It may seem disconcerting that I am more able to wake up early and go for a walk when I’m on vacation then when I’m home. But that’s what happens when I visit the small town of San Luis Obispo, CA.
No getting in the car to drive to the closest redwood trail head. No getting extra bundled up to minimize the morning chill effects.
Just get dressed, lace up the running shoes and walk out the door. Power walk through town to the local high school and hit the hills.
I hadn’t walked, exercised, moved really, in many months. So this particular morning walk found me starting from scratch. I’m still “young” enough that my body can move at a decent clip, but once I got to them hills, I started to suffer just a bit.
All of which forced me to really pay attention, to my body, and the thoughts that crossed my mind. And that’s when my brain went into really high gear. It started thinking fresh, insightful stuff, and with every step I took, one more fresh insight – primarily about life, about moving forward, about everything – kept flashing itself on my mental movie screen.
What did I learn from this road less traveled?
1. When starting from scratch, give yourself permission and time to go slow.
Whether you are physically fit to take on the challenge, or just rearing to go and make a change in your life (career, relationship, passion, whatever), acknowledge that you are starting from scratch. It’s the basic lesson of learning anything: enthusiasm gets you motivated enough to take action or make the change, but learning something new takes time, effort, discipline, patience, oh and did I already say time?
Give yourself kudos for starting and give yourself permission to move at a slower pace, until you finally get your physical groove or enough life experience or knowledge under your belt that following through on a life transition choice feels more natural.
2. The road to anywhere is a wide one.
That means that A) there is plenty of room to share and B) there are plenty of options on which side of the road you want to travel on.
When you start walking, running, making a life choice, you’ll probably just put your head down and walk straight ahead. (Because believe me, sometimes we have to narrow our focus down and just look 1 step ahead, nothing more!). After a while, when you start looking up, you’ll begin to see the road for what it is: new or old, straight or crooked, seamless or filled with potholes.
There may be sections where walking on the right side of the road makes most sense, and there may be small patches filled with potholes that force to walk dead center.
Bottom line: Give yourself options on how to get to your final destination.
3. View the road from different perspectives.
You can look just right in front of you, or raise your head and eyes a bit more and look 5 feet in front of you, or you can raise your eyes a bit more and see 20 feet in front of you.
At each distance, you will notice different perspectives of the road, different challenges, all allowing your brain time to anticipate how to handle an obstacle that is 15 feet in front.
If we keep our eyes on just one line sight, we could get tripped up by what is right at our feet or we could lose sight of what we are traveling towards.
4. You aren’t the only one who travels this road.
The hilly road I took that morning was old and weathered, filled with holes. Yet a caretaker, at some point, had gone over the road and spray painted bright orange circles around the most dangerous holes in the road.
While it may feel like a solitary effort in the moment (and your life can only be lived and felt by you alone), people have traveled these road before you. Whether it is a physical journey or a life journey that you are on, pay attention to the warnings, markers, or encouragement they have left for travelers who follow them.
5. Travel the road once and scope out the difficulties.
It is safe to say that most things we try in life, we try them a couple of times at least. We try to improve ourselves, try to gain habits, try to become physically stronger. Whatever activity or decision you are trying out, try it out once to see how it fits with you AND take notes on where the challenges and difficulties lay.
Think of it as the cowboys in the western movies who sent a scout ahead on the trail to come back with info about trail conditions or scalping parties or nearby towns. Except you are the one scouting, so take good notes because chances are you will be relying on that intelligence when you travel this road again.
6. Travel the road multiple times and use it as a strength building exercise.
As I walked this hillside road several times, I noticed that with the perspective gained from lifting my eyes, my body would respond by lengthening my stride so that I could step over potholes with minimal effort. Or I could walk on the right side of the road and easily shift my footing as my body twisted to lead me to the center, smoother part of the road.
Each trip up the hillside, my body became stronger and my mind began to problem solve how to navigate the road. My legs and lungs weren’t the only things benefitting from this walk, my brain was too.
Any wandering experience, journey, allows us the opportunity to strengthen all of who we are, body, spirit, and soul.
7. There are going to be some blind spots.
Early morning sunlight blinded me several times as I walked up the hillside.
It’s inevitable that on any road traveled, unanticipated obstacles will arise or unforeseen challenges. When those blind spots happen, you can A) stand still and firm up your footing, B) stubbornly push through, relying on knowledge you’ve gained about what is on the other side of the road or C) turn around and walk away.
Blind spots cause more damage early in our walk, when our lack of strength building or lack of knowledge about the path itself can really detract us from moving forward.
Yet blind spots that come our way after we have traveled a bit, they may feel more like pesky little insects that come out at night: things that can’t be avoided but that doesn’t mean we should huddle inside and not enjoy a summer evening.
8. Figure out your motivation, your “why.”
I knew once I tied the running shoes and closed the door behind me that there would be some discomfort during my walk (shortness of breath, cold air hitting my face, etc.)
Any road traveled will have its points of pain, discomfort, worry, anxiety. That’s why it’s crucial that before you start you pinpoint why you are traveling this road. (Check this article out for more tips on pinpointing your "why") Why do you want to do this? The answer to this question is what you will refer to over and over again, as you come upon potholes on the road, as you come upon blind spots, as you come upon just barely being able to take one step after another.
As important as researching and preparing for this life road journey is, knowing why you are taking the journey in the first place is equal to you having a functioning GPS device: your “Why” answer will mark the spot you aim for.
So there you have it. A one hour walk along the hills of downtown San Luis Obispo became a physical and mental workout. Upon arriving back at the hotel, over coffee, taking the time to reflect upon what I had experienced provided me with insight that I can use for work, life, and yes, physical walks.
If you are purposefully wandering, what has your latest life road trip taught you?
I love sharing purposeful, thought-provoking experiences. I write action-oriented blog stories, to empower women to attain their best life. When I'm not studying life, I'm trying my best to live it, by drawing, gardening, and attempting to design my own unique clothes. Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!