Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lessons from "The Trip to Nowhere"!

This past Christmas my wife and I finally got around to striking another item off our "someday maybe" list by taking the vaunted "Trip to Nowhere". 

The Trip to Nowhere: The Game:
To topline it, this endeavor involved getting up the morning after Christmas, packing (overnight) bags, donning layers (against the winter cold) and going to the airport with no clue of where we were going. Once there, we use an iPad app, Airport Zoom to randomly pick 6 cities, Roulette style, we would target for a one week vacation. The city to which we could get the first affordable ticket is the one we would go to regardless of location, climate, interest or attractions.The point is that we would be together on an adventure. The fun is that we would not know from moment to moment what we would need to wear (we resolved to shopping for any needs we detected upon arrival), where we would sleep (we booked rooms the afternoon of most days), where we would eat (we scanned Yelp's "Best Breakfasts" list every AM after checking the weather), etc. As you can see, based on one's perspective, this can be seen as a lot of fun or a lot of di-stress.

We ended up in Los Angeles (Santa, Monica, Santa Barbara and West Hollywood) for 5 days having the most fun and, at times avoiding the biggest arguments, of our lives. On this trip, I learned a number of things anew that I work to practice as I realize that really if we are perfectly honest and conscious, every moment is potentially a "trip to no where" as joy and tragedy are always simultaneously at the doorstep. 

Lessons from the Trip:
So here is what I learned:

See the Unplanned as Fun!: The unplanned nature of this trip is what made it an adventure. It was a good break for hyper planners like my wife and I. We learned that the thin line between fun and di-stress is how you look at it and what you call it. The body experiences the same emotions either way. The common element in any fun to di-stressful situation is SURPRISE! I have decided to practice seeing surprise more often as fun than as something to be distressed about.

See the Partnership Potential in Conflict.: The nature of the cosmos is conflict and this nature can be particularly painful in relationships, and even more so in unplanned contexts, like a Trip To Nowhere. We were continually tempted on this trip to tip into tiffs over complications caused by the fact that it was all unplanned. We had to continually submit to the better temptation of remembering that we were partners on an adventure, and in that see how partnering resulted in more creative solutions and meaningful outcomes that would have been missed if we had succumbed to an adversarial stance. I have decided to bring this set of eyes and ears to every conflict in my life. I am sure my glasses and hearing aid will fail me sometimes but even a less than perfect execution of this lesson will result in a greater number of excellent results than otherwise.  

Be  Open To Options & Shape It As You Go With It.: You can imagine how: 1) sitting in an airport during one of the busiest travel periods of the year with no reservation and no option to return home (that was one of the impromptu rules of the game) and hoping you can find 2 seats on a flight to a randomly selected city, or 2) sitting on a beach in a rental car in Santa Barbara (which we found out is a top LA Metro holiday vacation location) discovering that all the hotel rooms in town are gone, can be interesting. I learned though that by staying alert in the moment with a relaxed focus and avoiding "horribilizing", we were able to see options that we would normally have missed, to get cooperation from people who normally would not have  cooperated and to: 1) enjoy those circumstances that were other than what we have hoped and 2) better influence and shape those circumstances that came closer to what we had hoped versus not. This practice of openness and shaping were newly "a-ha'd" for me and my practice is renewed as I see that even not getting what you want can be enjoyable, and you can get what you desire more often when you stay open to shaping what arises in the moment.

Do It While You Can.: While on and after this trip, my wife and I realized that there would never be an ideal time to take such a trip, and we felt extremely blessed that we were willing to make the time, courage and means to do so. This is true of so much in life. There is most always a reason not to and more often we need to make the reasons to do it while we can. The news teaches us daily that there is no guarantee that we will get to do it later. So as the Charle Parker composition instructs us, "Now Is The Time".   

Pack Lean & Plan for Every Climate.: So one of the peculiarities of this sort of trip is that you do not know where you are going to end up as you must go where the available airline ticket leads. We did not know if we were going to end up in Alaska or Jamaica. We packed light, with overnight bags, and wore layers so we could shed for the Caribbean, or bulk up for the Arctic. This seemed to me to be a metaphor for life itself. As I mature, what I have accumulated materially and otherwise feels heavier and heavier. While one cannot make it in the world with no luggage, I am cognizant of the need to be more choiceful about what I keep in my luggage and the size of my bag. I also have to be ready for the most frigid and balmiest of situations, using them to  cultivate the confidence to know I can shed or get what's needed in any situation that arises.   

So there you have it, one of the most adventurous and instructive vacations of my life. Though apprehensive, I am glad I followed the lead of my lovely bride who tookk me into and through it.