I’m really good at procrastinating. I was supposed to have this column submitted last night so the magazine can go to the printer today. I was also supposed to leave for the first leg of a summer-long journey yesterday. Neither happened of course, and, as a result, both writing and packing will end in a last-minute hack job that lacks both rhyme and reason.
Most of yesterday’s struggles can be boiled down to a lack of inspiration. While I have the free reign to write about anything outdoorsy with this column, I don’t have a damn profound thing to say about it. At least in terms of anything that’s more enlightening than a Dear Diary entry. There’s also nothing profound about the 19-hour drive ahead of me. Because, it turns out, it’s hard to take the first step when there’s not much to show for it, other than a few sterilized truck stops along the way.
I think this speaks to a larger theme about traveling. Nothing profound ever transpires at the beginning of any trip. (Or the beginning of a story, for that matter.) There might be the occasional anomaly – and if that ever happens, just go with it. But the mind, pent-up by a rigid, 40-hours-a-week lifestyle, is wrapped too tightly around the latest filter settings on Instagram or the slew of work emails that keep trickling in to release the ethos and spirit of adventure – an essential process if your goal is to revive your longing for discovery and curiosity. And although digital technology shoulders much of the blame for our weaning attention span, analog distractions will weasel their way into our silly hierarchy of “priorities.” Just yesterday, for instance, I chose the DMV over writing. And (a little bit of) writing over leaving for an adventure. What a sick world this is.
It seems like every great adventure – in the sense that every adventure is great – needs a little push to get going, a little encouragement to whisper in your ear, “Get your ass moving already!” That push can come in the form of a phone call from a friend who’s waiting for you at the trailhead; an impatient dog who can practically sniff out a campsite from your driveway; or the thought of another email from your editor, threatening to pull the column that you’re nearly done writing because you were 15 minutes late to submit it.
Whatever that ah-ha moment is, you just have to start somewhere and trust that inspiration will hit when you least expect it. Maybe you’ll get lucky and will find it before you merge onto the freeway with your car neatly packed and organized and not yet smelling like a tart bike chamois. Or maybe it won’t hit until you’re polishing off the last slice of warm salami from the bottom of your desert sand-encrusted cooler. Or maybe it will come at the very last sentence, when all your obscure ramblings culminate into the one profound thing you were trying to say from the beginning.
But more importantly, you have to trust that these trivial and pointless things do matter and are actually leading you somewhere more important – even if you don’t quite know where or what it is. Because it’s often accomplishing the boring and mundane stuff that is the catalyst for larger, more profound journeys down the road