I have been living with my head in the clouds. Dubbed the land of the sky, Asheville, North Carolina provides both a literal and figurative interpretation of that moniker. There are not too many places where you can wake up to the modern comforts of society in the form of a Starbucks Caramel Macchiato and find yourself 15 minutes later driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway towards the silence and solitude of the back-country.
Finding myself is a good way to summarize the last 9 days of my life.
Our journey included just under 2200 miles of driving on interstate highways, rural country roads, mountain switchbacks, and gravel paths to a wide variety of the most beautiful destinations. Over the course of the past week, I hiked part of the Appalachian Trail, read a book with my feet submerged in a mountain stream, visited the highest point east of the Mississippi River, and remembered what it felt like to capture a lightning bug, set it free, and watch it glow.
I enjoyed the most delicious blackberry cobbler at the highest restaurant in the eastern United States, twice (what can I say, it was really good ;-)). I watched freight trains roll out of downtown Asheville towards Knoxville. I saw a black widow spider for the first time. I learned that hydrofluoric acid can dissolve glass. I even learned that there is the possibility of parallel universes and unseen dimensions thanks to the wonders of string theory (and my 10 year old son). Bottom line, I lived. I experienced life and the world around me.
How many times do we get stuck plodding along through our daily lives? Work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep. Wash, rinse, repeat. We get caught in the suction of a vacuum that strips all the vim and vigor out of our life. Sometimes we need a jolt of energy injected into our system that reminds us this is no way to live. The experience of the past nine days has been that energy bar for my soul.
I will admit that at the onset of this voyage, I was still under control of that negative force that encourages lethargy and listlessness. And then I inhaled. A nice deep breath of fresh mountain air and the splendor of the landscape stretching before me put my soul at ease. I was both relaxed and energized at the same time. It was a surreal feeling that I will not soon forget and that I long to return to every day.
Life isn’t about accomplishments or meeting schedules. It’s about experiences. It’s about variety. It’s about uncovering feelings and thoughts that haven’t been permitted to surface because of our misguided perceptions of the world around us. When we remove those blockades and simply allow ourselves to be, amazing and wonderful things begin to occur. We create moments. Some of those moments are prodigious and profound. We share these with the entire world. Other moments are more intimate. We share these with close friends and family, or perhaps we keep them to ourselves.
I have lived in Florida for more than 15 years. Over that period of time, I have visited numerous places in the United States and abroad for both business and pleasure. For the first time, departing Asheville felt more like leaving home rather than heading home. I return to Florida a different person than when I left.
The entire experience has reminded me that we only have one life to live. We can live doing the same things, day in and day out, caught in the doldrums of everyday life. Or, we can embrace change, choose to mix it up, and discover the wonders of the world around us.
We are all like ships. We can choose to stay safe in the harbor, or we can choose to embark on the adventure of our life. Raise your sail and let the wind catch it. Allow it to carry you towards exciting places filled with new experiences. Memories await … go capture them.