I’ve always liked that quote, but only recently did I come to understand what it really means. It’s been etched onto my travel journal, the second one I’ve managed to scribble through in the past year and a half. At first, I thought it was another cute travel quote cliché (I love them and have no shame). But it’s actually so much more than that.
Embracing the journey is about enjoying the process. Not focusing on getting from A to B to C and then D. It’s about being present, truthfully – not worried about planning for tomorrow or longing for yesterday.
That means waking up and wandering – literally, getting lost on purpose because you never know what you may find.
Having a plan, sure, if you want to, but not worrying about stopping into a little café to sit for a minute enjoying a coffee, because there’s nowhere you have to be at any given time.
It’s stopping to sit in a park and listen to music, feeling the sun on your skin, for no other reason than enjoying a good song.
It’s allowing yourself to linger in a shop, chatting with the local store owner about his or her own journey, how long they’ve lived there, when they started their shop and what really matters to them.
It’s about talking to your cabbies, tuk tuk drivers, the bellhop at a hotel, or bartender at the pub and hearing what they have to say, too- really enjoying that beer, appreciating their service, or absorbing the local scenery whilst you’re in transit.
It’s about having patience when things don’t go according to plan.
A 4-hour bus ride turns into 8. A delayed flight causes you to miss your connection. You stand on a long line to get into a restaurant. It starts to rain when the weather forecast indicated nothing but sunshine. All of these things make the average person angry, annoyed and stressed out. All of these things used to bother me, too. And, in total truth, once I get back into the rhythms of daily life, it’s hard not to let these things bother me again.
But there’s something special about traveling that teaches me to really embrace the journey- no matter how long it may take and no matter what bumps may be on the road.
It’s all part of the adventure.
Spending an extra hour than planned at a Serbian rest stop just means there’s more time to explore the shelves of a foreign gas station, perusing the unique flavored chips or trying some true European chocolate. An overnight flight delay just means more time to explore a new city you may not have planned for. Or if it’s a short delay, well, there’s no use in actually complaining. Just have a nice meal in the airport and you’ll be onward soon enough.
As for the erratic weather, well, that doesn’t make anyone happy. But I’ve always been a firm believer of dancing in the rain. Your clothes will dry.
Of course, when it monsooned South East Asia style in Transylvania unexpectedly, I had my DSLR and phone exposed with no umbrella in sight. Certainly, this made it harder to fully embrace the experience. Comically, I hunched over and protected the electronics like a child wrapped in my shawl and ran for safety (in hindsight I could’ve deff asked someone to put my things in their backpack instead, whoops). It was actually really fun darting from shop awning to awning in an effort to get back to the bus. I wound up being drenched for the 3-hour ride but laughing the whole way with my new Portuguese friend (and FYI my camera was still safe…phew).
I also feel like it rains at every music festival I ever go to; once you get over the “wahhhh I’m wet” moment, being muddy just adds to the carefree sentiment of -again – being present.
Waiting on line for restaurants never used to be a funny one to me until my Swiss friends pointed it out on their visit to the States, but I suppose it’s all part of the anticipation. Waiting for food that’s supposedly delicious just means it’s going to be that much better once you do reap the reward. And if it’s not good for some reason, well, hopefully, you were in good company. I find that waiting on lines can lead to some of the best conversations, because whomever I’m speaking to is able to give their undivided attention, and so am I.
When my plane was delayed over an hour leaving NY recently, I struck up a conversation with 3 girls traveling to Europe for the first time. I was so happy for them! Yet one of them had already been to Uganda so we swapped some interesting stories.
If I do happen to be alone though, and it’s a moment where I haven’t made a new friend, be that on line at a restaurant, museum, or airport, I take these opportunities as a great chance to reflect, observe and
…just be still.
To me, that’s embracing the journey.
Just wanted to share that stream of consciousness. If any of you have found yourself embracing the journey- and I’m not talking about the fun parts of an adventure, but the journey itself, please let me know in the comments!