That’s it in a nutshell; the answer to the question that people ask, “How do you go about these solo journeys?” Choosing the place starts with the question, “Where should I go this year, God?” I wait to see what comes from inside—my interests, my curiosity, my need. Various external factors have impacted my choices, including a movie setting, places I’ve heard about from others, locations of hostels.
Three years ago, I took my solo journey to Michigan. I’d never been to that part of the country. Hearing several Michiganian co-workers talk about their drives home made the route seem familiar to me. An article in my Rails-to-Trails magazine featured the bike path of Little Traverse Wheelway in Petoskey. Nearby Mackinac Island had a road around the water’s edge just for walkers and peddlers. I could easily include a visit to my cousin’s in Toledo. The images of a road trip to discover another area of the U.S., riding my bike on new trails, and reconnecting with my cousin worked themselves into my dream that seemed like the answer to my prayer.
There was little time for planning. Normally I’d make my reservations months ahead for my July trip. But that spring was hectic with putting our house on the market and searching for a smaller home for our downsizing. As a school nurse, I thought I’d go crazy from the stress as the last weeks of school were winding down and I was texting, faxing, emailing two realtors at once. Several weeks before I was to leave on my journey, I was completely exhausted.
“I don’t know if I can go this year,” I confided to my friend, Paula. “I’m just so tired.”
She was quiet for a moment, then said, “Well you have to go. It’s what you do.”
I would be letting her down if I didn’t go, and maybe I’d be letting others down, too. These were more than trips: they’d become pilgrimages. Paula had been part of my previous ten journeys—encouraging and praying for me. Besides, I’d just published a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul, entitled, “Annual Reboot,” telling about how my journeys renewed me each year. If I didn’t go, I would be a liar, not doing what I told those readers I must.
Finally, the week before my trip I reserved a car and most of my lodging. It was hard finding vacancies. I packed at the last minute and knew that if I didn’t just take off, I might back out, give in to the urge to stay and unpack those boxes.
I loaded my bike and headed out in the pouring rain for Charleston, West Virginia. I began to let go of my to-do list and the image of the stacked boxes, replacing them with prayers for my journey and the people in my path.
After a delicious dinner and a good night’s sleep, I drove on for my next two nights in Toledo. It was nice being with my cousin in her home, where there was nothing to do but visit. I traveled on to Petoskey and felt the thrill of riding on that path that I’d read about in my magazine. Pedaling beside Lake Huron on the road around Mackinac Island, I felt God’s presence, stopping to observe the stacked stones that other pilgrims had left, cairns that became altars of worship.
How satisfying to see my dream was now a reality. That journey that I was hesitant to take, helped me to step away from my busy life and gain perspective—alone with God in a new and beautiful place. It was right that, once again, I’d done the thing I do.
How about you?
Have you ever let your to-do list keep you from a higher calling?
How would things have been different if you’d allowed yourself to follow your heart’s desire?
What would help you make that choice next time?