Finding Meaning From the Journey and Not the Destination

As I felt the water begin to now permeate both my socks and shoes, I considered the significance of what I was doing. Just the fact that I had packed an umbrella, let alone been walking around with one, was of great importance. Yes, as a matter of fact, I do try to live and travel to places that are rather absent of rain. I then stopped in my tracks, not because the rain had stopped, but rather because the breadth of this moment finally struck me. I lowered my umbrella, took off my hood, leaned my head back as the drops of rain hit my face, and let out a big sigh of satisfaction as I gazed upon the Seattle skyline. Rain or shine, hell or high water, Seattle was to be my new home and while I didn’t have a physical address yet, a certain coziness was already setting in, amidst the feelings of spontaneity, adventure, excitement, and anxiousness.

Think about your most memorable moments in life, be it travel or otherwise. What were they? Could you adequately sum it up in 140 characters, a bullet point, or even a word? Or rather, is there a story behind it? Stories are how we make sense of the world and those stories typically come from the journey, rather then the destination. When you’re talking about a destination and see the listener’s face light up with emotion, it’s rarely because an image of a landmark has come to mind, but rather because you’ve jogged their memory about a memorable story. Maybe it was a late night at a party, the train ride between destinations, or a conversation with a local, but it almost always ties back to the journey along the way.

The first trip I ever remember taking was when I was 5. I was flying from Raleigh, North Carolina to Dallas, Texas, where I would be spending the week visiting my sister. I don’t remember anything about what I did or where I went while in Dallas, Texas for that week. However, I can recount the first few minutes of stepping onto that Delta airplane like it happened yesterday. Like the curious wanderer that I was, my eyes were big-eyed as soon as I stepped foot onto the plane, peering into the cockpit like any boy my age would’ve done. While it would have made for a much better story if I had snuck in, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t almost pee on myself out of excitement when the pilot asked if I’d like to take a look around the cockpit. It only got better when one of the pilots handed me a model McDonnell Douglas DC-9 Delta airplane, one that still sits in the guest bedroom of my childhood home in North Carolina.

Since announcing last week that I was moving to Seattle, I’ve had a lot of people ask me why I’m moving; many of whom were caught off guard, especially when I’ve been such a vocal advocate for San Francisco, even extolling its virtues recently in a post about how it felt so homey. It’s like I was just finding my place in San Francisco, yet I’m already uprooting my life to move hundreds of miles away and start over again. However, if I didn’t leave San Francisco for this new adventure to Seattle, I would be breaking my own mantra of doing life on my terms.

“Life is short, Break the Rules. Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably And never regret anything That makes you smile.” -Mark Twain

Months ago, during the height of my love affair with San Francisco, my good friend Matt and I were talking about how long I would stay in San Francisco. While I claimed that I didn’t see myself ever leaving California, he had something else to say. He told me that he foresaw me staying in San Francisco as long as I wanted to, that is, until something better came along. Those words stuck with me, and while I’d be lying if there wasn’t a work motivation behind this move, at the end of the day, I’m leaving San Francisco for Seattle because I want to – that is, because Seattle is that next “something better”.

Pike Place Market Seattle Meeting a world champion windsurfer and surfboard shaper, hopping on an Austrian bus with no fixed destination, riding my first wave, peering down into a volcano, going to the Summer Olympics, and sitting in a cockpit. Where I was doesn’t matter. What matters is what I was doing and the stories I came back with. A few weeks ago I was sitting on a plane, ironically from Seattle to San Francisco, in which an older gentlemen who hadn’t flown in 10 years sat next to me and talked my ear off for the entire flight. As he got up to leave, he thanked me for listening, gave me a firm handshake, and told me candidly: “I sincerely wish you luck. Don’t stop what you’re doing because when you get to be my age, all you have are your stories and you just want that one person who will find some sense of interest in them, listen, and nod their head in agreement.”

Places, landmarks, street addresses, and homes will come and go; some more memorable then others, yet I challenge you to view your life as a journey, rather then a destination you’ve already arrived at or soon will. You’ll make wrong turns, miss an exit or twenty, and get lost. Yet I’d rather treat life as a journey, of which each turn presents a new challenge and adventure, then treat life as a destination, where I’ll never know what could have been. This San Francisco, California chapter of life closes, as a new chapter in Seattle, Washington begins.

How does this idea of life/travel being about the journey and not the destination resonate with you?

The last time I made a major decision like this, many people asked me what was next and what would happen to my blog. My answer then is the same now: Nothing. I’ll continue to travel, I’ll continue to blog about it, I’ll continue my partnerships, I’ll continue to eat from food trucks, I’ll probably continue to go on more first dates then second dates, and I’ll continue to freelance. There are some exciting projects, trips, and adventures planned for 2013 that I’ve never been so excited about and if you’ve stuck around this long, then I hope you’ll continue to. Lastly, if you have a couple minutes, I’d love to get your feedback about how to make the blog better on this 7-question SurveyMonkey survey. As always, you can contact me via email at any time if you have a question, comment, or suggestion. Just don’t propose to me or ask me to work for free. Everything else is free game.

 

33 Comments on “Finding Meaning From the Journey and Not the Destination

    • Couldn’t agree more Gaelyn! Thanks for popping by to read and comment.

  1. Welcome to Seattle! Other than the dreary winters, it’s beautiful here! And, where I live, just 12 miles north of Seattle in Edmonds, there is the Europe Through the Back Door Travel Center ( Rick Steves’ deal) with free lectures on Thursday evenings and Saturdays. Big Travel Festival this weekend, too. Good networking time with presenters, if you’re around. Good luck!!

