For someone who’s been to 33 countries, takes every opportunity to set off on an adventure, and spent two years in a long distance relationship (man, we spent some money on fuel!), I used to hate travelling. The distances, the time, the nothingness that happens during the ride… Now, amid the fast pace of life, these are things I relish in. It’s a reminder that life, too, is a journey.
I have childhood memories of sitting the back of my parents’ white Holden commodore vacationer, on our way to my Dad’s home state of South Australia, with my brother, two years my junior, playing ‘I spy’, 20 questions, and car cricket (anyone else played this one?). When we got bored, Dad would say, “Just look out the window and enjoy the countryside.”
Some years, another brother, and a new seven-seat red Nissan four-wheel drive later, I recall another road trip. With our family of five and four cousins, we headed to Burleigh heads in Queensland. We pulled over at rest stops near state forests to break up the 1000km+ Interstate journey, had a look around some waterfalls, and took out the thermos for tea and coffee and Mum brought scones or biscuits. Then we piled back in the cars and resumed the long journey. It was actually quite fun.
We always drove; never flew. I was 18.5 years old before my first plane ride (from the Gold Coast to the Whitsundays). Now, I couldn’t begin to count the number of flights and air miles I’ve clocked up. It just goes to show the ever-increasingly accessible and connected world we live in today. It is also reflective of our desire for speed and immediacy.
Dad’s advice, to enjoy the countryside when I’m driving, is something I now do consciously and gladly.
Last week I travelled to Coffs Harbour on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. The beauty and contrast of the rolling and evolving landscape, filtered in all shades of greens and blues, was what movie backdrops would be inspired by.
Today I’m travelling to the Unites States. As I look out the window of the aircraft on the first leg of my journey (from Dubbo to Sydney), I drink in the landscape of flat green paddocks and bubbling Blue Mountains laced with dirt tracks. In some parts the land is separated by great bodies of freshwater lakes, which appear to have been there all along; it’s as if the land is simply floating in borrowed territory.
Yes, these days, I love travelling for the journey as much as the destination. I appreciate the timeout; the grounding effects of nature; the changing landscapes. It reminds me of two contrasting truths: that time can stand still, and that change is the only constant.
When we’re in the present moment, nothing else matters. As someone wise once said (I can’t think of who said it, or his exact words), “The most important person is the one who’s in front of you, and the most important task is the one you’re doing now.”
It’s the accumulation of all the things we do now which influences our tomorrows. This is how change occurs – gradually, but surely. We are like the landscape. The transition of the landscape is so evident when you travel. A tree in a paddock here may be the same species as a tree by the beach 500km away, but it’s not the same tree. We are influenced by our surroundings, yet we are not defined by them. When travelling, I sense that constant reminder and take comfort in knowing that we are always transitioning.
Even if at times I feel stressed, like I’m treading water, or even stuck – I know that, as someone else who was wise once said and if anyone knows who, please share in the comments below), “This too shall pass.”
So I love to travel. The journey offers us a chance to stop, breathe, and become aware of our inner transition. Life, too, is a journey. So don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.