As a mom with a one-year-old, travel doesn’t happen very often for our family. That is, unless we’re going to see relatives. You know what they say about vacation, right? It’s not about the destination, but the journey. I would typically agree with that sentiment except for this most recent road trip.
Let me set the scene…
De Leon, Texas. Home to the longest running tractor pull in the state, my husband’s grandparents, and truthfully, not much else. Little did I know that’s exactly what I’ve been needing. This quaint town had such a variety in scenery, from rolling mountains to oak-filled forests and flatland prairies as far as the eye could see. Wherever you turned your head, you were destined to find something beautiful. I was consumed by the natural landscapes around me.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip other than quality time with family and stress from an eighteen-hour car ride with an infant. But I think that’s where I went right. I didn’t set expectations for myself, my family, or the events of our trip. So, I had no way to be disappointed.
Often enough, travelers get caught up in trying to accomplish every bullet point on their itinerary. Why do we do that? Is it our constant need to be productive? Do we not know how to relax? Is it our inability to just be still? Gone are the days of Kerouac’s aimless and spontaneous adventures. What would happen if we traveled like that? Lived like that? Open to what life has to offer, while content with what we have.
I’ve come to realize the importance of that contentment and stillness during this trip to Texas. There was something righteous about the way the world used to be. Eating an early breakfast before doing hard work in the hot sun. Spending quality time with family. Enjoying front porch rocking and storytelling without a single interruption from a phone call, a screen, or the radio. This was a place that left you no choice but to be still.
Why does stillness matter?
When we practice solitude and silence, it’s the first step to letting our brains quiet themselves. We can become mindful. It allows space for our brains to turn off survival mode and begin processing emotions. We can be present rather than stuck in those anxious thought spirals, replaying the day’s mistakes, or constantly planning how to check another stressor of your to-do list. Humans thrive in this quiet type of environment. In this setting, we can actually take a breath and appreciate life.
So, that’s what I did. For a week. I sat. I watched sunsets. I watched sunrises. I watched my son play freely in the high grasses. I watched him explore blue bonnets. I watched as his eyes followed the sounds of rustling leaves in the wind. I watched four generations of fathers and sons laugh together about stories of their youth and the way the world has changed. I listened to the mockingbirds tweet to one another. I dug for stones and explored the Texas dirt with my son. I helped in the garden and prepared dinner with what was grown. I was present.
I can’t recall the last full day I spent being mindful, still, and present. As someone who suffers with regular anxiety and frequent panic attacks, this is what my body needed. A reset. I needed to put down the phone. I needed to shut off the TV. I needed to get outside and actually look around me. Sometimes a change in scenery is the best thing we can do to remind ourselves of how important it is to be present. While the journey might be important, we don’t want to miss out on the destination.
As the summer approaches, I aim to do more of this. If I was able to notice change in myself in just one week, what kind of progress would be made if I did this consistently? What if through daily intentional actions, we could bring peace to our minds regularly. Let’s pause more often. Let’s notice more. Let’s listen for what the nature around us has to say. Let’s connect with our loved ones. Let’s give our mind a break. Let’s be purposeful in our lives.
We don’t always need to make drastic changes to see progress in the way we think. Sometimes, it can be as simple as being present, noticing our surroundings, and being thankful for the opportunity to do so.