    • Thanks Vivian. I’m stoked. I figure if I make it through the winter and still love it, then I’m set! Thanks for the info, I didn’t know that. Expecting to have a car come early 2013, so that comes in handy. I’m really looking forward to getting out beyond the city limits, since most of what I’ve seen in the Pacific NW has been limited to Seattle, Portland, and Victoria, B.C.

  2. I have always loved your writing, Spencer. A great post that resonate with me – also with many of your other posts – especially with everything that I have done in the last year. Not necessarily about finding home, but about making life as a journey, and living with no regrets. Life is indeed to short, and you never know until you try.

    Love that quote from Mark Twain. All the best for the move to Seattle. Hope to cross path with you one of these days. :)

    • Thank you so much for your word Veny. It’s been great to connect on Twitter. I like what you said about living with no regrets. That’s really what it is for me. I’ve seen so so many people who get later in life and are filled with those regrets and I’m resolved to not be one of them and challenge others to follow suit.

      Hope we get to cross paths soon myself!

    • Thank you Melissa! I will in fact be back, especially being that California still feels so much like “home”.

  3. As we always say Life is all about the memories!

    We travel to create more of them.
    Good luck on your new journey Spencer. Can’t wait to see where it takes you. I’ve certainly loved following your story so far.

    • Thank you Caz! You guys are awesome. I like how you relate it to a story, which I always like to compare my life to. While I’m moving further north up the west coast, I’m resolved never to leave the west coast before I have AT LEAST one visit to Australia!

  4. I am still in shock/a little peeved you moved to Seattle 2 months after I left! ;) But seriously, I love the hell out of that city and I can’t wait to see her through your eyes. I was talking to a friend about Seattle, right before I moved, and the beauty of the city is it can be whatever you want it to be, so I hope you make it your own!

    • Thanks Shannon! I always loved seeing Seattle through your eyes and seeing how much love you had for it. I’m very eager. I think it’s really going to surprise me a lot. I think just the Pacific Northwest in general will. It has a lot to offer.

  5. I used to view life as a destination. I was always trying to find a way to get to that perfect place and job, but now I’m starting to see that life is a trip, in and of itself. For me, this is way more exciting than any destination because now my focus has shifted to being in the moment, connecting with people, and taking life as it comes.

    • Couldn’t agree more Lacy. That was me too up until a couple years ago. I was intent on arriving somewhere, but I think reality is that we’re not meant to. We really evolve, grow, and change when we put ourselves in positions where life is accelerated. That can’t happen unless you breaking out of your comfort zone. Glad to find someone else that can relate!

  6. Good luck with the move to Seattle! I am not really that surprised by this. I know good things will happen with this move and hope you love it as much as you did San Francisco.

    • While some were, there are also a lot that weren’t. It’s funny that I’ll exit my twenties in a few months without having stayed put in one place for more then 18 months. I’m really excited for this next chapter. Thanks Jeremy!

    • It is! It’s a different kind of travel. While I’ve LOVED getting to know California over the last year and a half, I’m stoked to really jump feet first into a part of North America that I haven’t really explored beyond the major cities.

  7. When I was a renter after college, I found myself moving every two years–even if it was across town. Seems as though I’m wired to instigate change in my life. I found that when I became a home owner it was around year four that I had the urge to move again, but I realized being a home owner doesn’t make me so agile. I actually was surprised by that “urge” and so that’s why I really sought out travel. I needed change of scenery and new experiences that stretched me in the same way that I felt stretched every time I moved.

    As a counterpoint, though, I just ran across this quote from Marcel Proust: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Perhaps I could learn from that. In other words, should I become bored with my surroundings perhaps I need to just look at it with new eyes.

    ps: Congratulations on your move to Seattle. I’m looking forward to seeing it through your lens.

    • Love the perspective you offer and that’s one of my favorite quotes by Proust. It’s something I have really advocated for as well. I think we often think of travel as having to involve getting on a plane, when there are adventures and new things to be learned in our own backyards.

  8. Spencer,

    Your words, your stories, and your posts could not be written any better. You have a way with words that inspire myself and others to strive to become better writers through our own travels and our own experiences. It must be a coincidence that we wrote about our own experiences on the same week that have led us to find the meaning in the journey, rather than the destination or as I wrote, ‘Going With The Wind’ to let your travels be the journey, rather than the destination (http://j.mp/TZCgeN).

    The words of your new friend on the airplane made me think back to my life, specifically my grandfather. It made me pause and think about all his stories that he has shared with me over the years. Large or small, short or long, those words are something I’ll never forget when it comes to remembering my grandfather who continues to defy the odds.

    I am convinced that winning my gAdventures trip to India is just part of growing my own journey that will somehow change my life. My grandfather and my family may not see the value or the purpose of traveling to India, but I do, and that will be part of my story I hope for years to come.
    As will the rest of the journey in the South Pacific and beyond.

    Keep up the great work and enjoy your continued journey in Seattle. Just keep telling yourself that this is part of your journey when the faucet continues to stay turned overhead in the skies of the Pacific Northwest. Vancouver is no different and it just becomes a way of life to the point where sometimes I don’t even carry an umbrella.

    • Thanks for the kind words Jason. I love your perspective on this. So often I see travel being viewed as what happens between the point you step foot on the airplane and step off once you’re back home, yet it’s so much more then that. I think the travel experiences that are most memorable are the ones that really stretch us and teach us behind just our departure and arrival dates.

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    • Well shucks guys. Thanks and look forward to finally meeting you in the near future!

  10. I’m so excited to see where this next chapter takes you. I’ve always been curious about Seattle so I’m eager for your tips, recommendations and exploratory anecdotes!

    • You rock Lindsey. That means a lot. If the last couple years are any indication, I believe I’ll have a little something to say about Seattle!

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