One of the best ways to learn about yourself is to travel and to make yourself uncomfortable. You can only do so much reading and conversing before it becomes essential to set out on the road. This is why I decided to drive across America with my friend Mike. We also decided to only sleep in the van. Mainly because we are poor, but also because we have always wanted to say that we have lived in a van down by the river.
On our journey we met some inspirational people, had great conversations, a few arguments, and saw some of the most beautiful sights that America has to offer.
I learned so many things on my time on the road, about myself and about life in general, and I just wanted to share two of the most important ones in this post.
1. “It’s not the destination that matters. It’s the journey.”
When you plan for a drive across America you usually have certain destinations in mind. There are landmarks you want to see, events you want to attend, food you want to eat, and perhaps people that you want to visit. These are your ‘goals’ so to speak. Without them your trip would be aimless and you probably wouldn’t get too far before you have to either decide on somewhere to go or just go home.
There are a couple of destinations that we made it to that will stick in my mind for years to come, but when I look back on this trip it will be the times in between the destinations that will be the most important to me. It’s not taking in a spectacular view from a great height that matters. It’s the conversation that occurs on the walk to that height. It’s the time you have in silence to reflect that matters.
I found myself on a number of occasions anxious to reach our next destination. I wanted to drive as long and as fast as I could. I didn’t want to take breaks. I wanted to get there. I wanted to see what there was to see and move on.
I quickly realized that this was not satisfying. It made me irritable and stressed. I was missing the entire point of the trip. This was a time of learning. A time to slow down for a second and realize that the man who I will become is not because of the goals that I set and achieve but because of the habits I acquire on the way to achieving those goals.
The man who I become is through the people I converse with, the books that I read and the thoughts that I cultivate in my mind.
Our lives are journeys. You are the hero of that journey. You are the master of your fate. Realize that the struggles you go through are not due to a failure on your part. They are just a part of the journey.
You need them if you want to get better. Think on this and don’t feel bad when you stumble. Falling down and failing is essential if you want to grow.
2. “Happiness is only real when shared.”
This quote is attributed to Chris Mcandless; the young man who the book and eventual movie ‘Into the Wild’ is based on. For Chris this realization came upon him as he was dying in a abandoned bus in the wilds of Alaska after travelling alone for many months. For me it came while I was living in a van down by the River in Utah.
I have always fantasized about going on an adventure all on my own. It seems romantic and dangerous. It makes me think that I would come to some deep realizations about myself and my purpose on this earth. However, when I think back to all the trips that I have been on and all the experiences that have changed me for the better they all involve other people. Usually people who are smarter, kinder, and more thoughtful than I am.
Aristotle once said , and I have to thank Elliott Hulse for bringing this quote to my attention, that “no virtue is developed in isolation”.
This is a lesson that we can all ponder. This means that we learn about ourselves when we spend time with others. We learn the things that we like and dislike about ourselves when we are with other people. The person I have become and am becoming every day is not through sitting alone all day thinking about my life. The person that I am becoming is due to the books that I read, the videos that I watch, the friends that I choose and the mentors that I look up to.
The times that I will cherish the most about this trip are the conversations that I had with my friend Mike, the times we spent laughing uncontrollably, making fun of each other and, suffering on gruelling hiking and biking loops.
I will also never forget the people we met along the way who were always ready to give us advice and share a few minutes of conversation with us.
Make sure that the people you surround yourself with, in reality and in terms of the media that you are taking in, are people that you want to be like and people that you can learn from.
Life is pretty crazy sometimes. We can be influenced by so many things in our environment. our parents, our friends, our significant others, the shows that we watch. All these things have an impact on who we become.
I urge you to spend some time on the road, or in silence, or in exerting yourself physically, or in writing out your thoughts and dreams. Find out who you really are on the inside put it down on paper and act on that. Don’t get caught up in doing what everyone else is doing just for the sake of fitting in. That’s not living.
Our lives are meant to be vibrant and loving. We are meant to support each other. We are meant to have each others backs. Don’t get caught up in the negativity that people spew out to you. You can do what you want. Just set goals and enjoy the journey.