As we entered the final stretch of our weeklong road trip through North Dakota, Montana and South Dakota, I felt waves of sadness rising up. When vacations and other novel experiences reach their natural conclusions, I tend to resist. This has been the case as long as I can remember.
I suddenly forget everything I believe about the value of savoring the present moment. Instead, I begin grasping for ways to hold on. If only the feelings of freedom, spontaneity and adventure could last forever.
My mind wanders.
Maybe we could sell our home, buy a camper and live on the open road while Justin sells his woodwork at art festivals. Maybe I could become an interim pastor serving congregations in transition around the country. Maybe we could house sit for people around the world while I develop a travel blog. Instead of enjoying the end of vacations, I tend to put a lot of energy into imagining various scenarios that would lead to the experience continuing indefinitely.
The final day of this particular trip was spent exploring western South Dakota. In the afternoon we took our dogs, Maeve and Finn, for a hike on a trail way up in the Black Hills near Spearfish. It had rained off and on that day, and a cold front had moved through. After days spent in the dry heat and smokey haze of Montana (due to forest fires in the region), the trail looked especially lush with lots of green trees, streams and even a waterfall.
“I just want this road trip to last forever,” I said to Justin. He tends to have a more balanced approach to vacations. He enjoys heading out for an excursion, and he also likes to come home.
“Maybe life is one big road trip,” he responded.
“Yeah, maybe it is,” I replied. We carried on with the hike, and I wrestled my mind back into the present. “Be here now, Emily,” Wisdom whispered. Notice, relish and breathe.
By the time we got back to the van, Justin’s insight was still rolling around in my mind. Maybe I could envision life as one big road trip, and perhaps that perspective would help when the inevitable “end of vacation” sadness crept in.
The enjoyable elements of a road trip and the emotions they inspire aren’t, after all, exclusively available during vacations. Spontaneity can be part of every day, and fun can, too. It’s all a matter of perspective, and I will attempt to keep a Montana “big sky” view – not getting quite so caught in the valleys of weeds and worries.
I pondered these ideas throughout the drive home along Interstate 90 as we listened to podcasts and music. I also reflected on all that I appreciate about life, work and relationships in Rochester. In the experience of life, this community is a wonderful, enriching base camp.
When we crossed back into the state of Minnesota, we stopped at the first rest stop. The building was filled with maps, brochures and magazines highlighting this state’s hiking trails, biking routes and local festivals. I grabbed one of each. They’re sitting now with the atlas where they’ll serve as reminders that while vacation has concluded, the road trip of life continues, and there are paths of possibility around every corner.
“Holy Everything” is a weekly column by Emily Carson. She is a Lutheran pastor. Visit her website
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