PHOENIX, Arizona—Flying out is always exhilarating. And the journey of self-discovery never ends.
It really doesn’t matter if the trip is to somewhere new, or to a much-loved, familiar place. Every journey teaches many life lessons if you stay deliberate and open to the signs and learnings along the way.
Every six months or so, I take off by myself so I can rewind, reboot and renew. It’s how I practice self-care and self-compassion. Since I turned 45 eight years ago, it became very clear to me that I would not be able to take care of other people if I did not take care of and leave something for myself. And no, that’s not being selfish at all.
I like to count my years by seasons, and because fall has been and will always be my favorite time of the year, many of my life’s endings and beginnings have taken place during autumn.
This year, I decided to go on a longer break than usual, and with no agenda (no classes or conferences to attend to) at all.
I’m now on the homestretch of this vacation and the lessons that have come to me during this time have been simple but life-changing in many ways.
First lesson learned, or rather reinforced on this trip, was the art of surrendering everything. I had a general plan on how this vacation would run its course, but each day, I made a deliberate choice to surrender myself to where the day would bring me, and who it would bring me.
Unencumbered by rigid schedules and plans, jet lag was easier to combat (gone in three days versus five), and allowing myself to be flexible to changing plans and goals brought endless surprises.
Which brings me to the second lesson—that when you go with God’s flow, He always surprises you when you least expect Him to. Many times on this trip, I found myself in awe of His hand. Some days He would surprise me with a gentle sunrise, a cityscape so breathtaking, a sea of clouds framed by a setting sun, the kindness and generosity of friends both old and new, or an important life lesson shared by a seatmate on a plane. When we are mindful and pay attention, we find God in everything.
Lesson No. 3 came in the form of reconnections and connections made, both old and new. Friends can be lost and then found, and then lost again. Now I know and believe that God will bring into your journey the characters He wants you to interact with at specific points in time for a purpose. Reconnections or new connections take place when they are meant to, and they only happen on His timetable. When we surrender to this belief, then staying open and letting go becomes easier.
No matter how small
Lesson No. 4 is that there is nothing more healing than staying close to nature and being in the company of beloved family and friends. Wherever you are in the world, as long as you have family and friends who love you, you are home. Soaking in the sunlight, walking along the shore and watching the sunset, hiking up the mountains are all balms for the soul.
Taking in God’s majesty, you are humbled by the realization of how small you are in the grand scheme of things. At the same time, you become confident in the knowledge that no matter how small you are, God loves you.
This year’s trip was really about investing in memories with people who matter, taking calculated risks, stepping out of one’s comfort zones, and carving out time for solitude. Finding that quiet center that you can easily return to whenever life becomes crazy is important.
You can only strengthen that center when you take time out to be quiet and listen to yourself—when you take time to pray, and listen to His leading.
I wish I had written more while on this vacation. I find that as I grow older, it is important to preserve the moments, not only in photographs, but through the written word as well.
I didn’t go anywhere new on this trip. I deliberately chose to revisit old, familiar and happy places. And yet I came away much changed by what I saw, felt and experienced. Proust was right when he said that the real voyage of discovery (or self-discovery) consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
On this trip, I realized how important it is to find contentment. That when you are content with who you are, and where you are, all the insignificant and unimportant things fall away. Your priorities come into sharper focus, and what mattered a year ago may no longer matter today.
You remember and find a quiet joy in knowing that life is truly a never-ending journey of learning, and that we have a God of surprises. As each season and year passes, we can only hope and pray that we become wiser, kinder and more loving versions of ourselves—so much better than we were the year before.