Travel, the Silver Lining in the Clouds

I actually started writing this post a couple weeks ago after reading the book and watching the movie titled Silver Linings Playbook. The story follows a young guy, not too older then me, who has been struck with tragedy, losing everything, and is desperately looking for the silver lining in the clouds. Like so many things, I began writing this post in my head, but had yet to transfer my thoughts to paper computer screen.

However, somewhat in a position of natural high on life, writing and publishing this post wasn’t of urgency. That is until tragedy struck at home just days ago. It was just two years ago that at this time of the holidays I was beginning the first of multiple months in Central America. But why? Escapism? Healing? I was traveling on the heels of a string of poor decisions, two family deaths, and a divorce. But it was for those reasons that I didn’t immediately travel, because I don’t adhere to a philosophy of travel that believes that travel in and of itself provides escapism and/or healing. I began a stint of long-term travel because I yearned for change. However, I’d be lying if on the other end of that I wasn’t expecting to find a silver lining.

I needed to see that the world was beautiful again. That there was hope. A reason to smile, to laugh, and to confidently hold my head high. I believed. I can do this life thing. I can do good. I can love.

Those were the words I penned in my notebook iPhone just days after returning back to the states from several months in Central America and nine months of travel. Life had become a dark, stormy, dreary mess, yet it’s clear that I had found my silver lining, and found it miles from what I considered “home”. It was a silver lining that I found through the vehicle of travel.

Fight-or-flight. Those are the two choices we’re often left with when faced with an overly difficult situation. So this week when I received a call early one morning that tragedy had struck close to home, I was on a plane before I had even eaten breakfast. My head swirled with thoughts as my heart was a cage of emotions. Yet there came this point of serenity as the plane lifted off from Seattle and rose above the dark clouds of the city below. I was mere moments from dark, ominous, rainy clouds, yet all I could see was a bed of white, puffy clouds, blue skies, and sunshine. Peace and serenity swept over me as I looked out the window, providing perspective I would need over the coming days.

Life is a series of experiences, each of which makes us bigger, even though it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and griefs which we endure help us in our marching onward.-Henry Ford

I truly believe that our best moments, those character-defining moments are never amidst a time of glory or achievement. They are rarely moments of shear joy or accomplishment, but rather moments of difficulty. Because it’s in those moments that we have to dig deep to pull out parts of us that we didn’t know lived within us. It’s those moments of stress and hardship that often bring out the best in us. And it’s those moments that pave the straight and narrow road toward glory, joy, and achievement.

Days later and those feelings of peace and serenity remain, combined with a sense of hope, and gratitude. Of course doubt and tears of joy and sadness have been intermixed, but it’s been those feelings of peace, serenity, hope, and gratitude that have risen to the top. That’s not to downplay the feelings that accompany tragedy, but rather represents how I’ve chosen to confront fear and difficult situations. I don’t wish difficulty on anyone, and certainly not myself, but I’ve learned to embrace hardship when it comes, because when I appropriately react to it, I come out much better on the other side of it.

Today I left my hometown of Graham, North Carolina for my home of Seattle, Washington to settle back into some sense of “normalcy”. But normalcy will really return come winter, when I have several trips planned, including a big 30th birthday trip and learning to snowboard. Yes, I believe that challenging circumstances help bring out my best, but if you’ve spent any amount of time on this blog, then you know that it’s also travel that brings out my best. Who I come back as isn’t who I go as. And for this reason, the greater risk would be to NOT travel. I really believe that I’m my best self today, but I believe I’m my even better self on a travel day. And in that way, it’s travel that has become the silver lining of my life.