Lately, it seems that life is filled with heaviness.
There is an overwhelming sense of crisis and chaos when I look at the newsfeed on my phone or watch the evening news.
As I was preparing for my road trip with my husband, I wondered if it would be a burdensome time of trying to keep safe from the risk of COVID-19 as we stayed in hotels, or looked for places to eat along the way. What were we thinking? Would it be foolish to drive over 5,000 km back and forth across Canada and expect to stay healthy and safe?
In the past, I have loved the experience of a road trip. Stopping at out-of-the-way cafés and finding little-known towns to explore has been an adventure. This time was different as we read about the places that were “hot spots” of COVID-19 cases and other areas that were indifferent to the importance of masks and immunizations. How could we navigate this trip to not only keep safe, but to have fun and a sense of play and lightness?
Here is how we chose to show up as we travelled from the west coast to the prairies.
1. We set an intention to experience fun.
Rather than focus exclusively on the possible problems ahead, we thought about the pleasures that awaited us. Music is an important part of any road trip for us. We were excited about the sound system in our new vehicle. My husband is a musician and he created an abundance of playlists for our drive. The miles sped by as we sang along to our favourite songs and discovered new music.
We packed delicious meals to eat along the way, rather than counting on restaurants that may have been unsafe. Breakfast the first morning was at a mountain resort. We sat at a picnic table sipping on hot coffee, enjoying muffins with cheese, and finishing our meal with fresh peaches and yogurt. The sun was shining as we breathed in the clear air and smiled at other picnickers close by.
2. We were on the lookout for unexpected beauty.
The prairies may seem flat and boring to many travellers. Not for me! I am reminded of my childhood in a small farming town in Saskatchewan as we drive through the wide-open spaces. The big sky, the huge cumulus clouds, and the uninterrupted vistas in every direction filled my heart with joy. There were vivid gold fields mixed with greens and browns. Wild antelope raced over the terrain, and birds swooped in the sky, tossed by the prairie winds.
3. We chose to enjoy the journey, rather than focus on racing to our destination.
Leaving the city of Regina, we thought we would have breakfast along the way. Surely there would be a spot to pick up a quick snack. After a couple of hours, we wondered where that might be! Nothing showed up along the highway. What to do? At the next town, we took the exit and drove along tree-lined streets. It was “out of our way,” and we took the time to check it out.
Here is what happened. We discovered a local bakery that served home-cooked food. We chatted with Tillie, the cook and owner of the café, and had the best breakfast bagel ever. The protocols for safety were being followed and we enjoyed our visit with her, and a satisfying meal. The magic that happened was not over. A display of preserves and jams caught my eye. There it was: Saskatoon Berry Jam, rich and glowing in its jar. I was taken back to my childhood and the taste of these tart berries. With a big smile, I bought a jar, knowing I would enjoy every morsel of this treat.
4. We spent time in nature.
One of the highlights of our trip was our time in Waterton Lakes National Park. We had honeymooned there and were delighted to explore the area again. Friends had arranged to meet us there and together we discovered a trail that had been reopened after the devastating forest fires four years ago. The stark beauty of the blackened trees and the new foliage was breathtaking. The rushing water beside us and the majestic mountains in the distance added to the sense of awe and appreciation for Mother Nature.
I was struck by the resilience of nature as I saw the new evergreens in the midst of the rubble and chaos of the burned-out forest. What a powerful metaphor for the messiness of life in our world these days. There will be new life and new growth showing up as we move through the challenges of these days. I left the hike feeling encouraged and calm in spite of all the heaviness in the world.
5. We engaged in rich conversation and connected with our playful younger selves.
We had fun reminiscing about past road trips to Winnipeg, many of them with our young children. We laughed as we shared stories of how we did our best to entertain our toddlers along the way. We thought about the family we would be seeing after two years of not being able to travel. We planned events that we knew my 96-year-old father would enjoy and anticipated making new memories with him.
I was especially thankful for my husband’s support emotionally as I wondered what it would be like spending time with my father again after all these years. Turns out my dad was so excited to see us and so grateful for our company, that I felt at ease and enjoyed the laughter and fun with my father. Playing together by visiting the zoo, and enjoying onion rings and ice cream cones for lunch encouraged all of us to feel happy and lighthearted.
It truly is possible to have fun on a road trip, even during a pandemic. And, I learned that my attitude and expectations are really what make the difference. Being on the lookout for magic and miracles along the way created a trip to remember with joy and gratitude.
I am happy to be safely home, and I want to continue looking for fun and pleasure, even though the road trip is over!