When summer arrived in my childhood, some of my friends took plane trips to Europe or Disneyland. But my parents, sister and I loaded up in the van and set out for road trips to visit our geographically diverse relatives. My summer memories are speckled with trips to Michigan, Washington, South Dakota, stopping to visit places like...Wall Drug. The Corn Palace. Dutch Village. It was on one of these trips, a sweltering afternoon likely somewhere devastatingly dull between Wisconsin and South Dakota, that we found ourselves on an interstate in slowing traffic. At first traffic inched forward, giving travelers the hope of only a few minutes delay. But then, traffic stopped. A dead halt. The heat got hotter. Sticky minutes passed. Glances into surrounding car windows revealed travelers equally as irritated as I, every one of us anxious to get to our final destination.
Suddenly, one lane over a car door flung open and out clamored a handful of twenty-somethings, at first appearing to stretch and dig for something in the trunk. But then...all three of them twisted open colorful containers and began blowing bubbles in the stand-still traffic. Dancing, waving, sending clouds of bubbles towards fellow traffic-sitters, who in turn leaned out of car windows to catch or pop the slippery orbs. One bubble-blower tossed a container of bubbles to a woman a few cars back so she could join in the fun. We were struck by the unexpected sight...giggling as we watched an agonizingly packed interstate turn from frustrated to charmed, and then finding ourselves disappointed when traffic began to creep ahead, and the bubble-blowers were forced to hop back in their car.
Never, since that moment, have I seen such an open embrace of the present.
I'm terrible at embracing the present-infact, not often does my mind live in the present. Many days pass in which I've lived only in wispy, nostalgic moments of the past or sparkly, dreamy hopes for the future. Ample chunks of my time are spent nervously drumming my fingers on the proverbial steering wheel because life has temporarily locked me into the present. My destination-focused mentality causes me to forget that I am, currently, unbelievably unattached and blessed with freedom and time. Time that I should use to experience life in unique ways that I couldn't, had I already arrived at my college-degree-holding, handsome-stud-marrying, gorgeous-house owning, adorable-baby-carrying destination.
Life isn't a direct flight to a chosen destination. Not a rush to check bags, wait agonizingly at the gate and then zone out watching an in-flight movie. It's a road trip-perfect for unexpected stops at quirky destinations, long, meaningful conversations with those sharing your wheels. It's funky diners and questionable motels you'll talk about for years. We need to play more travel bingo, eyes peeled for something special and unexpected. Blow bubbles in traffic jams, make connections with strangers that surround us. Embrace the present. Within seconds embracing the present can create a memory which will become part of your nostalgic past and could change your future destination for the better.