Travel Tales

 

To my readers:

A grey kangaroo and her joey

A grey kangaroo and her joey

You may have noticed my absence in the last few weeks.

I had intended to maintain my regular weekly blog during my travels in Australia and New Zealand, but between the time zone difference and constant movement from place to place, the time available for writing seems to be in short supply.  It seems I have no choice but to take a break, probably until I return in mid-March.

If you want check up on my travels, click here for my Facebook page.

The "Twelve Apostles"

The “Twelve Apostles”

In the meantime, here are a few choice photos from our trip along the Great Ocean Road, a journey that rivals the Pacific Coast Highway in the U.S.

I will post others from time to time.

 

 

 

Rainforest near Cape Otway

Rainforest near Cape Otway

The Beach At Lorne

The Beach At Lorne

 

A Meaningful Life

I am traveling in California, a leisurely break from my pursuit of a meaningful life as a writer. My travels make getting a weekly blog written out of the question. Instead, I offer a lovely piece from Sunday’s Brain Pickings Weekly … excerpts of advice that Hunter S. Thompson, the renowned journalist and philosopher, offered to a friend when Thompson was a mere 20 years old.

Question-Mark-820x1024How to Find Your Purpose and Live a Meaningful Life

“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles…

“And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect – between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming…

The answer – and, in a sense, the tragedy of life – is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you.

[…]  “As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective. So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? 

[…]  “To put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors—but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires—including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.

As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal) he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. 

[…] So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”

And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know—is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.

 

To see the article in full, see Brain Pickings Weekly.

 

Shaping Your Journey

 

scan0002_2A reader recently asked whether the process of writing Sailing Down the Moonbeam had a role in “shaping” my understanding of a journey that took me from one career to another via three years on a small sailboat.  My first response was “not really,” but within moments, I knew the answer was “yes.”

It related to our sojourn in Panama.  When I first outlined the story, I viewed Panama, along with a host of lovely island stops across the Pacific Ocean, as places where we’d had interesting adventures, but not experiences that specifically contributed to the life lesson—learning to love living out of control—that inspired Moonbeam.

I couldn’t omit Panama entirely, if only because we spent seven months there. But I anticipated half a dozen pages, focused on the challenges of getting through the Canal. 

In fact, Panama takes up 41 of the final 209 pages. It was only as I started writing that I understood the role that Panama had played in my journey:

**       It was in Panama that I first understood how much of “me” had disappeared over fifteen years of marriage.  

As many women do, I had allowed my husband–an extrovert—to make so many decisions about ordinary everyday activities.  Not surprisingly, I’d almost lost sight of my own ability to organize life and make friends without his help. 

But much of our early time in Panama revolved around his surgeries (first a hernia, then a melanoma).  I had no choice but to take the initiative. In Panama, I not only re-discovered who I had once been, but also who I could become.

**      It was in Panama that I first began to think about the benefits of “stepping outside your comfort zone.”

Through an incredible bit of serendipity, my husband and I both got part-time jobs that utilized our professional skills. As a result, we transitioned from travelers to residents and had to adapt to a way of life that challenged many of cultural mores and norms we’d taken for granted for four decades. It was often humbling to realize that “my way” isn’t always the best way.

Writing Moonbeam did not change my “memory” of Panama, but it certainly shaped my understanding of the experience, much like journaling can provide a new perspective on a familiar situation.  It helped me to understand that Panama set the stage. Without Panama, I doubt I would have been receptive to the lesson that was reinforced each day as we crossed the Pacific Ocean—that a living a life that was out-of-control might be a very good thing indeed.

How has writing shaped your memory?

 

Finding a New Comfort Zone

 

medium_524314942The SOLD sign is gone. The money is in the bank.  The new owners have moved in. 

I’ve loved my century old brick home perched on hill. The open floor plan. Rooms flooded with light throughout the day.  Deep windows that didn’t need to be draped.  The sometimes joyful, sometimes raucous laughter of neighborhood children. The shaded north-facing garden with its spontaneously-generated masses of tiny grey-green moss flowers alongside my intentional beds of color by the season—daffodils, astilbe, roses, lilies, and phlox. 

IMG_2996I lived there thirteen years, much longer than any place else. It’s where I wrote Sailing Down the Moonbeam and completed several drafts of my forthcoming novel A Fitting Place.  Twice now, coming from town, I have driven right past my new home, heading to the old one out of habit.

And yet, in a way I don’t fully understand, I am glad that house is behind me.

Some of the reasons are obvious. One is a growing resistance to the burdens of a charming but also aging house with a garden that needs constant tending. Another is my desire to travel; I want a place I don’t have to worry about when I’m away. And it seems right and fitting that Kent and I should have “our” home instead of trying to carve out a place for him in “my” home.

Less obvious is the notion of stepping outside your comfort zone, of having to deal with a world that is different and sometimes unsettling.  Since childhood, I’ve consistently strayed beyond the boundaries of whatever situation—good or bad—I happened to be in, in search of new ideas and new experiences.

If you define comfort as places and things that are familiar, I’ve spent most of my life outside my comfort zone.

Perhaps “familiar” is not where my comfort zone lies. Perhaps my comfort zone lies in meeting the challenge of the different and unsettling.  Could it be that my much loved house had become too familiar and it was simply time to move on? 

How do you define your comfort zone?  Do you need to redefine it from time to time?