The Freedom of an Open Road

Independence Day 2016 (2)

Amongst my favorite memories are the family road trips I took as a kid. We traveled through the deserts and mountains of New Mexico, the redwood forests of California, the canyons of Utah, passed rivers and lakes through to New Hampshire.  What a sense of freedom!  Historically and in our contemporary times, one’s ability to move freely has been a prized luxury. The American right to drive from coast to coast, unimpeded, has been a signal feature of our country. Our truckers, then, are emblematic of our independence; the solitary figures of unrestrained liberty.

A blur of rest stops, brief calls at pay phones to check in with family and mix tapes was broken up with the occasional terrifying downpour. There! On the horizon! Is that speck a semi? We kept a beady eye on the ever enlarging form, hoping for another opportunity to signal a road warrior to honk the horn by hanging out of the windows and pumping our arms up and down. And there it was…that skull-rattling, heart-racing, thrilling-like-nothing-else semi-truck horn!!!

I realize now that mom and dad weren’t active, eager participants in our stalking of the road warrior riding a many-wheeled beast. In retrospect, the most important element of those road trips was how, unbeknownst to us children, our parents kept us safe on the road at night. This might be an unusual thing to say, but it’s true: we would look for a Flying J to get gas, stretch our legs and grab a bite to eat. I loved sidling up to a trucker on a bar stool. These guys would nearly always make me feel like a road comrade, talking with us about our journey and theirs, the food, the weather. After probably hundreds of truck stops, the thought of becoming a trucker when I “grew up” had settled in my mind as a possibility- it was my version of a cowboy riding out into the sunset.

I learned about the world and stopped romanticizing that lifestyle and group of people as I had. Still, they are their own breed: in my mind, it’s Americana. I miss those road trips and, especially, that certain feeling of pulling up to a Flying J and nestling in amongst 18-wheeled beasts waiting for their feed of diesel fuel. And every time I glance out my window and into the cab of a semi thundering down the highway beside me, I still feel the distinct urge to signal that trucker to blow their horn.

Thanks to all those truckers who were consistently kind to us kids. Thanks for indulging us and keeping it fun. Just another reason to cherish our independence and our open roads.

Destination: Otherwise

The silver lining to living on this planet is that we can always find Summer – and my calendar says it’s officially here.

This is a time when we take to our chariots, which faithfully transport us to familiar and foreign parts.  That seems to be what Summer is for — explorations of our outer world, leading us back to explorations of our inner one.  We’re looking beyond our Googlemaps hoping to find a route to our wise inner child: fun, relaxation, friends, naps and snacks.

Summer’s greatest legacy is the way it brings us together – with nature, with family, with friends.  And when SummerTravels Otherwise (2) marries with art, we’ve a recipe for “how to turn strangers into friends” from all corners of the world.

 

Recently, I went through an extended period of time when I was working long hours between two jobs.  Travels OtherwiseMy ability to move myself through life’s events was adequate – and I am really grateful for that; however, I was aware that others had traveled to a different place in their lives.  This meant they were able to choose destinations near and far but always with fun as the focus.  By the time I was finally able to afford to work one full-time job, I needed friends and loved ones to remind me that Summer is the dessert to the meat and potatoes of life.  Luckily, Summer is synonymous with change.

Packing joy intoTravels Otherwise Summer’s outings, we’re brought back to our sense of fun and daring! With events ranging from the music and flashing lights of Belgium’s Tomorrowland and Nevada’s Burning Man, to Japan’s world-renown spas, as well as soaring cliffs we’ve a need to climb, summer travels take us, not only physically to geographical points previously unexperienced, but on life’s most wonderful and soul-essential journeys via ‘Destination: Otherwise’.

With Summer allowing us life within his visage once more, I’d like to share with you, dear friend, one of my very favorite quotes from another who undertook journeys to free himself from a life too heavy with the stuff of meat and potatoes:

When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote                

 

Lateralization

Lateralization of ar interior

Lateralization of brain function means that there are certain mental processes that are mainly specialized in either the left or the right hemisphere. For fluid physical and cognitive activity, we depend on the cooperation of both sides of our brain.  For fluidity in our driving lives, we likewise benefit from an implicit agreement of equitable give-and-take in our relationships because, where there’s room for more than a driver, our mode of transportation is also lateralized:  driver’s side and passenger’s side.  And, just as with the brain, which has specific functions located in the front or in the rear, there are front seats and back seats.

When a passenger, with whom are we following along?  Who are we entrusting with power?  To some extent, whenever we’re a passenger, we are at the mercy of someone else’s choices.  We don’t always acknowledge to ourselves that we’ve given over a portion of our power to someone else when we’re in the passenger seat, but it only takes that one time – like when it’s obvious the driver is not open to our input.  Our adrenaline revs in its output, which drives the point home:  no steering wheel, no power.  It can be an innocuous moment, such as teaching a newbie how to drive (Aaaagh! You’re going too fast!  Slow down or you’re going to hit them!).  You realize how impossible it is to get your own leg to the driver’s side and stomp down on the brake, forcing the nightmare to end. You could always open your passenger door and bail to save yourself, but the newbie – who might be a loved one – could suffer harm or inadvertently bring the law down upon you.  You shakily get out of the car after assuring the newbie “you did great”Lateralization ~ Wobbly Man

Then there’s the more serious side of passengerhood:  the driver isn’t taking you where you had mutually agreed to go (figuratively and literally).  Ominous music, called anxiety – maybe fear – is playing in your body.  Lateralization ~ Scared Woman

As drivers, when we take on passengers, who have we invited into a moment of our lives?  Whose company are we regularly keeping?  Even with the steering wheel firmly in our hands, are we too frequently acting as taxi (meeting other peoples’ agendas) and not making sure we’re meeting our own needs as well?giphy (1)

When you’ve a moment to self-reflect:  Is your destination one that is beneficial for you and/or your loved ones?  Is your driving a means of realizing a positive accomplishment or are you usually driving away from something or someone (driving as a means of avoidance or escapism)?

To assess aspects of your life, you don’t necessarily need a mirror – Just look over at your driveway.

 

*Fellow Travelers:  Just for fun, take a peek at this site  (if your brain went, “Whaaah?  So did mine.  No worries, ’cause it’s all in our minds.

 


 

Hello!

Hi, I’m Branwynne, a fellow traveler along the way.

Every week, I’ll explore the parallels between the encounters I observe during my life’s journeys and the human behaviors we all come across along the way of life.

It recently occurred to me that the stuff of life doesn’t just occur in an office, a court room or other enclosed space ostensibly separating one human drama from another.  Wherever people encounter one another, there’s a story – even while on the road.

Join me in discussing the stuff of life you observe along the way!