I wrote my personal Love Beauty Peace blog last week about my trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico with my husband Andy. As I reflected on our experience, I realized that vacations are wonderful for many important reasons. Most are the usual suspects: (1) I get to spend time away from the day-to-day with my favorite person, my husband, (2) I get to enjoy different foods from what we tend to eat at home and (3) I can use as many towels and take as many baths and showers as I like☺. Beyond that, one of the most important aspects of vacation for me is they give me time to step back and reflect on life. The vastness of the desert expanse of New Mexico facilitated that process.
Visiting Santa Fe is a destination that we select more for being than for doing. Although we certainly do some activities like hiking and eating and wandering around, mostly we slow down and hang out. Much of the hanging out time is in front of the kiva fireplace, perfect for the cool Santa Fe evenings. We talked, we read, we even played cards in front of the fireplace. Mostly we stared into the fire, listening to the crackling and breathing in the calming fragrance of the piñon wood. That gave me plenty of contemplative time to think and be grateful for everything in my life.
Hiking, too, is a very contemplative experience for me. As I travel along and take in the natural sights of a trail, I usually find a rhythm in my walking that allows me to go inside my mind. Our hike on this vacation was no different. We took a three-hour hike (two hours up, just one down) that had many switchbacks. In theory you could go straight up the mountain to reach the top quicker. Yet switchbacks are perfectly designed to get you there more casually, even though you sometimes feel like you aren’t making any progress.
How true this is of life. We move forward towards some goal or destination, but there are switchbacks that take us in different directions temporarily or even cause us to veer off our initial course permanently. Sometimes we have a very clear destination in mind. Other times it isn’t clear what the destination is. And maybe we should call them “interim destinations.” I mean graduating high school is a destination of a sort, but you don’t stop there. Graduating college is a destination too, but you don’t stop there either. When you think in those terms, there really are no destinations in life at all. It’s just the journey with many switchbacks. And when you accept that perspective, it makes it a whole lot easier to accept the pace.
Whether fast or slow doesn’t really matter. Do you enjoy it along the way? Have you taken the time to look up at the expansive view (like I did in the mountains near Santa Fe)? Do you feel like you are learning something? Have you found what gives life meaning to you? The mountaintop—if it can be called that—is living a joyful and meaningful life. Only you can define what that really is. And switchbacks are the only way to get there.