Driving as a meditative practice

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There is something incredibly mesmerizing about driving long distances. My mind stops thinking on overdrive. My “to do” list disappears. Time stops mattering so much. It’s just me with my hands on the wheel, eyes fixated on the road, breathing deep and steady. It’s my own brand of eyes-open meditation.

Today I’m practicing this form of meditation underneath an immeasurably large expanse of sky in Montana. The road runs parallel to a chalky green river. Rock outcroppings, like exposed ribs of the earth, flank either side of the road. My family is engrossed in pages of books, the shuffle of music. It leaves me inexplicably free—and I am grateful for the soothing sound of the tires rolling beneath me.

Facing down fears

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If I do it right, travel is about overcoming things that make me afraid. Not that I’m a proponent of stepping into a pit of snakes or bungee jumping off a bridge. That’s a whole different category of terrified…and I don’t need that to feel like I’m living.

But I sometimes find myself fearful when I go on trips. What will I encounter? Who will I meet? What if things go differently than I planned? What if I lose my favorite pillow?

That’s when I remind myself that the unknown is the whole point of going.

So today I faced down one of my fears—the kind that makes my heart race in a good way. Rollercoasters. We were at Silverwood, a theme park in Idaho. I started out with a short one with a curly cue and upside down loop in the middle. Then I tried the old fashioned wood one with a distinct clackety-clack sound and a whip-quick ride. Trust me, I screamed a lot and laughed even louder.

But I met my match with the gigantic, legs dangling-type steel coaster with 100-foot drops and a forward/backward corkscrew. My family opted to do it; I volunteered to hold the backpack. Being terrified was simply not on my travel bucket list.

No expectations

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We’re finally off on our family adventure—a road trip from Seattle to Yankton, South Dakota with a return through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Some might not consider this a particularly exciting route. To me, however, the destination is less important than the experience. In fact, this road trip is about stepping out of the routine, shrugging off the patterns of our daily lives and savoring the new experiences that we have.

For months, I’ve thought in general terms about this trip. I’ve considered the route. I’ve dreamed about it when work was monotonous or the weekday marathon of kidssportsscoutsgrocersyshoppingdisheslaundryerrands all got to be too much.

Now I need to let that all go.

This trip is really about having no expectations. None. That’s what truly allows me to feel like I’m living. I feel more awake and in tune when I travel; my senses are more alert, my time is looser. I can listen to an entire album, and then do it again. I can admire a cloud formation. I can just be.

So here goes. I propose a road-trip-toast to no expectations and yet an absolutely memory-filled adventure with the people in this world I love the most.