Travel mishaps can be a reflection of how we ‘travel’ through life. It’s all fun and games when life is going according to plan, but what happens when it doesn’t?
Are you a happy camper?
I’m not talking about finding yourself in the perfect setting with the perfect circumstances: for example, a cool summer evening under a star-filled sky, wrapped in a blanket, roasting marshmallows by the campfire (on a mosquito-free night, of course) being serenaded by guitar. No, I’m talking about life in all of its complexities that can turn on a dime.
You may or may not know this about me, but I love camping just about as much as I love a 4-star hotel in Paris. And July around here means annual family camping trip to Maine (though technically, ‘family’ now means just Bill and I as our collective brood of 4 have segued into young adulthood and lives that include these things called jobs).
Last year was our first foray into this ‘going it alone’, just the two of us. Despite being enveloped in years of family memories and nostalgia the first day…I got over it all very quickly and adapted to this new pace. However, there were a few glitches in the ointment as they say.
And God knows that travel, be it by planes, trains or automobiles can bring out the best and the worst in us all. Actually, it can be very telling about how one ‘travels’ through life (remember that the next time things start to go south).
So, of course, this got me thinking about larger life meaning and metaphors.
We all like it when things go our way, right? On-time departures, traffic-free highways and all green lights. And why not. I’m ready for a good dose of difficulty…said no one. Freedom lies in the pivot.
What do you do when the obstacles and roadblocks present themselves — spiral in resistance or flow with the tides?
I want to share a little story about some of my own recent travel struggles (and suffice it to say, it didn’t fall into the going-with-the-flow category).
Any fellow campers out there know that this kind of a trip requires planning and organization (luckily both strong suits for me) — however, there’s nothing quite like a camping trip to remind us how one must always leave room for the unexpected to unfold. Between you and Mother Nature, there’s a lot in the equation. Note to self: remember to add this to camping list! Aaaah, exhale.
On this most recent trip, everything initially got off without a hitch. The morning we left was glorious and sunny, all was neatly and strategically packed, hot coffee in cup holder — we pulled out of the driveway on schedule; bright-eyed happy campers. I’m sure the suspense is killing you…you can see where this is leading, I’m sure.
Yep, things started to shift. First, unexpected traffic (for much longer than one wants to contend with on a 9-hour drive), then weird electrical car issues that resulted in no air conditioning (remember it was a hot July day during a heatwave) and no use of the radio (for God only knows what reason).
Frankly, I blamed it on Mercury Retrograde…I had to blame someone or something.
Wait a minute…what about the news, the baseball games, the podcasts, the music that was going to babysit me along this driving journey? Remember, 9 hours.
Let’s just say that the tension was quickly rising within me and my car. I resisted, pushed back and could feel my frustration increasing like a pressure cooker…which naturally needs to blow. My inner brat even contemplated turning around and going home. That said, I was still able to semi step out of my experience and observe what was happening. It was almost as if I were reminding myself, You know where this is leading…and it’s nowhere good, get your S%#T together. Is this really how you want to kick off vacation?
Well, no…but life happens. I allowed myself to huff and puff, to say a few not-so-choice words and let off some steam. Thankfully, Bill doesn’t get too ruffled by my outbursts. He allows me the space to work it out rather than push back, which would only escalate things that were doing plenty of that on their own. As a result of his calmness, I was able to transition (or at least move closer to his camp).
At this point, he was driving. So, I curled up in in my seat, rolled down the window, closed my eyes and prayed. I honestly didn’t know what else to do in that moment. It wasn’t prose, but I surrendered to needing help. I prayed for my stomach that had started to hurt (no wonder). I prayed for my car and most of all, I prayed for relief from this energetic buzz kill. Hot air slapped my face, my body stuck to the seat of my car and stung when I moved my legs. I was miserable and couldn’t let it go. I was melting down, literally. Truthfully, I wanted to cry.
Then suddenly, within moments the energy was noticeably different. The problems weren’t solved…still bumper-to-bumper traffic, still hot, still no A/C or radio…but it was the energy that diffused.
I believe the simple act of complete surrender to a situation or series of uncontrollable events can help you reclaim your center, your power, your Best Self (even if she’s a sweaty mess).
This may or may not sound crazy to you — and I’m not even going to try to explain it, but as soon as I stopped focusing my attention upon all that was wrong, everything shifted; I felt lighter, stomach ache dissipated, traffic opened up and you know what? The A/C and the radio popped back on (well, for a brief moment before blipping out again). Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. It actually doesn’t matter and it doesn’t need to be quantified. Regardless though, it stands as reminder of how easily we can get off kilter. And how once off kilter, we can continue to travel down that track as our power leaks away and takes us along with it.
I don’t think everything happens for a reason, but I do think we can find reason and meaning in our experience. Look, I was miserable. As all of my ‘creature comforts’ were removed — I had to choose how this was going to play out. I couldn’t make the car work in that moment, but I could find a way to calm myself in the heat of it all (pun intended).
We get to decide if we are going to use the events, experiences and emotions that unfold around us — or be used by them.
Sometimes it may feel like an effort in futility…and that’s OK. Sometimes we can pull it together faster than others. Sometimes we can implement our tools quicker than others. And sometimes we just need to wallow in it awhile and be with it.
When I’m headed in that direction, I know what’s going down. I just try to keep in mind that the more I indulge, the further I fall and the longer it will take to rebound. But so be it.
Whether trapped in an unairconditioned car for a 9-hour journey during a heatwave or confronted by any other life unpleasantness — find your pivot. Find a way to self-soothe, to allow yourself to feel and to trust that you can navigate your way through it.
Breathe. Pray. Release.
The further north we drove, the fewer the cars and the cooler the air temperature. As the sun began its descent in the sky suddenly none of this was the end of the world anymore. As we headed further into my beloved Maine, she enfolded me in her embrace.
Nature heals and certainly helps me pivot. Within a few hours we arrived and my entire nervous system decompressed. She held out her hand and beckoned to me…come sit, be and allow us to wrap you in a new reality of stillness and calm.
And boy did I need a reality check. As the camping week unfolded my senses heightened in a different way and the noise of my world and my sensitivities subsided. I became aware of what was right before me: the carpet of pine needles underfoot in the forest where I walked, the sound of evening rain drops bouncing off the tent, the seagulls and crows in the early morning, summer cicadas, the crunch of the gravel beneath my feet, the click clack of my flip flops, the scent of campsite fire, the wind in my hair, the warmth of the sea breezes.
Are you paying attention? What helps you regroup, to pull yourself back to center?
Find your pivot — find your way back no matter what crosses your path. This isn’t about discarding our feelings, on the contrary, it’s about knowing that nothing is permanent and that you can find your way out of discomfort. You can experience the fullness of your life and still be a happy camper.
So Best Self campers…tell me how this presents for you. Are you a good traveler on this life path, easily weathering the bumps in the road or do you unravel (like me)? Let’s share, laugh, learn and embrace the pivot in the comments below.