Drifting Aimlessly — A “How To” Guide
When the going gets tough, the truly tough … wander?
Not knowing what to do next can be tough … and extremely valuable.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. That’s the common wisdom. Sage advice and oft repeated in various forms. I get it. Sometimes circumstances just call for pressing on in the face of adversity or sudden life change or crisis.
But, not always …
Sometimes the right move under difficult circumstances is simply to drift while pondering options.
That can be tough to do, particularly after a lifetime of clear direction and decidedly NOT drifting. I suspect, that like me, that’s more your jam.
Joy, Solutions and Discovery are the three benefits of wandering/drifting that resonate most powerfully with me. You may have your own list (if you’re still with me on this little journey). I could expand my tally but I’ll keep it focused.
We rolled on our child’s schedule.
My wife, my 2-year-old son Shawn and I decided to take a two-week car trip along the California coast. Well, my wife and I decided, but Shawn got to call the tune. We’d drive, but he’d tell us when to stop — to pee, to eat, to sleep, to play, to see something interesting, whatever.
The result, pure joy!
Without the pressures of an adult agenda we all just relaxed and enjoyed. It’s amazing what a toddler can teach you if you listen to the lessons.
Knowing he was in control, Shawn rarely fussed. He just let his needs be known and they became our needs.
Please allow me to repeat — pure joy resulted.
We meandered up the coast from LA to … I don’t even know where we ended up, but it was magical. Rarely in my adult life had I played so much, laughed so much, lived and loved it so much. Joy found … heeding the near-random dictates of our little man who showed us how to slow down, discover and appreciate wandering.
“Not all those who wander are lost.” — J.R.R. Tolkien
We’ve all had the experience of going to bed with a seemingly unsolvable problem on our minds only to awaken with the solution right in front of us. Plot twists, editing, arguments, dilemmas, self-doubts and all kinds of other issues just sort themselves out while we’re blissfully unaware.
The same phenomenon can occur while we’re blissfully aware.
In 1978, I turned the management of my thriving rock-n-roll booking agency over to a friend and went to Europe for the summer.
My business partner and I were happy with how our enterprise was performing but unhappy with how we were spending our lives. Neither one of us was convinced that our innate talents were being fully realized. Frankly, we didn’t even know what our “talents” were.
One hundred days spent roaming, thinking (vaguely, for the most part), talking and drifting (lots of drifting), seeing great sites and sights, smoking pot and hanging out produced the solution, even better than a Rip Van Winkle-style 100-day slumber would have.
I came home to re-enroll in college and pursue a medical career. My business partner became an architect.
Would we have achieved the same result by staying home running our business? Who knows? We can’t go down that path and find out. But wandering idly, vacationing, drifting, led us to what became our lives’ passions.
I’ve written a bit about discovering the “extraordinary” in the “ordinary” of everyday routine.
If Your Great Days Are Just That … Great, Then Are Your Ordinary Days Just Ordinary?
(Reflections on the Routine)
This is slightly different.
Remember summer vacations as a kid? You learned how to swim, or skateboard, or you became a lifeguard, or practiced (or started) kissing, or you got your first job, or you went to camp, or saw Yosemite for the first time, or, or ,or. A million “or’s” were possible because time stretched on without end before you.
After 33 years in emergency medicine I took a long break recently and went to Kerikeri, New Zealand in the rural far north of the North Island to work on a farm. The details of the experience are too much to relate here but I made some important discoveries.
- Physical labor can be a bitch, and a thrill, both most days.
- Total strangers will open their hearts and minds to you if you’re willing.
- Medicine is cool but so is chillin’ in the backyard sweaty, spent and satisfied after a hard day’s work.
- Living a different life after living the one I had lived was great.
- There was plenty about my life back home that I missed … well yeah, not so much!
All I had to do was release myself into the unknown and take my direction from the farm experience and the people running it.
“Tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it” became my mantra, daily. In short, I relinquished control and drifted. Discoveries abounded.
Here’s my bottom line … try it. There’s no time like the present. Just drift and see what happens.
Be careful though. Joys, solutions and discoveries may occur without warning.
Wiser minds than mine (and pithier writers) helped inspire this essay. It wouldn’t be right to overlook the joys, solutions and discoveries they provided as I cobbled my thoughts together here.
“Sometimes when you lose your way, you find YOURSELF.” ― Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass
“I wandered everywhere, through cities and countries wide. And everywhere I went, the world was on my side.” ― Roman Payne, Rooftop Soliloquy
“Sometimes it takes a wrong turn to get you to the right place.” ― Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass
“Have we ever thought that being lost is our destination?” ― Craig D. Lounsbrough
“The feeling of homelessness suddenly turned into something else. I called it freedom to wander.” ― Meara O’Hara, The Wanderess and her Suitcase
“My ideal journey: set out early and never arrive.” ― Marty Rubin
“You may keep wandering in life all the time but one day life will take you to the place where you are meant to be!” ― Avijeet Das
“Life is less about finding and more about seeking.”
― Seth Adam Smith, Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern
“I had no goals, no ambitions. That left me free to wander and amuse myself.”
― Marty Rubin
“The world has become lovelier. I am alone, and I don’t suffer from my loneliness. I don’t want life to be anything other than what it is. I am ready to let myself be baked in the sun till I am done. I am eager to ripen. I am ready to die, ready to be born again. The world has become lovelier.” ― Hermann Hesse
“There is no sweeter pleasure than wandering aimlessly about.” ― Marty Rubin
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.” ― Edward Abbey