A Road Well Traveled
4 Lessons from the Soul Traveler
- I began this journey one year ago. I have driven 30,826 miles and crossed the United States 4 times. There are only 2 states that I have not seen (North Dakota and Alaska). What have I learned?Such an esoteric question that cannot be summed up, even in a lengthy article but can only be “lived out” in the rest of my days. But I can share with you 4 things (out of a basket of hundreds) I have learned along the way.1. It is worth the extra 5 minutes to stop when you see a sign that says “Scenic View” – In the beginning, I admit that I didn’t always stop at the scenic viewpoints. I had a destination in mind, or a goal of where to be at a certain time. But I remember very distinctly stopping at a view point in California, just north of Santa Barbara. Below me was a valley full of chartreuse green that was emerging, after the fires they had the year before, contrasted by the lakes nearly empty after years of drought. Farms beginning to come back to life, and perfect symmetric lines of grapevines making a comeback and that will someday be poured into perhaps my wine glass. You may wonder why that was such a magical scene worth taking the time to view. To me it showed how tragedy can strike us at any time, and yet we rise above – grow anyway, thrive despite any obstacle or life altering event. After that, “scenic views” meant a moment to take a pause, get an eagle’s eye perspective, and gain
a message of deeper understanding.
- When choosing a route to your destination, it is not always best to take the quickest route but to take your time, go slower, find back roads. My mom will tell you (and anyone else who has sat in the passenger seat of my car) that I have always had a lead foot. And that I have nearly always moved very fast, get things done, do what needs to be done. This past year I purposely chose the small roads, sometimes even the dirt roads to get from point A to B. When I was in Utah and had a choice of taking the freeway to Moab which would have taken me about 2 hours or take the Burr Trail and cut through Capitol Reef National Park, estimation of time unknown, I chose the latter. The Burr Trail was paved for the first 30 miles, then turned to dirt, which then turned to rutted dirt roads where I could only go 5 mph. Truthfully, I was scared because I had not seen but one person the entire day. I had not anticipated it being this slow, this desolate. I had every “scenario” of what could happen to me rise up and I’d have to confront that fear and move past it, I had to match it with the belief that I could take care of myself. With no phone reception, no one knew where I was or what road I had taken. Seven hours later I made it to a safe place to camp for the night. But that day … forever etched in my mind and heart. It was breathtaking, it was the most resplendent place I had ever seen. Even now, after all the places I’ve been, nothing truly compares to the awe inspiring beauty that I
experienced that day.
- If there is green on the map, that’s good because you’ll see trees and forest, mountains, and streams. What I probably should add here is that one thing common road maps don’t show you are the steep inclines and declines of a road. Those can come as a surprise! Shortly after starting my journey last year, I drove through Kentucky and by watching my navigation map in my truck, I saw a large green area just off the highway. I took the next exit and followed the road until it led me into the green where I found Bernheim Forest. I walked the trails of the Arboretum and found the oldest living grove of Holly Trees in North America. I sat in the middle of this circle of trees and meditated, I was taken back to a previous life in Ireland where I sat in a fairy circle. Nature does that, it transports us in time and space so we can experience and re-experience moments of our soulscape that helped to shape us. After my hike, I bought a sticker in their shop that says “May the Forest Be With You.” I love that sticker.
- Our life is not measured by the time we save but by the moments we are in awe by taking the road well traveled by soul wanderers. Sure, it’s nice to save time and be efficient. Much of this journey has been sewn together by lessons in time – how not to waste it, how to take things slowly, to not be pressured by it, to not be ruled by it. I have learned if Google Maps tells me it is going to be 3 hours to my destination, that it will take me at least 5 and possibly even 7 hours (especially if there are green areas on the map – see above). Case in point was the Burr Trail – 2 hours from Escalante to Goblin State Park but for me, 7 … I had to finally let go of any ideas that I had to be somewhere at a certain time, or if I did, then I had to plan ahead so I could double my allotted time. There was a time when I was driving through Utah and I was pressing through to get to St. George for a retreat, I was on a time schedule and I drove right past many “scenic views”, I didn’t stop for the sunset, and ultimately drove into the night time. I knew I was climbing up and down mountains, the road was narrow but all I could see was blackness. I finally landed where I needed to be but at the cost of having not seen some of the most beautiful scenery in that area.
There have been many lessons along the way, and I’ll share more with you later. These stood out to me today as I have a dear friend who is driving up to New Hampshire to see the Fall colors and I couldn’t help but to share with her some of my tips for traveling. Sometimes we forget that the journey is far more important than the destination. We can arrive stressed out and with tunnel vision, having not partaken in the mystery around us or we can arrive open hearted, with stories to share, with moments that captured us and shaped us.