If I can’t be traveling, I love trading stories with travelers. A few weeks ago I sat down for breakfast next to an interesting red-headed woman in the Toronto Canadiana Backpackers Inn. Soon we were exchanging stories about why we were there and ended up visiting a museum across town together.
Patty Murphy decided to explore the world after working for over 20 years in the gem and diamond business. Deciding that there was nowhere else the job could take her, she packed up her discontent, rather than wait another five years for retirement and took a rare opportunity to explore the world – rare because she’s able to fly most anywhere on a family pass. Her sister works for a major airline and the immediate family can fly free.
That’s remarkable enough but what amazed me most about Patty is her adaptability. When she decides where she wants to go, she tracks the flights she wants to take online. She’s not able to schedule or reserve a seat. She often finds out on the way to the airport if she might be able to get on the plane to the destination she desires. It stunned me as I imagined the amount of flexibility that requires.
Granted she travels on her own, packs light and owns very little. She considers herself a beginner and expects to make mistakes but it’s her lack of attachment to outcome that floors me. It seems there are great lessons in that.
I was once a traveler-in-training on cross-country road trips with my parents. If my dad spied a sign for something that piqued his curiosity, he’d veer off in that direction and explore. We spent time splashing at lakeside waterparks that weren’t on the map, climbed around roadside attractions like a life-sized Brontosaurus and through Paul Bunyan’s legs; we shared dinners at campsites with families from around the world and discovered the sweet delights of a Panaderia (bakery) while having a tire changed in a Mexican village.
Aside from surprising discoveries, when we’re traveling and open, we learn about ourselves at the same time. For example: It’s a bit of a cliché that couples fight when driving and I’ve been there. More than once I’ve started boiling because we weren’t taking a certain route or leaving at a time I’d decided was optimal. When I’ve been able to let go and enjoy my partner or my son or my mother’s way of doing things, I’ve enjoyed them more and realized how quick I can be to judge. Have to say that little self-awareness has made road trips a lot more relaxed and enjoyable.
FOMO: Fear of missing out!
We live in a country where many workers don’t take their full vacation time or work while away because they’re afraid of getting behind or worse, losing their job. It’s not easy. I get it but if we could just learn to pivot, to be more like Patty perhaps, open to what lies ahead and then realign our expectations, we might discover great adventures, better jobs or at least spend more time happily splashing.
Listen to the full interview with Patty on the Gathering Road podcast.
Have you been spontaneous while traveling? Share your discoveries!