Every time I’m in Canada I find reasons to love it more and more. I’ve driven roughly over 4,000 miles through Western Canada in the last 14 months or so. As you venture further North, the towns are few and far between. But, that leaves you plenty of wide open landscape to enjoy, wildlife to encounter, and thoughts to sort through.
Lessons on the Road:
A Road Trip to the Canadian Rockies
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me,
as is ever so on the road.”
– Jack Kerouac
There is something freeing about being on the road. The day of the week matters less. The time of day is measured by the sun. There’s a freedom there that’s hard to describe. I feel it every time that my rent truck from the flexfleetrental.com is loaded down and hundreds, if not thousands, of miles lay ahead of me.
Since graduating high school, ten years ago, I’ve driven over 350,000 miles. Many of those miles, I found myself alone with the exception of my small dog, Sophie. I’ve lived in 4 out of 5 time zones the U.S. falls in. I’ve seen historic avalanche conditions in Colorado, uncontainable wildfires in Southern California, and the Northern Lights in the Yukon Territory.
The places I’ve seen and the people I’ve shared memories with is what really makes me consider myself very fortunate. The past few years I have found myself to be living and working in places where people vacation. Some of those people even going as far to say that it was a bucket list item to visit.
Some people have worked their whole lives in order to come spend a few days in the place I call home. It’s hard not to count your blessings when you hear stuff like that.
Nonetheless, it’s far from being all rainbows and Skittles. Like ever other human on Earth, I face difficulties and challenges. Mine, however, are more challenges of opportunity. But perhaps, we’ll uncover some of this a bit later. As for now, let’s dive into the story.
[insert “The Road North” photo]
It’s quite rare that I take much time off in the summer. Summer has been a time for me to put my head down and work, in order to enjoy myself a little more during the winter. (If you don’t already know, I love to snowboard. I’ll be doing it a ton this winter but more on that another time).
Circumstances feel into place and after a bit of convincing myself to take the time off, I found myself in route to Banff National Park in Alberta. From Skagway, it would be roughly 25 hours of driving and over 1,400 miles.
I would say that most people wouldn’t be too thrilled about driving for 24 hours in two days, and only spending three days at the destination, and then driving another 24 hours back ‘home.’ But, the distance didn’t phase me much.
Over the last few years, I’ve really skewed my perception on the length of a road trip. For me, road trips have become part of the fun, if not most of the fun. I think many people overlook the process of getting there and focus mostly on Point A to Point B. But, you miss a lot of opportunities when your more focused on results than the process.
There’s a metaphor here, that I would like to dive into.
Lesson #1 – “The Journey is the Reward”
The process of getting from Point A to Point B is often much longer than the time spent at either point. In work and life, you’re starting point (Point A) isn’t to your satisfaction. Therefore, you develop a goal destination (Point B) to improve the area of life you’re not completely satisfied with.
We would all like to get to Point B as quickly and painless as possible. Unfortunately, that’s just not a reality. At this point, we have a choice. We can either choose to embrace the struggle, knowing that it will develop our strengths. OR, we can attempt to avoid the struggle or be miserable throughout the entire process until we get there. Only to find out, that once we get there, we’re not completely happy and immediately set another destination (Point B).
This is a vicious cycle with no real resolution. It’s important that we develop a mindset that embraces struggle and faces it head on. Humans were designed to be resilient and we’ve demonstrated that since the beginning of time.
How resilient do you think Christopher Columbus needed to be to discover America? Or, the settlers who pushed West to fulfill Manifest Destiny? I’d say they had to be pretty damn relentless.
As it turns out, it’s not necessarily the accomplishment we celebrate. It’s the tenacity and never give up attitude that we appreciate and admire. We hear about all they had to overcome in order to make their dreams a reality.
It’s the journey we all remember the most. Let’s slow down a bit and enjoy the process a little more. I think we’ll find that we’ll still get to our destination about the same time but we’ll enjoy our lives a whole heck of a lot more.
I look forward to road trips. I see them as great escapes and I often do my best thinking while behind the wheel. It’s taken me many trips and several thousand miles to uncover that first lesson. Even after discovering it, it’s taken me a while to implement it. It wasn’t until I got into photography that I really started to slow down and look for things along the way.
My road trip to Alaska in May was really the first time I had slowed down enough to appreciate all the peripheral things you could see along the way. I stopped for wild life, mountain views, and even splurged on a few hotels.
Many times, in the past, I would load the truck up, hit the road, and get there as quickly as possible, never stopping for long or slowing down enough to truly appreciate where I was. I’ve gotten much better about taking my time and this road trip was much different.
More often that not, I found myself going well below the speed limit. My eyes gazed back and forth looking for wild life. I had my camera riding shotgun, ready to advantage of the short amount of time I would have to see and photograph wild animals.
My slow and steady pace paid off! This was one of the best road trips for wild life I’ve ever had. It was no accident that my slower pace yielded more wildlife viewing opportunities.
[insert wildlife photos]
Lesson #2 – ??
It’s crazy that if I would have done the slightest thing differently, it could’ve changed my entire experience, for better or worse. If I would’ve driven 5 MPH (~8KPH) faster, I might not have seen any of these animals. Who knows, I might have seen more or nothing at all.
It’s impossible to know and honestly, it’s not worth thinking about. All we can do is the best we can. Make the best possible decision in the moments, take advantage of the opportunities when they’re presented, and let the chips fall where they may.
It’s exhausting looking back and trying to figure what you did wrong, what you could’ve done differently, etc. And while I feel like it’s good to look back and learn from our past, if we look back too much and too long, we won’t make any forward progress.
Lesson # ? – Freedom is Sweet but you need “Operational Boundaries”
In conclusion… ?
I’m the kind of person who needs to give themselves boundaries to operate within. You could even call it a bendable set of rules. Regardless, I need some limits and they need to be based on my preferences. One of those operational boundaries is that I don’t plan on traveling out of North America for a good while.
There is just so many beautiful places to see and explore right here in this great continent I call home. I’m not saying that I’ll never find myself in Japan surfing the white wave of freshly fallen snow or backpacking across New Zealand where they filmed Lord of the Rings.
I’m saying, for know, I will be quite content exploring the Rocky Mountains and all the spectacular sub ranges it hosts.
For me, absolute freedom is terrifying. A confident driven individual like me has a hard time with abundant opportunities. I know I will be successful at anything I set my mind to. That certainly requires confidence but what it requires more of is a relentless drive to work your face off to be successful.
I know my talents have limits, some of them I have found, while others I’m still pushing boundaries. At 28 years old, I find myself very much in a state of self-discovery. I am starting to figure out a few key components to what brings me joy and I’m slowly creating a strategy to manipulate those components into a life time of joy.