what you see, what catches your eye, how you feel, and all the small stuff that is right in front of your eyes, but easy to miss. Do you suddenly feel a tightness in your shoulders or your neck, butterflies in your stomach, or an overwhelming joy? What is that about? Take the time to pay attention to and experience what you are feeling. It’s too easy to walk through life with our head in the clouds and blinders on our face and miss what really matters.
Be present to others in your life. If you made a list of all of the important people in your life, could you write down next to each one’s name, their eye color, the type of clothes and/or shoes they usually wear, the colors they like, or their favorite foods? Do they have any health issues? What are their fears? What do they love more than anything? If you hang out with someone, and pay attention and express an interest in them, you’ll hear the answers to these questions. Tune in to what the people in your life are saying and doing. Really listen and let the joy of being included in someone’s life change the way you might see them. Do they seem happy, sad, rushed, scared, angry? What do they laugh at and how does their laughter sound? When you make it a habit to do these things, you’ll probably be amazed at how much you’ve missed about the people who come in and out of your life.
Be present to life itself. Notice smells, sounds, noises, tastes, etc. When you eat, really see and taste your food. Having a meal should and could be a sensual experience for all of us if we’ll just take the time to notice the color, smell, and texture of our foods. I love to dine as opposed to just eating. A true dining experience is about really enjoying everything about your meal and taking your time to taste what you’re eating. For many, eating is just a way of not feeling hungry and they miss the experience of totally tasting and chewing their food slowly and elegantly.
It’s easy to miss the smell of rain, of newly mowed grass, of flowers and fresh air, if we’re focused on getting to where we’re going. Our world is filled with majesty, grandeur, and glorious bits of the spectacular and the mundane. Don’t miss out on the experience of life that is going on all around you and within you. Take the time to pay attention.
Broaden your horizons. Many times there’s more than one way to get to where you want to go, but you may not know this if you’re afraid to try something different. Step out of the box, make your own route, and follow your instinct. Because forty people took Route A to get to Glammerstown doesn’t mean you have to take Route A also. Route B may be longer but it may be the best route for you. We are all individuals and unique in our own right. It’s okay to be different and to make your own way. Sometimes we need to follow the crowd, but sometimes it’s better not to. Suppose the crowd is headed for a sheer drop off of a cliff? Would you still want to follow them? Be brave and allow yourself to take some risks. Even if the risk you take does not pay off the way you intended, you’ve gained because you’ve set yourself free to broaden your horizons. Remind yourself that inspiration comes when we’re willing to spread our wings and step out of the norm.
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Having a destination is important because we know where we’re going and we’ll know when we’ve arrived. But just as important is realizing that we don’t always have to know where we’re going. It’s okay to take the unknown path and trust the journey. I’ve followed my nose down many paths, and though some were filled with frustration and hurt, I don’t regret any. My journey has been a good one and each path has led to the next, which is my destination.
Remember: Life can be short, so please take time to fully enjoy as many moments as you can. “Success is not a place at which one arrives but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.” Alex Noble