Lessons Learned While Travelling in the Summer to Make Everyday “Ordinary” Life Extraordinary
I love both summer and travelling. It’s hard to say what matters more. But summer and travelling is truly an ideal combination. After many years, I was fortunate to be able to take three weeks to explore life in the beautiful state of Colorado, USA. I was not completely disconnected from work; I just switched into remote working mode. During the first week, my children attended a summer camp, so I had a few hours between the drop off and pick up time for myself. During the second week, we stayed with our friends so we had a busy schedule but we did not get to live a nomadic life on the road. This came during the last week of our travels, when we stayed in six various places within eight days.
Reflecting upon my very intense yet pleasant experience I realized that there are four approaches that could be easily adopted into my everyday life, so I do not have to wait several years to experience the same sense of flow, exploration, amazement, appreciation of being out of my comfort zone and much more…
Focus. I realized that I was much more focused during my vacations than in my working days. Multitasking was simply not an option during the many challenging or exciting moments such as: driving to our final destination after 28 hours of travel (Prague – London – Charlotte – Denver) in the middle of the night to an unknown place (and being grateful that TomTom got it right this time!). Likewise, driving a normal rented car on a dirt road for the first time to get to Lake Cataract hiking place required full attention. This came easy when marveling at the views of various peaks, mountain ranges, continental divide and other natural beauties.
Relax. Even though I consider myself a cautious, informed yet flexible traveler, there were moments that I just had to accept force majeure. Getting stuck at the top of the mountain after the gondola service was interrupted due to lightning and thunderstorm? No problem! It was a great opportunity to have two glasses of Chardonnay and a nice chat with my friend. The children exploited the situation well and the amount of money spent on ice-cream would probably cover a babysitter for several days. However, it was worth it, as two working mothers enjoyed an unforgettable hour of meaningful conversation and a good laugh. Arriving to the overbooked hotel and not getting the room you booked and paid for? (yes, you guessed right, it was through booking.com), presented me with an opportunity to negotiate for a complimentary drink and meal and a day later I appreciated the right/upgraded room even more. Last but not least, my plans to work on a book project got completely set aside. I did some writing but rather than enjoying the process, I found it very laborious and frustrating. I blamed myself for not proceeding fast enough. I decided to let it go and enjoy the present moment, going on hikes, exploring nature and doing NOTHING. I spent one evening with a group of women, preparing a women’s weekend seminar and sharing life stories. Besides experiencing the notion of a global sisterhood (a term coined by Annie Lennox), as a side effect, I got some new ideas for the book project, this time in an almost effortless way.
Explore. I love Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Being on the road guarantees being out of the comfort zone a lot. I use the following motto when working with my clients, “uncertainty is the place where miracles happen.” Walking around the Florissant Fossils Beds during rain, and later, a thunderstorm made all the photos and learning more valuable. All of us being soaked, we enjoyed our time inside the museum, listening very attentively to a documentary about the area. Discovering the beginning of the Rim track hike to the top of the hill in Snowmass village on our own was a moment to cherish and to be proud of. It also provided a great joke to share, we had asked a hotel concierge for the direction and we were guided to a local shopping mall as a worthwhile attraction instead.
Enjoy. If I were to choose the most important lesson, I definitely want to keep a more relaxed attitude. During vacations, I let go of perfectionism and just try to enjoy whatever it is in the moment. After buying the perfect hiking shoes, I badly kicked and injured my little toe. For the rest of the trip, I was mostly hiking like a local, wearing sandals. When we arrived to a bed and breakfast at the vineyards (this time not via booking.com but recommended accommodation based on a local guide), we found out that the only vineyards were at the sign post. We simply asked the hosts to arrange an excursion to them and we got it, even after the closing hours. Further on the road, I declared the 22nd day of our travels as a rest day. Even though we were in Manitou Springs, a town offering many sights, museums, peaks and activities to explore and discover, we spent the day in a Sun and Water Spa, soaking in cedar barrels in local mineral water. At the end, the journey is more important than destination, isn’t it? We did not make it to Pikes Peak, we did not see the Wild West Museum. I believe that there must be always a reason to return.
My family and I will remember many experiences of being in the present, surrounded by like-minded souls… such as celebrating my birthday surrounded by my family and friends and wearing my “birthday girl hat”. We sang John Denver’s songs such as “Rocky Mountain High”, “Country Roads” or “Leaving on A Jet Plane” next to the campfire while making special American s’mores (roasted marshmallows with a chocolate and a biscuit). I felt proud to share with a group of women the history of our special Czechoslovak-USA relations thanks to our first Czechoslovak president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk and his American wife, Charlotte.
Re-uniting with my high-school classmate Ray, now an evangelical pastor at Grand Junction, and sharing our paths taken close to a quarter of a century ago made us both reflect on our journeys since I was an exchange student in a senior year in Palmer, Alaska in 1993-1994. Enjoying typical US steaks and appreciating the US service when being truly served in a shop or in a restaurant is another item I cannot pack but I will recall often when back in Europe. Admiring natural sand sculptures at Colorado National Monument, trying out echoes in a canyon or studying fossils at the Florissant River Bed on the other hand made me aware about the fact that the present is only a glimpse between the past and the future. Let us make sure we live the moment fully.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned to as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell
Quoted from the book “Excess Baggage” by my friend Tracey Carisch, to be published in August 2018. This blog post is dedicated to her and her family. We met in Prague in 2014 and continued our friendship on-line for almost three years. Thanks to her kind hospitality, we were able to explore Colorado with locals as well as on our own.
By Linda Štucbartová