Falling in Love...with the Journey...and not the Destination - Part 1

"Who are you and what have you done with my dad?" I spoke those words firmly with skepticism as I looked eye-to-eye with he who had all the appearances of my conservative father, but was making wild claims that certainly didn't sound like my father, throwing around words like "gifts", "month-long trip", and "senior trip". I couldn't help it that my mind immediately wondered off to images of Florida beaches or better yet, Cancun beaches and late nights with friends when I heard my dad say that him and my mom were giving me a "senior trip" when (or rather if and when) I graduated.

But after following him into his office and seeing the marked up U.S. map and notes on the wall, I quickly realized that this was in fact my father, and this was in fact my idea of hell. Yes, it may be a trip, and it may occur when I'm technically a senior, but this was no senior trip. 7,000 miles, 25 states, 3 weeks, 2 parents, and 1 car. My life was over. It was 13 years ago this summer that I was on that "senior trip"; a trip that actually took place before my senior year in high school, and to this day, remains one of the most significant and memorable times of my life.

The photo albums my parents created from that trip (what travelers did in the 90s when there weren't blogs) are some of the few remaining items I still have left from my childhood home. The experiences and stories from that road trip journey are forever etched into my mind, be it the hitchhiker we picked up, the three meals we had in one day at Shoney's, the outdoor grill that somersaulted down the road, or the moment my parents began driving away from the Grand Canyon, but only to realize that the car door was open and their son wasn't inside it. The photos may seem to herald the destinations, but it's the memories that tell a love story for the journey.

Where should I go? What should I do? How should I get there? These are the questions I find myself getting from travelers the most. It's why travel agents have jobs. Hell, it's why I have a job. That is, to help take the stress and unpredictability out of travel so that people can better enjoy a destination. In effect, to have as few unplanned surprises as possible. Yet the more I travel, the more I start to wonder if it's not the journey, rather than the destination, that's the thing. That it's those unplanned, unpredictable, spontaneous moments of a trip that keep us coming back to travel. If so, it is then the journey that is the destination.

Blogger Mark Manson recently wrote a fascinating (and at times NSFW) post about why some dreams should not be pursued. In it, he makes a case for falling in love with the process, and not the result, because we likely feel as if reaching our dreams will solve our problems, when it will in fact create new variants of existing problems. I would go further to say that the golden ticket isn't necessarily the grasping of one's dreams, but rather the process, which often is where we learn the most from our mistakes, smooth out the edges, and become who we're intended to be, sometimes leading us to the dream, but often leading us in a completely new direction. It makes me wonder that if I had a magic genie, if I'd really want it to grant me a wish, if it meant missing the entire process, while also potentially being underwhelmed when the wish was fulfilled.

When I think about my year of travel to date, it brings to mind a lot of images, many of which have involved going to destinations and experiencing things that were previously completely foreign to me as a result of the 30 at 30 list. The list is not the goal. If I reach and exceed 30 things, awesome. If I don't, that's fine too, because it's the lessons I've learned, the challenges I've overcome, and the boundaries I've pushed that have made the lasting impressions, and therefore, pushed me to continue on.

As I then consider the most memorable travel moments this year, it's not the destinations. It's not even the things I've done on the 30 at 30 list. All of those were planned to some extent. Rather, it's been those unplanned moments that are etched in my mind. It was kayaking around a coral-filled bay, only to find out that my guide was the creator of one of my favorite television shows as a kid. It was deciding one afternoon to take a road trip to surprise both of my sisters. It was lying beneath the stars, watching fireflies light up the night on a cool June evening, feeling like I was back in high school again. This is travel. These things are the destination.

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.”

What have been some of your most memorable journeys?

Come back next week for part two when I discuss what these trips have taught me about the idea of "home".