Most of the time when we travel, we know it in advance. Dates are marked. Tickets are purchased. Suitcases are packed. We’re able to enjoy the trip more because we can prepare, and with everything in life, when we are able to prepare, it makes us feel ready for the adventure ahead.
Unfortunately, life always doesn’t work out that way. In fact, it rarely does. Life is full of unexpected journeys. Some can be thrilling: a new relationship; news of a baby on the way; a promotion. Some can be heartbreaking: the end of a relationship; an illness of a loved one or one you have yourself; a dismissal or being laid off at work. The way to give meaning to your journey and determine how well you travel it is to always expect the unexpected journeys as best you can.
To help, you can already anticipate these four things about your unexpected journeys:
Know What You Don’t Know.
With unexpected journeys, like being laid off or facing a sickness, we often don’t know exactly what lies ahead. We may not have traveled the road before, and we likely are unsure about how long it may be or the condition it is in. We might find the path to be short, smooth, and pleasant. Other times, we could find the road long and difficult with twists and turns. Predicting what awaits us can often be impossible.
Instead of looking far ahead and letting anxiety build about the unknown, it’s best to concentrate on what may be the only thing we can control: the next step. Having a destination in mind and a goal to achieve is wonderful, but until they invent teleporting like on Star Trek, the only way to get there is step by step. Operating with the mindset of just doing “the next best thing” can help serve as your personal GPS and guide you slowly but surely along the way.
Many Paths To Unexpected Journeys.
Sometimes when we find ourselves surprisingly placed on a new path, our original destination changes. The goals we once had may change because of the new perspective our new road gives us. Other times, our ultimate destination stays the same; we just now need to find a new way to get there.
Whatever destination you eventually want to reach, many paths lead there. Travelers can fly, drive, or take boat or a train. Some movie stars work odd jobs and audition endlessly for years before making it big; others are discovered in a coffee shop and placed on the big screen in no time flat. Successful lawyers all have to go to law school but not the same one. The path that works for some may not be the best one for you.
You can still get to where you want to be; you may just arrive there by a way different from others, and that’s okay. Even if the relationship ended, you can still love. Even if you’ve been laid off, you can still reach your career goals. Encountering a detours doesn’t mean you won’t reach your destination. Based on what you know at the time, choose the path best suited for you.
Early pioneers ventured bravely into unknown lands. They were creating new trails and overcoming one obstacle after another. Some days, the advances were easy with flat land and cooperative weather. Other days, the mountains were high or the valleys were low, and the elements released their full power. Whether good or bad, the conditions were often out of their control. They just had to keep going.
The pace you travel on your unexpected journey will likely vary each day. Some days, you’ll feel motivated and inspired and make great strides. Other days, your morale may be low, and progress may be slow… but it’s still progress. It’s okay (and sometimes necessary) to take a break. Stop. Rest. Regroup. But keep going! One of my favorite quotes is, “I didn’t come this far to only come this far.” Even on the days when you gain little ground, you’re still closer.
Finally, on these unexpected journeys, it is so easy to feel isolated and alone. When you look to your left and to your right, you may not see anyone beside you. Whether facing an illness or being laid off or even the overwhelming and uncertain world of parenthood, you may feel as though you’re on this road by yourself and no one has ever traveled it before.
That is how anything defeats us: by making us think we’re alone. For almost every journey you have and will ever face, others have traveled the road before or are on it now. The way to find these fellow travelers is to share your journey. When you tell others of the road you are on, you’ll find you are not alone in whatever you are facing, and that in itself makes the road easier to travel. Who knows… you may even find friends for life on your unexpected journey.
Having been on a few of these unexpected journeys in my life, I know that they aren’t always fun. I know they can bring up fear and uncertainty. I also know they can develop strength, reframe (and improve) your world view, and deepen your appreciation for life and everything that makes it important.
Today, you may find yourself on an unexpected challenging journey like fighting an illness, being laid off, or encountering grief, or a road of unexpected joy like parenthood, a new relationship or a promotion… Whatever road you find yourself on today, may you have safe travels.