“I consider the fact I’m still alive a win.”
Our son is currently traveling solo in an old SUV loaded down with a tent, sleeping bag, and a burning desire to see what he’ll discover over the next horizon. With an agenda loosely based on visiting national parks – camping, hiking, and biking – he’s unknowingly finding himself with each new day.
As trite as is sounds, life is indeed a journey. With each day comes an opportunity to peel away the mysteries of the life – both visually as well as those hidden between our ears. Each experience, each interaction with a stranger, carries the potential to answer not only the questions we are seeking, but those we never knew to ask.
When roughly my son’s current age I read book with a similar goal. My Travels With Charlie, written by American author George Steinbeck, helped me understand the power of self-discovery and the value of embracing the fear of not knowing what the future – let alone tomorrow – holds. Steinbeck was closer to my age now than that of my son when he and his dog drove nearly 10,000 miles discovering the American landscape and people he’d written about his entire career. Each day unveiled a new vision through the windshield, a new personal interaction, and a new lens from which to examine the world he quickly realized he only thought he knew.
If done correctly, each of us can live our entire lives unlocking the world around us. But it takes courage. To leave behind what you know – armed with only preconceived opinions and incomplete knowledge of the world – can be unsettling. But it is just those experiences that make us who we will one day become.
Our son has spent many nights of his journey sleeping on the ground with only a blanket of bright stars to keep him company. Morning coffee requires building a fire instead of pushing a button on a machine. Beans, eaten from a can, he tells me, taste amazing.
His road is unplanned for the most part – anchored by a patchwork of national parks or a town he discovers on a roadmap.
One afternoon he phoned after a 17-mile, one-day solo hike in Yosemite National Park.
“Twelve hours alone with your thoughts is pretty amazing,” he said.
“You really find out who you are when you’re exhausted and realize you’ve 4-miles to go. You’ve no choice but to just keep walking.”
Right there, on the mountainside, he’s learning a life lesson – and one you generally need to acquire through experience. Circumstances in life will, at times, become difficult. And many times the best answer, just like on the mountainside, is to put your head down push through.
I’m not sure whom I’m going to meet when our son eventually finds his way back to our driveway. I know I’ll recognize the SUV, the mountain bike, and the luggage. But beyond that, I’m going to be meeting a new person in a very familiar package.
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