Becoming Ourselves

How I wish I had written those words, but alas, those words were written for the genius advertising campaign of the Michigan Tourism Department. Inviting scenes of the Michigan coastline slow-dance across the screen while the calming voice of Tim Allen speaks the words that point straight to our hearts. We let out a long sigh, in complete understanding of the sentiment, and feel a sudden connection to the northern state, yearning to visit this enchanting place. As the commercial ends, we feel that Michigan understands us. Michigan knows how we need an annual vacation to restore our soul from our year-long tussle with the real world. Yes, Michigan gets us.

The grayness in the trailing days of winter always stirs the desire to plan a summer vacation, and this year is no different. Sure, jetting off to a tropical location is intriguing, and not out of the question, but a road trip is what shakes me to life after a long winter. Driving across unfamiliar territory is just as rejuvenating as the chosen destination if the mind is indeed prepared to experience the serendipitous rewards of the open road. When I hear someone complain about a long drive honestly do not understand the dislike, thinking they must be doing something wrong. The isolation of the vehicle as it passes along the highway is a prime location for listening to great music, engaging in interesting conversation, enjoying audiobooks, or (my favorite) easing into reflective thought. The journey becomes quite the journey.

By the time I reach the destination, my mind is already relaxed, allowing receptiveness to the restorative power of said destination, which is the point of a vacation, isn’t it? And what about the destination? I have never been one to travel to traditional tourist spots, opting instead for overlooked gems cast off by the masses. Not that I would poo-poo a trip to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon or Paris or London, no, I simply find respite in the quieter, less trafficked places of this earth.

It is in these quieter places where we can hear our soul speak to us, begging us to remember who we are at the core. Those are the moments when I become most like myself, unaltered by societal constraints or familial expectations. It is here, when the negative voices in my head are silenced, leaving only my true voice to be heard. Yes, only I go where no one knows me do I become most myself.

As I begin planning my trip, I cannot help but remember a few of the unexpected moments of past travels, ones that would have been missed had I chosen a conventional buffet-laden vacation of all-inclusive packages and group excursions. No amount of money could tempt me to trade the laughter shared with my friend Georgia as we drove a 20-mile dirt road through the Navajo Reservation in pouring rain, while I wondered if I would have to learn to herd sheep should we not emerge from the ordeal. All the gold in the world would not be worth more than the experience of standing at a window on Ellis Island, envisioning what my grandfather must have felt as he looked at the same sight 86 years before. And no words can adequately convey the utterly magical feeling of gazing across the blue mystery of Lake Superior and feeling the indescribable sense of being understood.

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