It's been 169 days of driving through the USA discovering some truly incredible places in a country that I have newly fallen madly in love with. Becoming a student of the USA roads has also transformed me into a student of life. There are a few valuable lessons I picked up over the past five months on the road that have helped me navigate my own personal journey. Below, I share them with you.
1) Time goes by, really fast. Yes, we all know this cliche all too well. I hoped that by slowing down and eliminating some time-consuming factors in our lives that time would pass more slowly. This certainly is not the case. Five months have passed in the blink of an eye and we have now been traveling for three seasons. What I have learned is that it doesn't matter how much or how little you do on a daily basis, time slips by all the same. Rather than fall victim to its pace, view your time as an asset, and invest in it well. If you do, twenty years from now will yield you a great return of warm memories and wonderful experiences. Also, don't push off the things you want to accomplish because the only guarantee you have is the time you have right now. Beyond this, there are no promises.
2) Material things are a nuisance. Our apartment in Manhattan has been sitting empty since March with closets jam-packed with clothes that haven't been worn for nine months along with countless storage bins, cabinets that hold collections of items purchased over travels, and sentimental trinkets we have held onto that abound in various nooks. And then there is all the furniture; beds unslept in, chairs cold from lack of contact, shelves with hundreds of books untouched for almost one year... Yet for over five months we have been traveling with just a suitcase each and have somehow had everything we need. When I think about possibly leaving New York City I cringe at the thought of how much we have accumulated and how much we'd need to pack or get rid of. Stuff doesn't matter. At all. If anything, "things" often cause attachments and hold people back from fulfilling their potential. Before you buy something, ask yourself why you are making that purchase. Of course, sometimes it is nice to treat ourselves to something that we fancy or buy a gift for someone we love but more often than not we overbuy, overconsume and overspend on stuff. Trust me, in the end, it just weighs you down. Spend your money on making memories that will last a lifetime.
3) You won't change just because you change your environment. Whether I am in Milan or Marfa or Montana I am still faced with the same triggers. My kids will say something that sets me off and I have the same reactions as I did five months ago in New York City as I have today in Jackson Hole. We'd like to believe that a lengthy getaway will miraculously make all our internal strifes disappear but that's not the case. There is a temporary relief of these burdens when traveling but permanent progress requires a lot of work and has nothing to do with where you are in the world. A change in environment can change your perspectives or inspire you to try new things but it won't change those deep routed patterns of thought that take a lot of effort, patience, and time to work through and are no easier to mend in Tahiti than they would be in your living room.
4) The more you allow yourself to dream the more likely it is that your dreams will come true. Once I got over my initial fears of taking this road trip, I began to allow my mind to wander with vivid imagery of where in the United States I'd love to visit. The more I visualized us visiting a city or a site, the stronger the connection with that place became, and therefore the likelihood of arriving there increased. I never ever thought we would embark on an epic road trip until I began to truly visualize it into reality.
5) Money certainly helps, but it isn't everything. It is so easy to fall into the trap of saving. Saving for a downpayment on a house, saving for a rainy day, saving for college funds, saving for a vacation, etc. We are conditioned to save and save and save while we spend our lives away saving for a moment in time that doesn't even exist yet. I'm not saying to blow all our money away, I'm suggesting that you stop worrying about saving for later so that you can start focusing on enjoying life now. So maybe we are saving a lot less this year and not investing as much in our kids' college funds but we are using our money to live our best lives now. Who knows if colleges will even exist by the time our kids are due to apply?
6) Saying sorry goes a long way. I've been making a huge effort to connect with the people I interact with throughout this road trip journey. I can honestly say I have been a pleasant company to the folks I've been meeting. However, when we arrived in Jackson, tired after a very long day, I had a not-so-little attitude with the receptionist who messed up our booking. I felt really bad for losing my cool and later made an effort to find her in the lobby to apologize. Saying "I'm sorry" was such an incredibly easy way to free me of my guilt over my bad behavior while also bringing a smile to her face. Two words. Use them more often.
7) Nature is healing. So much of the personal healing I have done has been a direct result of connecting with nature which taught me firsthand the art of humility, the infinite miracles all around us, and the divine intelligence that makes our earth a wondrous place. As a city girl, the closest I got to nature was seeing the Hudson River out my window. Nowadays, I can't imagine not having a stroll on the beach or a walk through a forest or a hike on a mountain in my life regularly. Get outside more and connect with nature. She has a hell of a lot more valuable lessons to share than I do.
8) Praying works magic. Once you regularly witness the miracles around you it's impossible not to take a few moments out of the day to recount those miracles and connect with the energy source that creates them. Whether you call it G-d, divine intelligence, the energy of the universe...whatever you call it, acknowledge it often. I've experienced firsthand how when I acknowledge the blessings around me with profound gratitude, the more they come my way and to the world around me.
9) Change is good. Really good. Many people are scared of change but I personally believe it is one of the most important criteria we should strive for in life. Change helps us evolve as human beings. Change forces us to learn how to adapt to new situations. Change ensures we don't grow stagnant and complacent. Make sure you include a change of environment, job, perspectives, and people in your lives. Don't stay the same, no matter how awesome you are because we can always get even better, learn more skills, travel to more places, meet more people...
10) Be in the moment. This helps the time go a tiny bit slower. When we're not using our present time to plan for our future we are able to be more connected to the current moment and not be preoccupied with a point in time that does not even exist yet. Covid-19 has really taught me to think one month at a time, anything beyond that has no room in my planning bandwidth. Not thinking so far ahead also has helped ease any anxiety I've had around the future (i.e. unknown). Knowing that I can't control what happens one year from now helps me shape more delicately what I can control right now.
I look forward to looking back on this post five months from now to see what other lessons await me in the months ahead. What important lessons have you learned recently? Shoot me an email or a chat message, I'd love to learn from you (and with you).