Find Peace in Arriving, Not Arrival

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“I Already See It” | Kye Kye

Nikki and I had the fortune of discovering this phenomenal electropop band when they opened for another of our favorite artists at a concert in Birmingham, Alabama U.S.

You’ve heard the cliché a million times: “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” Removed from all overuse, it’s a good quote. It sticks to your hippocampus like bubble gum in your hair, and with the fast-acting potency of a prescription encapsulates everything you need to know about appreciating life in the now. Yet, despite no syllable wasted, seven words necessarily sells short the complexity of life. The nuanced complications of this human experience run as deep and as wide as the ocean.

The ocean. It is the place I miss most about my old life in Alabama, U.S. I’ve lived in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. for 441 days – don’t worry, I used math rather than counting each day — and I must say I’m impressed. Between the epic hiking trails – one going horizontally across the entire state — and myriad of parks, you’re never too far of a drive from becoming one with nature for a while. But what I wouldn’t give for one of those skinny trails overgrown with underbrush to lead to a portal to the ocean. I’d love to push away some stubborn scrub and suddenly feel the soft hot sand below my feet. Immediately being spirited away to somewhere amazing is the dream of a kid, but I guess I was never very good at abandoning my child-like fantasies. You get what you’re given in reality, however, and portals give ways to the combustion of the car engine.

Going to the beach is just what people in Alabama do in the summer. Strike that, it’s what people in half the country do over spring break. That’s why the typically small town of Gulf Shores, Alabama gets overrun by beach dwellers from states as diverse as the country it inhabits. A colorful cornucopia of license plates trail the cars creeping along in constant bumper-to-bumper traffic. Geography is the unsung motivator of human travel, and what’s the closest white, sandy, and most importantly warm beach from half the Midwestern U.S.? It’s Gulf Shores.

Leaving from Kentucky? Ohio? Missouri?
It’s Gulf Shores, along with other even more popular tourist-trap beach towns across the Florida-Alabama coastline.

No matter where you’re starting from, getting there is really all the same. Find the exit to Interstate 65-South closest to your house, set your cruise control, and highway hypnosis your way all the way to the beach. No matter where you start, it will invariably take longer than you expect to get there. Google Maps may say you’ll arrive in three hours or whenever, but this really isn’t about GPS readouts.

As a traveler, there’s always a sense that you’re getting close to your destination but you’re never quite there. And, given enough time to think while driving, you come to the same conclusion in your own life. You’re always arriving, but you’ve never really arrived.

Sure, there are days when you feel so close to who you want to be; to how you envisioned your life being when you were a child — a world with fewer responsibilities and more opportunities for recreation and rest. Unfortunately, in the wrong mindset, life seems to afford precious few opportunities for contentment, and even those moments contain the most sobering reminders that you are, at your core, not completely the person you want to be.

The most deep-rooted feelings of destination syndrome are the ones that nobody cares to talk about with any degree of depth. Therefore society boils them down to trite clichés disguised as words of advice.

“Not all who wander are lost.”
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

Welcome, then, to the point where human discontentment meets the explosive reality of living. People react to the frustration of never feeling a sense of accomplishment in different ways. Some are cruel, some are deeply antisocial, and some forcefully cling to a certain personality trait or skill which they think defines them. Here is a case of the “human condition,” which is yet another cliché that has long since lost its meaning. For lack of a better term, the human condition all comes down to this: between striving for financial success, dealing with frustrating family and friends, and being slightly too busy to fulfill all we’re capable of, we lose the parts of ourselves we’ve always dreamed of becoming.

This is a problem with no apparent solution. No amount of wealth, advancement of society, or distraction of technology can truly fix this type of broken heart. It may not be possible to hear the voice of your mind’s GPS say “you’ve arrived” in that shrill voice of confident accomplishment. However, it seems humanity favors those who actively try. There’s a romanticized notion for the travelers of the world; those who throw themselves into environments they are unfamiliar with in order to grow. This is a fantastic spirit, and this transcendentalist attitude is one I admire greatly.

Yet, people also admire the mentors, the teachers, and the public servants, who help individuals grow and become somebody important. Many of these people rarely leave their hometown, and yet they seem to have a more fulfilled heart than any ailing wanderer. I’ve seen Ph.D. professors who are so frazzled and openly discontent with their lives that I feared they may fall apart on the spot at any moment. I’ve also seen custodians in the most humble of occupations seem so content that I’d want to live in their shoes for a day. What makes each of these people uniquely content? I don’t know. Despite being the statistics nerd I am, I have no data to back up my claims, no testimonies to indicate commonality, and no psychological profiles to pull from for comparison. All I have is a sneaking suspicion, and I often trust my gut on issues of the heart.

These people have made peace with their perpetual state of arriving. They know that if they live on this earth a hundred years, a thousand years, or even a million years, that they will always be learning, aging, and maturing. They know that there is something to learn from everybody, and something everyone has to learn from you. They know they are imperfect, and freely admit that vulnerability to those who criticize them. These people are getting through life without ever taking their situations personally.

Let us abandon the notion of a true endgame of accomplishment in this life, accepting and embracing out constant state of arriving. May we start by being humble, understanding that the more we learn, the more we learn about all the things we don’t know. May we replace our arbitrary milestones of quantities and possessions with states of kindness joy, making the most of every moment from here until the unforeseen end our time here in this place. After all, legend has it that it’s not about the destination but about the journey. Perhaps there is life left in that expression after all.

How have you learned to approach this human experience? What travels have you been on that have enriched your appreciation for everyday life? What makes you most content? Meet us down in the comments and we’ll discuss!

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  1. For me, I learned a long time ago that focusing on a destination doesn’t work for me, particularly if it is quite distant. Rather I prefer to focus on a direction of travel, dealing with each step as it comes. I guess I really codified this thought process when I was at university and watched so many people focus on the end goal, their graduation, that they missed every single opportunity for advantage and advancement that walked right up to the,. They were focused on the distant goal, they didn’t realise that taking what looks like a temporary detour actually got them further along the road in the long run. You also gain a sense of fulfillment more frequently as you achieve things more frequently if you focus on the step immediately in front of you and your direction of travel. Focus on the direction, and arrival takes care of itself.

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