Why We All Need Journeys

Courage comes through achievement but also through the attempt.
—Chris Guillebeau

I began my adult life as a traveler; in many ways, travel has made me who I am today. I think we all could learn to see our lives more as a journey than a destination. We would be better for it.

Road Trip Photo
Photo credit: Moyan Brenn (Creative Commons)

For me, it started with a three-hour trip downstate to go to college. Then a semester in Spain. Then a couple summers in Texas.

After I graduated, I joined a band and traveled for a year: Canada, most of the U.S., and Taiwan (we were BIG in Asia).

Then I moved to Nashville and spent the first few months going on weekend road trips. After that, I would drive 20 minutes downtown to hang out with homeless people. Later, I would lead mission trips overseas once or twice a year.

Wherever I was, I would find a way to embark on some excursion, some mini pilgrimage. Because in the leaving, I found myself. In the going, I learned something about my identity.

Three lessons journeys teach us

  1. Journeys define us. They are important markers of our lives. And they remind us that we are all travelers of some sort.
  2. Journeys reveal our shortcomings. They show us we are not alone in this world. That there are other wanderers out there, in searching of truth and meaning in this great big, confusing universe.
  3. Journeys teach us about life. Richard Rohr said we go on journeys so we never have to go again. I sort of agree. We spend a semester abroad, take a year to backpack Europe, or volunteer with the Peace Corps to remember that life is the grand adventure. Once we learn this, we never stop traveling (even if we never leave home).

A journey is what you make it

It’s a process of leaving and arriving, of losing yourself and finding it again. And if these are our only criteria, anything can be a journey, as long as you are intentional.

Every once in awhile, I have to remind myself that despite a mortgage and steady job and any other semblance of stability, I am still a wanderer. Still a journeyman in search of answers, still a pilgrim in a foreign land.

And every so often, I have to take a trip to remember this. To find. To lose. To become. Last year, it was Ireland with my wife. Before that, Puerto Rico with a good friend. In the near future, it will be somewhere else.

The lesson of all journeys is this: Life is not stable, and we’re not in control. All we can do is enjoy the ride. (Click to tweet.) So how about it?

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
—Mark Twain

When was the last time you took a journey? What did you learn? Share in the comments.

Note: If this topic resonates with you, check out Chris Guillebeau’s new book, The Happiness of Pursuit (aff. link). It’s a compelling look at why we all need to undertake a quest at some point in our lives. Check it out!