A new word has been added to my vocabulary today. Wanderlust. It is me. I appreciate journeys to remote corners of the globe as much as the shorter expeditions in my virtual backyard. It is why geocaching has become such an enjoyable hobby. It is a microcosm of this desire to explore. Exposing you to nooks, crannies, and otherwise undiscovered sites, these spots would remain forever hidden if it were not for curiosity leading you off the beaten path. Each of these journeys, long or short, provide you with an opportunity for discovery.
As a teenager, I eagerly awaited that day when a driver’s license was in my back pocket. Not because of the “cool” status that goes along with the privilege of driving. Instead, I yearned for the freedom to explore all the places I was unable to reach by bike or foot. Sometimes I would have specific places on my agenda. At other times, I would just wander, taking a random turn onto a new road with the anticipation of unmet discoveries.
Living in Pennsylvania for my entire childhood, I remember a family vacation taken to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Proudly possessing my license, I was finally able to contribute to the driving responsibilities. I couldn’t wait. Traveling down interstate 95 toward Washington D.C., the beltway around the District of Columbia serves as the quickest and most effective way to navigate around the nation’s capital to all points south.
Now, I may not always be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I am pretty sure that I shouldn’t have seen a welcome sign to Maryland, then Virginia, and then Maryland again. The unexpected full circle tour of the beltway was educational, if not interesting. It helped me understand that road signs actually do serve a purpose other than helping to fill your card when playing road trip bingo.
As I remember that story from many years back, it reminds me of another one from not so long ago. Driving my son to an event with friends, I was very focused on the congested highway traffic. I was shaken out of this hyper-focus as my GPS screamed instructions to exit right in one mile. The volume was “adjusted” by my loving son, thank you very much, I am awake now. As it turns out, it woke me up literally and figuratively.
Technology is wonderful and certainly makes many of the tasks in our daily lives more manageable. Sometimes, however, I think we get too complacent and rely on it so much that we lose touch with reality. We lose touch with the human element. We become robots following instructions instead of operators directing our own path in life.
In the case of GPS use, I call it the curse of the purple line. I have seen this mental process active while navigating both a car and an airplane. We rely on these navigation units so heavily that we lose all semblance of where we are and where we are going. We blindly follow whatever that charming voice tells us confident that it knows best. We follow the purple line without fail. Even if it has us traveling in circles, which it often does.
I often fall into the habit of following that purple line on the GPS. At times, I also find myself following the metaphorical purple line in our life. We don’t question the path we are on. We follow it blindly, positive that it must be the correct way, the only way. Sometimes we need to pull off on the side of the road, get out our trusty road map, and re-orient ourselves. We need to look at the big picture and adjust our route. The fastest route is not always the best route.
The most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what’s in between, and they took great pleasure in doing just that. ~Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
Cultivate an insatiable desire to explore, to seek out new locations and experiences that add to your story. Don’t allow yourself to be directed by the purple line of narrow-minded expectations. Release your physical body and mental mind to wander aimlessly. Allow your curiosity to flourish. Decide to take the scenic route and you will discover that your true destination isn’t where you end up, but what you find on your way there.