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So, What Did We Learn?

Road Trippin'

with Steve McCarthy

I'm about 2/3 done with the book I've been plugging away on, chronicling our Grand Tour, and all the pearls of wisdom I want to impart to others, and have begun to ponder: "What Lessons Did We Learn?" How did we change? What did we take away from this Adventure?"

The easiest, and most important one to highlight, I've already discussed in an earlier missive: :The Kindness of Strangers." Scroll down to the post from 7 September. Without the Kindness of Strangers, we'd have been in real trouble. Serious trouble. Hopes Dashed Trouble. But, because of a few people who went out of their way to help, in small ways such as a kind gesture or comment, to large ways, like letting us keep the Blue Meanie in a garage and taking over the details, we were able to continue our journey and all the enjoyable moments that followed.

And it wasn't just about that incident. It was everywhere we went. People who'd patiently explain how to use the train station turnstiles, people who'd give directions, people who'd have a chat in a village pub. It's amazing that, amidst all the trouble and strife, people will so often do the right thing.

Think about that, next time you come upon someone in need. All you have to do is be kind. It's not really that hard, takes no real time from your oh-so-important tasks, and it's free.

We also learned to slow down, to stop and see the sights. To not be so focussed on the destination. Or, perhaps, to re-learn that lesson. It's all too easy to obsess about the end of the journey and not the trip itself. It's the trip that's important, it's the things along the way that tickle your fancy. That's what Road Trippin' is. It's a state of mind. Hell, think about it, Life is a journey, how fast do you REALLY want to reach the end?

Another vital lesson was Adaptability. Go With The Flow. When traveling, it may be the single most important consideration. YOU have to adapt to the way the locals do things. They aren't about to change for you. Why should they? Sometimes, it's frustrating. Miserably so. Sometimes, you're forced to take a single track road as a diversion with lorries and coaches and a sixty mile per hour speed limit and it scares the hell out of you. Sometimes you learn that "scampi" isn't what it means here, and that mayonnaise (yuck!) is an over used condiment. Adapt. And take that home with you, so when you meet a stranger, you can help them adapt, meet them half way.

We also got more together time than we've ever had in 36 years of marriage. All our vacation trips have involved the kids and family. Here, on the cusp of retirement, we got to know each other again. Learned that we can, still stand each other, 24/7. We're still each other's best friends. That's important. REALLY important. We learned that we can still rely on each other in a crisis, that we can adapt together, that we can enjoy being with each other. Good thing, that. We'll spend the rest of our lives doing just that.

Travel, they say, is broadening. "They" for once are correct. It widens one's horizons, exposes one to new ideas, new methods, and forces one to consider broader perspectives. Road Trippin' (as we've defined it for so many years now) multiplies that ten fold. Taking a prepackaged tour has a way of insulating one from the rigors of life, from the people through whose area you're traveling. You sit in a big, air conditioned bus like a moveable fish bowl, looking through tinted windows, separate from the reality outside. Your only contacts with locals are carefully arranged, major dealings are taken care of.

Go ahead, take up the challenge. Travel on your own, break the comfortable bonds of familiarity. Stop at the funky diners and road side attractions. Stay in the small, out of the way places. Road Trip.