The Awe of Travel and Mystery of Life
by Liz Jansen
According to the calendar, this year’s road trip, at just over five weeks, was the shortest extended (more than three week) journey I’ve taken. That didn’t diminish the intensity or the insights.
My intent was to get out on the open road and for head-clearing time. It marked the transition from the concentrated work of writing, editing, and preparing Crash Landing for publication, and opening myself for whatever comes next.
The two halves of the journey were very different, almost as if balancing female and male energy. Moderate daily distances (230 miles/360 km daily avg.), almost all on secondary highways, characterized my trip west. The landscape under me transformed from industrial Michigan to prairies, heavy with crops, the majestic Rocky Mountains, the expansive high Great Basin desert and finally, the Sierra Nevada range, before arriving at my destination in California’s Central Valley. Most of the time, I rode under clear blue skies that mirrored the expansiveness my spirit thrived on.
Many magical moments occurred during the trip, from chatting with strangers who shared my path, spontaneous insights that hit like lightning, both on and off the bike, and absorbing the energy of the land I traversed.
To experience them best, I had to let go of my own expectations. I’d pictured doing more “work” from the road, especially preparing for the launch of Crash Landing. It only took three days for me to realize I had to revise my perspective. I had neither the time, energy, or inclination to pull out my laptop and write after I’d ridden three hundred miles, set up camp, and arrange dinner.
While I’ve always known that riding across the open country delivers freedom and inspires creativity, I discovered that best happens when I let go. It’s not easy. I’d set an intention for the day to rehearse my HU presentation, or decide what to blog about. Then I’d catch myself, having gone miles without taking in the beauty around me.
That’s when I realized the ride itself was my primary “job,” and not separate from the rest of my life. Letting the day unfold without trying to control it and surrendering to beauty of the present opened space for those magical experiences I couldn’t have planned.
The ride east gave me more opportunity to put my new awareness into practice. It started out serenely enough, but then the weather became tempestuous, stormy and rainy. Weighing my choices, I decided to push through to my friends’ home and safe harbor in Georgia (370 miles/600 km daily avg.). I crossed the south on Interstates and their relentless truck traffic. Even in this chaos, I experienced serenity, but only after I reassured the nervous voices in my head. While it was beyond my comfort zone, (many times I pictured Trudy in one of those semis and me riding up front in the cab) I could still ride safely, and knew my best option was to push through, and trust my skills and intuition.
Although the weather—alternatively heat, rain, wind, and cold—was physically demanding and I arrived at my home tired, I was also more energized than ever.
When I mapped my route, I was incredulous at how much distance I’d covered, yet that path just shows miles on a map. It doesn’t even scratch the surface of where I’ve been.
Pushing our comfort zone, however that happens, is transformative and empowering. It calls to a deeper place within us and makes us draw on strengths that emerge only when they’re tested. Letting go and watching events unfold demonstrates the mystery of life’s journey.