Saturday, December 31, 2011

Decide How You Are Going to Travel

I love taking trips, whether they are quick ones to a place an hour away, like when we spent the day in Daytona Beach, visiting people and places in other states, or trips such as the four-day cruise the girls and I took recently. While it’s true that people who know me would call me a homebody, and for the most part they would be right, there is a part of me that loves to take the people I love and go explore some new city or vacation spot. The problem is that sometimes I’m just not that good at the organization part and I waste more time on a trip than I benefit from.

We should go this way...
The girls vary in this and over the past two years we’ve discovered who has the proper mindset for whatever type of trip we are undertaking. Teri is our planner. Months in advance she will rummage the internet, exploring our vacation destination, and pick out all of the most interesting places with the best prices, the best times to visit, and maps showing how to get to each place. We even get printed itineraries of our vacation schedule with down time figured in. Sarah, on the other hand, has a more relaxed way of doing things. She will pick our destination and then prefers to play it all by ear depending on where her mood takes her. When you ask her which way to go you’re usually answered with “That way…I think.” Then there’s Char who simply says, “Just tell me what I’m supposed to do.”

When taking a vacation these mindsets can work well depending on the length of the trip, but when you are going through life it’s important to know how you plan on traveling because you’ll get varying results. Or worse, you’ll get no results at all.

Life is a journey, and just like going on a trip, if you don’t have a destination in mind, you’re never really going anywhere. It reminds me of the conversations I have with my grown children at least once a month. “What are you going to do with your life?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it.”

I just stare at them, dumbfounded. Obviously, my interrogation of them last month or the month before that hadn’t nudged them hard enough into the thinking process. After all, they know these questions are coming. “If you never think about the future, how are you going to accomplish anything?”

“I don’t know.”

Those three words make me want to scream. It’s the same with the phrase “I don’t care.” That’s the reply I get whenever I ask the girls where they want to go for dinner or what television show they want to watch that night.

“I don’t care.”

“Okay, we’ll try that new Chinese Buffet.”

“Nah, I’m not in the mood for Chinese.”

“All right, where would you like to go?”

“I don’t care.”

And this is the reason I’m quickly going bald.

When traveling into your future there are two ways to go: you can take a trip, with everything mapped out or you can go for a leisurely Sunday drive. My parents used to put us in the car and just drive, going ten miles under the speed limit just to look at the trees or ocean as it all passed by our open windows. If my dad saw a road he hadn’t explored before he’d turn down with a “Let’s see where this takes us” and we’d just go with the winding asphalt. One of Char’s favorite childhood memories is when her dad loaded them into the station wagon and said, “Let’s see how far the car will take us.” At Savannah, Georgia the car decided it was time to turn around and head home, but they explored all they could between home and there. Those trips are not only fun, but necessary.

However, there have been too many years that I have lived my life as if going on a Sunday drive; nothing was ever accomplished. I would get to the end of the year, look back and realize that I had survived, but that was all I had done. Once in awhile that’s perfectly fine and sometimes even needed, to kick back and relax, just float through a day with no agenda or goal in mind. Those days can help us refocus and shed some of the stress that sometimes weighs us down. But a whole year? That’s simply a waste to me.

As you go through this life, it needs to be more like a trip. Goals will be your itinerary to help you reach that final destination and to keep you from getting lost along the way. There is nothing wrong with a detour now and then or to realize you’re going in the wrong direction and need to make a course change. Nothing is ever set in stone except the past. The future is a journey yet explored.

Some people don’t believe in making goals. These are usually the same people who refuse to make New Year’s resolutions, because a resolution is really a goal. People view these stepping stones as commitments that they fear to make, binding them to a heavily structured future with no freedom, when really they are mere targets to be aimed at, landmarks to help navigate a full and meaningful life with purpose.

To go through life with the wind of free time rustling through your calendar without a care in those little dated boxes sounds enticing, but eventually you have to pick a direction and go forward. What direction you choose depends on what your final destination is. Where would you like to see yourself in five, ten, even twenty years? With that end in mind, plan out your trip with the steps needed that will take you there. Once you know the major attractions that are a must see, you can then enjoy those Sunday diversions without guilt or worry.

Everyone enjoys a lazy drive, but taking a trip gives you those memories that you remember in your golden years. It takes more work to plan out a trip, of course, than it does an afternoon drive, but when you accomplish what you set out to do you find the effort rewarding. Make this coming year different; know where you’re going and where you want to be at the end of it. Then, with your goals in hand - your itinerary - enjoy the journey that will get you there. You won’t be disappointed.

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