We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
~ T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets
I took off to travel for two weeks starting in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee on a solo camping trip. I would have no showers, internet, or GPS access, but I wanted to see the synchronous fireflies who only breed in this area for about two weeks a year. And I wanted to experience some of what I’m writing about – traveling overland in 1861. I was sure a temporary loss of productivity would be rewarded with a unique glimpse of nature. As I headed south, I felt myself shift from “super-charged, get-it-done” to slow-mode as I prepared myself for the experience.
What I wasn’t expecting was two solid days of drenching rain that delayed the fireflies and changed my learning to cook over an open flame plans. Oh, and then there was my camping neighbor – a black bear hiding out in a tree to avoid being relocated beyond the campground perimeter. After two days of wet, I packed up my soggy gear and continued my trip south.
So was camping a disaster? No. I loved being off the grid with no plans but to “follow my nose.” I got some writing done about what it’s like to live outside in torrential rains. I started and finished reading a book. And I squeezed in some biking through a misty mountain cove. And as odd as the circumstances were, I had time to relax and reflect, to be humbled by nature, and to practice all of my flexibility skills!.
And here’s a cool thing about that. Neuropsychologist Paul Nussbaum, an adjust professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, says that we’re not just changed while we’re traveling, but we’re also slightly different when we get home. That traveling can help us be more creative, open-minded, and trusting. He says that some of that change is because your brain likes having to puzzle out something novel and complex. The trick is to push yourself a little outside of your comfort zone. Or to just go a little slower for a change by choosing a place to travel that has few options for how to spend your time.
Click here for more thoughts on this intriguing subject. Then maybe, maybe, plan your next trip and see how that might open you up to some new personal magnetic north.