Traveling over 700 miles in a day can get boring. I can usually entertain myself for 2 hours with music from the radio, another 2 hours with talk radio, 2 hours of my own music, and sometimes another hour of podcasts. But when the itinerary calls for 12 hours of driving, that still leaves some gaps. So this time I tried to fill one of them by marveling at that part of western Ohio where the terrain starts to look like a completely different country from where I live:
But then something else caught my eye. On my left, I appeared to be racing someone:
Tonight I find myself in what some of us east-coast elitists consider “flyover country.” Granted, flying is a far more efficient way to get from point to point, but that efficiency comes at the expense of the journey. Packed into a metal tube besides disinterested strangers and faced with constant interjections from announcements, beverage carts, and inexplicable dings, it’s hard to ever really have a moment to yourself. It’s not time spent alone, but it’s not time spent together either. When we think of “traveling” it’s often this sense of constant discomfort and inconvenience that comes to mind. But that isn’t really part of travel, that’s something else that we’ve stuck onto the idea. Real travel involves a journey.
Sure, there are milestones that show us how much further it will be until we reach our destination, but those same milestones also give us an opportunity to consider how far we’ve come and what kind of experiences we’ve had along the way. And even if we can do nothing for part of that time except count down the miles until we reach our next destination, a journey like today’s still provides opportunities to look inward and reflect, and to look outward and relate to an environment that seems, at times, completely alien. For me, after spending a long time today poring over the ways in which life has become more complicated since August, I looked out over miles of fallow cornfields and immediately thought “Wickard v. Filburn!” Then I thought about how my friends would love that joke. Then I realized most of them would probably hate being reminding about that case. Then I started thinking about why. Eventually it rolled back around to the fact that the lives of people and life in general are a complex mess, but that sometimes it’s worth getting messy.
In the end, this chain of reflection probably left me close to where I began, but I know that when I eventually set out on the return journey, hopefully with a somewhat different perspective, I’ll have a chance to revisit all of that poignant imperfection that makes life unique. And that, itself, will be another journey. All of that because, today, it wasn’t just about being here, it was about getting here. And that journey would have been impossible had I been locked in a pressurized cabin for 2 hours.