I am a road-trip junky and have been ever since I acquired my license at the age of 16. While my other peers were more interested in hanging out at the mall or driving around aimlessly to kill time, I was plotting further and further trips away from the home base. I routinely criss-crossed the state of Florida just to check out a new beach, or go sightseeing just for the heck of it.
Traveling from one side of the state to the other is one thing, however, and quite another is to travel from one side of the continent to the other.
I can trace my desire to one day driving all the way to Patagonia, the southern tip of the American continent, back to the time I was about 6-7 years old. My grandmother, in her “let’s-stick-whatever-seems-interesting-on-the wall” approach to decoration, had hung in her modest three-bedroom apartment a huge relief map of the world. I found that map at the end of the hallway fascinating.
There were all this strange names and places on the map: Big, blue streaks representing the Amazon river, tiny and barely-perceptible Galapagos Islands, the vast, mysterious lands of Mongolia, and the hilarious named, at least to my 7-year old mind, Lake Titicaca in Bolivia.
But the most alluring destination to me was the bottom, pizza-slice shaped section named Tierra del Fuego, Spanish for “Land of Fire.” Why was it called that? I wondered. Did they make fire there? My overactive imagination ran wild.
While the real-world location of Tierra del Fuego was actually miles from where I was standing at that moment, it was one of the most readily accessible to me, if only due to my height. I could literally touch the tip of the Andes Mountains on the relief map without having to get on my tippy-toes. These lands are still fascinating to me because of their majestic, unspoiled beauty (see Exhibit 1 above).
Once I had my driving permit, it seemed obvious to me that this place was the coolest, farthest, most awesome drive anyone could ever attempt to undertake. I put it in my bucket list, before I even knew what a “bucket list” even was, and filed it away with the rest of the cool things I ever hoped to do during my life one day.
Fast-forward almost 20 years later, to a moment in time at the end of last summer. By now life felt like it was passing me by. There were tons of place I’d yet to go and many more things I wanted to see and do. But work and responsibilities got in the way.
I’m not alone. This happens to most of us.
We have big dreams and aspirations growing up, only to have the weight of “reality” and peer pressure steer us towards more achievable goals. In the end, we often end up settling for what we think is within our grasp. What we think we’re capable of.
At that point, I decided to not let perceived limitations, imaginary or otherwise, stop me. There was nothing to lose by looking into what it would actually take to pull off, or at least attempt, the trip. Could there maybe be other people besides me out there looking into completing the same journey?
Actually, quite a number of people it turns out. I quickly found the hub for people wanting to make the same journey at www.DriveTheAmericas.com. There, I found all sorts of people, from all walks of life, traveling on their own journey of a lifetime. One particular trip, that of Dan, at TheRoadChoseMe.com was very inspiring.
“Well, what about work?” I asked myself. I was certain before I even started researching that the usual two-week vacation wouldn’t be enough time to complete the journey. It would take months, maybe more, to complete the journey.
Perhaps, I would NEVER find the time to do it, as had been the case up to that point. The things I’ve always wanted to do kept slipping further away.
At this point, I could either postpone the trip until the timing was right (usually never), or I could go ahead and decide from that point forward to live life as best as I saw fit. To go forth with no regrets.
There are moment in life where you come to a fork in the road. Where you have to make tough choices. For me, this was it.
On one side I was staring at a road that led to a comfortable life, with the stability and security of a great, prestigious job. The kind of life other people would be quite content to live with, even if full of “what-ifs.” This is what is referred to as a “golden cage.”
On the other side, lay the open road. The chance to do what I’ve always wanted, when I wanted, with the limited time I was give on this earth. No one there to offer me assurances, or to tell me everything would be OK if things went wrong either, but my path would not be chosen for me.
In the end, the decision was not that complicated.
I either had to decide to live life on my own terms,
or let the safe, well-worn path dictate what road I was to follow.
They say choices in life are not guaranteed. What appears safe today, may not be so down the road.
When it comes to important decisions,
what matters is that you are able to live with the choices you make.
Whatever happens in the future, I know I made the right decision.
And being able to decide what path your life takes, is what true freedom is all about.
*Top photo via Flickr @ winkintheuk