How is the road? What have you learned about yourself? It is awesome and amazing?
I hear these things often. I do not always share that much about myself, so not every conversation or encounter leads to the opening of my life to a stranger. I take each part of my day one step at a time and assess each scenario, each conversation, each setting, each person and use that information to decide what I will share. This is not new, actually. I have always been cautious and discerning when sharing who I am and what I am about. Generally, I am fairly open about my life. Always on alert, but open and honest. Introverts like me do not enjoy or engage in small talk. If we are talking, we do so to share meaningful details about who we are and what we are about. Conversely, we hope to learn the same from the person with whom we have chosen to engage. Let’s not waste precious time in our lives with meaningless banter.
Yes, I am on journey. Yes, it is an adventure. I know now this is a pilgrimage. I am not traveling to some spiritual or religions Mecca. I am not trying to recoup lost parts of my childhood or uncover family roots. I am not traveling to bring attention to a cause or highlight some illness or social issue. I travel for myself. I seek to dive deeper into who I am and what I am about. I seek to find a depth and breadth of understanding and confidence. This undertaking is about me.
I am gathering experiences. I am seeing things and hearing things and talking to people whose individuality blends together into the sum of my days. I have no charming tales of unique characters. I have no lengthy summations or reviews of the sights and sounds of my travels. I can barely remember where I was last week. I do, however, have an increasing depth to myself. I take each and every one of those moments and use it to expand and build on my foundation. I can feel myself growing. I can sense a deeper understanding of my role on this earth and my purpose among “men”. Each cool forest morning, every glacial blue stream, even the nights pummeled by the wind are adding to the body of experiences that are adding to the body of me.
It is very difficult for me to pinpoint one or two things that have changed me. Well, to be honest, I am not really changed. I have the same likes and dislikes as I did before. I see the world through the same lenses that I did in my previous life. The core of me remains unchanged. I am, however, more of the me I knew I was. I am more confident. I am more open to random conversations with strangers in nearly any setting. I am still cautious and discerning. I still say the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong place. Sometimes my filters are too high and other times they are decidedly absent. I still love nature and physical activity, and yet I love to sit and read my day away. I am still who I have always been.
However, I feel like I have a deeper understanding of myself. I feel like I can hear myself, my wants, my needs, my voice much better and more clear than before. I am not doing all the things I love, such as cooking or canning. I am not eating the way I prefer, with home made foods and fresh ingredients. My brain is not always engaged in meaningful or challenging tasks and, sometimes, my body just sits. But, I am doing things I love. I am outside. I am exploring. I am hiking or walking or biking. I am trying new beers and learning about new towns. I am setting the schedules and the tasks of my day; full autonomy. I am learning to listen and honor myself.
I consider the details of my encounters, like the great conversation I had at the last brewery I visited. There is no need for me to detail or chronicle our conversation. There is no great story to tell or quip to share. Selfie style photos and quotes are not my style anyway. I take with me the feeling of connection, the positive experience at that place, and the satisfaction of camaraderie with someone new. My soul and my spirit were fed. Leaving that encounter with positive feelings, gratitude for our time and for having learned new things. I grew. That is my reward.
Sorry to disappoint, but I have no great wisdom to share. I have no profound personal discoveries or truths. I have a lot of information about camping! I can talk to you for hours about gear and things to help have a safer or more stress-free experience. I can tell you about the rewards and challenges of living on the road. Oh, yeah, that I can do.
I am learning about my own insignificance on this planet, and yet learning how much we all need each other. I am learning about nature and about people and about the world around me. But, when it comes to grand truths, earth shattering epiphanies, I just have me. More tan, more fit, more tolerant of spiders. More clear in who I am and what I am about. Learning each and every day how to be a better and more genuine person. Learning how to best live in this skin I am in, as dirty as it is. Learning “me”.
The life I was living was not doing it for me. It was not right for me. It was off and I knew it. This life I am living is doing it for me. This feels right. This feels true. You will see it in the sparkle in my eye, the bounce in my step, the quickness of my smile. You will feel it in the energy I emit, the patience by which I listen, and the welcome I offer.
I still get upset at incompetence and needless chaos. I strive for order and organization in most things. I do not always enjoy chores, but I do enjoy the results. I tolerate bugs and dirt more than I used to. I am more patient during traffic delays and I am much more open to the unexpected. I am becoming more clear about who and what comprises me. I am also just beginning. I feel it, I know it to be true. I have only just started. I am only just beginning to grow.
Here’s to becoming a deeper and more genuine version of yourself. May you find your way and your truth.