It’s Labor Day, and though fall is still a few weeks off, this weekend feels like a transition time. School starts soon, nightfall is creeping earlier and earlier, vacations are becoming a distant memory.
As a teacher, I talk a lot about the importance of honoring transition. "Focus on the journey, not the destination," is a common mantra in yoga. We encourage our students to pay attention to what's in between each pose, rather than rush through without awareness. And yet more than a few times this summer I found myself driving as fast as I could across barren stretches of road to "get there, asap!” On a plane to the east coast, I spent much of the flight longing for it to be over, convinced I was in the depths of misery as my skin dried out and ankles swelled.
Travel is a mixed bag for me. On the one hand I love adventure and consider a handful of places dear to my heart -- spots I love just as much as home. Unfortunately, none of them are easy to get to. Much of my childhood was spent in the mountain town of McCall, Idaho and I try to return every summer. My choices include an 8 hour drive or a 4 hour flight/drive plus airport madness. My best friend lives across the country in South Carolina. I adore my visits with her, but despise the plane rides (no direct way there). Preparing for the trip seems to take just as long as the actual travel time. I'm a notorious over-packer, anxious at the thought of leaving behind something I might need. I bring the comforts of home with me in attempt to feel poised, but the result is usually utter inelegance. I find myself lugging impossibly heavy suitcases through crowded airports while quickly working up a good sweat. Juggling a homemade lunch on my tray table never goes as well as I planned. Delays are inevitable.
I couldn’t miss this Southern wedding, and so I became just one of way too many people headed somewhere else mid-August. As I tucked into a crowded seat near the back of economy, the guy next to me promptly hunched over our shared armrest and fell into deep sleep, head hovering just above my lap. I fervently wished to be anywhere but way up in the sky hurtling east. Then, somehow, I finally let go of my discomfort enough to do some reflection. I realized that over the past two months when I rushed the travel to and fro, to maximize my experience at home or my destination, I often set myself up for disappointment. What I rushed to get to wasn't always what I hoped for, like I somehow robbed the experience of some of its sweetness by trying to ignore the effort to arrive.
The journey can be part of the adventure though. In June I went to Ashland with my love and two friends. We took our time as we drove, though I-5 isn't a particularly awe-inspiring trek. We stopped for a proper lunch and dinner, adding a couple of hours to our travels, yet pace felt just right. We got so caught up in our conversations that we literally ran out of gas many miles from our destination. We called for help and waited and eventually got back on our way. Though we spent less time in Ashland than anywhere else I travelled this summer, it didn't go by in the blink of an eye. We took walks and cooked. We found a yoga studio. We ran smack into my friend's sister before a play, unexpectedly.
So much happens while I look back or wait impatiently for what's next. When I made peace with my two hour delay in Atlanta, I began to take notice of the people waiting with me. As we finally boarded the plane, the guy behind me offered to help with my carry-on. I’d seen him at the gate and pegged him for a southern boy. Now his manners convinced me I was right. We sat down across the aisle from each other and he struck up a conversation. “You were on the plane from Seattle, right? I was in the row behind you,” he offered. Turns out he was born and raised down the street from the University of Washington. We chatted about the Northwest, his plans for college this fall, and sustainability. Suddenly I wasn’t just one of millions on a plane that day. I became known, for a short flight, as a yoga teacher who just finished graduate school and can’t sit still on long plane rides. We landed, finally, in Greenville. As I waited for my friend outside baggage claim, the college boy from Seattle eased passed me one last time with a mountain of luggage. I smiled and waved, he did the same. Off he went to check into his dorm and I to the embrace of my dearest friend. My trip, flights included, turned out to the be sweetest of the summer. I chalk it up to making peace with the transitions.