In my 20s I thought life was about collecting things … houses, cars, televisions, sofas, clothes – the list could go on. Gathering possessions was somehow indicative of success, but it was the merciless enemy of contentment. It was like feeding a monster. There was always a newer gadget, a fancier option, a more expensive version of a shinier doodad. It was about the chase – grabbing what you could while pursing the thing that always just seemed out of reach.
In my 30s I realized life was not about collecting things … it was about collecting experiences. We unloaded the houses, televisions, sofas, and most of the clothes to live in the Winnebago and travel the country. The freedom was intoxicating! The weight of all those possessions (and the debt associated with them) was lifted, and we shifted to snapping up places rather than things.
We were in a frenzy, criss-crossing the country … madly checking destinations off of our bucket list. We spent two years blowing through the most spectacular scenery and dashing by some of the most fantastic places in the world.
Now that I’m quickly approaching my 40s, things have shifted again. I’ve discovered that “collecting” and “experiencing” are uncomfortable bedfellows. A new definition of experience has emerged … and, based on a deeper meaning, we’ve collected very few so far in our travels. I feel like I should wipe the map clean and start again!
Finally, it’s occurred to me that to truly experience a place you have to allow it to change you. You have to absorb a bit of it and take it along with you.
Sometimes it’s easy, but other times digging past the surface and developing a connection that inspires you takes some time. It requires a little doing to let down your guard and open your heart and mind to different perspectives … to let go of preconceived notions and immerse yourself in a new version of reality. And, our incessant human drive to accomplish more – to put more check marks by our “must sees” – stands between us and the possibility that we’ll actually experience any of it.
Being transformed is the ultimate payoff for a traveler … far more than crossing locations off a list. So, please, learn from my experience and slow down. Take the time to watch the light and shadows play off the surfaces as the sun passes overhead. Stop the drive-bys. Let go of the insane urge to collect more and instead, experience more deeply. At the end of the day, it’s those travel memories that have meaning.
Fortunately, our pets are great partners in this endeavor. Just think how happy they are to thoroughly explore every new place – sniffing every tree and bush in their path. Dogs serve as perfect reminders to enjoy the moment … if we’ll only follow their lead.
What places have you traveled that have moved you?