My interviews from the Pacific Northwest were complete. I was heading home.
Driving the hundreds of hundreds of miles back through Montana and North Dakota, I found myself eager to return.
This is a reasonable sentiment.
Anticipation of lands unknown had since evaporated. I had already traveled these very highways on my way out west. “Nothing new to take in here,” I thought as I drove along eastern Montana’s picturesque plateaus.
In addition, I was looking forward to getting home so I could chill out, perhaps even “check out”—slouch on the couch, stare at a screen. This, too, might be reasonable. After all, in my rear view mirror had been a long and exhausting exploration and interaction with this corner of our continent.
At the same time, I was guilty—guilty of lacking the presence of mind to enjoy my surroundings. I realized while taking a second look at those magnificent plateaus that I was falling into a trap. I was forgetting that just because this adventure was ending, it doesn’t mean the adventure ends. By rigidly defining this journey’s partition of my life, I was missing out on its conclusion and lacked the foresight & excitement of what was to come—quite the contrast to how I had felt three weeks earlier.
Indeed, in the weeks to come I’ve gotten to share this travel. I also get to springboard from this experience to something new. This travel, itself, was evidence of how life unfolds in unexpected and wonderful ways:
—Asking a woman exiting her car if she needed a hand with all of her bags led to an interview with a cosmetics entrepreneur.
—Asking a man in a McDonald’s in the booth next to mine what city we were in led to a conversation with him and his son about their life in North Dakota.
—Being stopped by a sidewalk activist in Seattle led to a conversation with a former Big Ten football player about the perks of being a college athlete and about the state of America’s homelessness—his current professional field.
—Finally, stunning Montana scenery stopping my car in its tracks, and me being curious about the dwellers of this countryside, had a Mennonite family answer the door, who later provided lodging as well as an education about their way of life.
Travel concentrates life’s tendency to provide rich, growth-inducing experiences. Life back home may not be so free-wheeling. We may not ordinarily meet so many people, or go to so many places, within such a short period of time. Yet in our home lives, we do experience the excitement and development of the bigger things: family, career, clubs, projects. Your child grows up, and you have the opportunity to coach his/her baseball team. Your spouse gets a job offer, moving you two across the country. You fall in love with a colleague you’ve known for 18 months. Driving home, I realized such journeys are microcosms of how life develops, a trailer for the movie that is our life.
Current Mrs. Minnesota-America, Andrea Bennett Xiong (right) once said that when she returns from a work trip or finishes a project, she likes to say to herself, “Next!” She always keeps her eyes open for the next opportunity. She anticipates them.
I corrected my vision on my drive home, enjoying once again those stunning, sun-splashed plateaus. I hope you can anticipate the opportunities in your life, as well as enjoy each step along the way. It’s great to be home. I look forward to sharing videos of my interactions on The Periphery YouTube.
*I write this post from Bemidji, MN, where yesterday at their library I presented Voices of the Pacific Northwest—the stories and lessons from my interviews.
Next up: Duluth at the Radisson hotel downtown this Thursday at 6:30pm.
This post was based off of my weekly email to family, friends, and readers. If you’d like to join The Periphery email group, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org