The Downside of Farther and Faster

Leda- 1st peak

I recently had the opportunity to compare two different forms of transportation in a slightly all-consuming way. My first experience consisted of a 6-day backpacking trip in the Trinity mountains of California. My second experience was a 5-day solo drive across the country (2,500miles total from California to Ohio). I’m sure you can guess which experience was my favorite (duh). But, what you might not be able to guess (I didn’t predict these things) were the insights that I gained from interacting with the world in these two very different modalities of transport….

I can distill my personal reactions into three themes: speed, distance, and quality of connection.

Speed

While driving, I was going too fast (not speeding, mind you) to notice small details like individual flowers or species of prairie grass or if there were any birds in the area. It just wasn’t possible to appreciate my surroundings as the driver of a vehicle going upwards of 60 miles per hour. Comparing that with traveling rugged terrain by walking with a pack on and the contrast is staggering. I remember over the course of a couple of days of hiking, noticing manzanita berries along the trail in various stages of coloring and ripeness depending upon the elevation in which we found ourselves hiking.

Lesson learned: The pace at which you travel to any place or goal (through life itself, even) has a great impact on what you are able to take in from your surroundings. There is a lot to be missed if your only setting is warp speed ahead. I hope to personally be more aware of mixing up my modes of transportation and including some walking every day.

Distance

The biggest dissonance with traveling by car is that you cover so much distance, but you don’t have to move your body to get there. Think about this for a minute. It is super weird. Driving is kind of like delayed-action teleporting. It even leaves you with this vibrating or buzzing feeling at the end of a long day of driving, as if all the atoms in your body have been taken apart and are reassembling at your final destination. Like I said, super weird.

This whole concept of being able to travel such far distances without propelling ourselves,  leaves us with unreasonable expectations about how far we can reasonably travel in other areas of our lives as well. For example, we may become impatient while learning a new skill or building a new friendship or relationship with a romantic partner. We sometimes demand unreasonable levels of movement without allowing things to unfold more naturally. Have you ever achieved a goal that you thought was incredibly huge only to realize that you didn’t take enough time to appreciate the journey along the way? I know I have.

When you are walking somewhere there is no other way to get there than via the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-method. It makes the process of each step important and necessary.

Lesson #1 learned:  The steps are often more profound than the actual finish line. Make sure you’re taking reasonable sized steps and appreciating your humanness. It’s not a very satisfying present moment if you’ve got your sights so far in the distance all the time.

Lesson #2 learned: Our bodies are made to move (if you don’t trust me, trust Katy Bowman, biomechanist and author of “Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement” and lots of other great books, blogs, and podcasts about healthy movement).   Not getting adequate movement just feels bad. Period.

Quality of Connection

I notice that I am more at peace when I feel attuned with the people I am with and feel connected to my environment. The best metaphor that I have for this connection with surroundings is the metaphor of touch (check out my previous post on human touch HERE). I was reading this book on the Chinese medicine practice of self-massage recently and one of the basic instructions for this practice was to have an, “iron arm, water wrist, and embroidery hand.” I love this idea. I think that it really provides the basis for how I feel when I am interacting best in the world: I am grounded at my core. I am flexible in my movements and thoughts. I am gentle at the point of contact with the external world.

When I spent the majority of my day driving,  there was a solid barrier preventing a direct interface with the world around me. Conversely, at the end of a long day of hiking, I would take off my boots and socks and walk around the campsite barefoot. In comparing my driving trip with my walking trip, maybe the most tangible difference that I can recognize was my ability to actually touch my surroundings.

Lesson learned: connection is a matter of the speed at which you are traveling and the distance you expect to cover. Quality connections happen best when you are able to feel firmly yourself, allow for a dynamic experience, and reach out with a tender touch.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. craig armstrong
    Aug 26, 2016 @ 00:56:10

    Great comments. You express yourself Well. Keep your Balance in Life. Take the road less traveled. Friend.

    Like

    Reply

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