10 Keys to Your Metaphorical Road Trip
I left last Monday on an extended road trip. I will be gone until at least August 31st. That’s a minimum of ten weeks of joyful ease, ten weeks of feeling the breeze in my hair, the sun on my skin. I’m only one week into my journey, but I can already tell that this is exactly the change I need.
I promise you won’t even notice I’m gone. No one will, not even the people who see me every day. I will be posting every Thursday as usual. My car will be in the driveway most of the time. And if you want to visit, you will find me in my art studio, library, or on the trails with Shylah and Toffee.
That’s because my road trip is metaphorical, not literal. It is a framework for planning my summer, a framework that I have, shamelessly and with great enthusiasm, borrowed from Jenny who wrote about this topic last week.
I adore metaphor. Jenny said that framing her summer plans in this way made her feel more in control. I agree. Metaphor also gives me an entirely new way to see a situation, to make connections and experience insights I might have otherwise missed.
If you are thinking through your own metaphorical road trip, consider these ten important keys.
1. Define Your Purpose
Literal road trips are financially expensive, especially with today’s cost of gas. Metaphorical road trips are expensive too.
A few weeks ago, Deb shared graphics of “your life in months and weeks.” You can choose to be inspired or depressed by these graphics but, once seen, you can’t choose to be oblivious. It is sobering to be confronted with a visual reminder of how few weeks and months are left to us, even if we are fortunate enough to live to ninety.
Now, on this road trip, my mind seemed to uncrinkle, to breathe, to present to itself a cure for a disease it had not, until now, known it had.Elizabeth Berg
So if you are going to spend some of that precious time on a metaphorical road trip, you need a good reason. Mine is clear to me, beginning with what I don’t want. For example, I don’t want big commitments in my retirement so no paid employment, heavy duty physical training programs or, for now, volunteer work. And unlike many retirees, I also don’t want to travel. My passion is for inner journeys, not outer ones.
What I do want is to live what I’ve always romantically and rather grandly referred to as “The Life of a Writer.” (Caps intended; cue the theme song from Chariots of Fire.) However, despite having finally defined that phrase a couple of years ago (I’ll share in a future post), I don’t think I’ve been living it.
So that’s my purpose for my ten week road trip: to figure out what routines, experiences and changes in me are going to help me live my Life of a Writer–even if I never write another book.
2. Set Your Schedule
Will your metaphorical road trip be confined to weekends? A week’s holiday from work? Every waking hour? Julia Cameron wrote, “Productive freedom requires a balance: it is easier to thrive and flourish with a sense of structure in place.”
My summer road trip is full-time with a hopeful end date of August 31st. After decades in schools as student and then teacher, September always feels like the real start of the new year to me. And I love fresh starts!
In addition, August 31st is my birthday, this year my 59th. Sixty is a major marker and I want to arrive at it in the best possible shape –physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I need to figure out the routines that are going to get me there. Nevertheless, this is just my hoped-for end date. If it doesn’t happen, oh well. (That flexibility is huge for me and is coming from the warning I got in last week’s tarot reading.)
3. Plan with an Expert
It is certainly possible and, in some circumstances advantageous, to be spontaneous; to wake each morning asking yourself, “What do I feel like doing today?” I’m envious of people who can live that way, but unfortunately I’m not one of them. Without some structure, I fall into ruts, doing the same thing over and over while worrying obsessively about whether I’m taking the ‘right’ actions, going in the ‘right’ direction. An expert helps to provide the structure.
The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole.Anonymous
Julia Cameron is the expert I’ve chosen to guide me on my metaphorical road trip, specifically her book, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond.
Until this road trip, an expert would have served as my navigation system, my GPS. I would have slavishly followed every instruction even if I knew that it was wrong for me. This time I’m not.
Cameron provides four navigational aids. Here they are and here’s what I’m doing with each of them.
- Morning Pages — three handwritten pages of stream-of-consciousness writing done soon after waking. I do a lot of daily writing, much of it stream-of-consciousness in my journal. I also have other writing desires I want to pursue in the next couple of months. So I’m not committing to morning pages in their purest form, but will be achieving the goal of the pages which is to provide focus and clarity for the day.
- Artist Dates –a.k.a. “assigned play”. This is about replenishing our inner wells with things that are interesting and fun. I’m all for artist dates and will be engaging in at least one a week.
- Solo Walks– These are meant, according to Cameron, to “quell anxiety and clear the mind.” I walk a lot, but feel no need to go solo. Sometimes I walk with friends, sometimes with my dogs. When I’m with my dogs, they’re off leash and we’re rambling through the woods. I’m as solo as I need to be.
- Memoir Questions — This is the unique piece of It’s Never Too Late. There are twelve chapters in the book. You divide your age by twelve and then answer, in writing or another art form, the questions in each chapter. Last week I worked with the first chapter and my life from birth to age five. It was a fascinating and insight-provoking time and I’m looking forward to doing this work for each chapter.
4. Choose Your Travel Companions Wisely
Cameron’s book provides the framework for the memoir piece of my metaphorical road trip. However, as you saw in my tarot post, I will need other companions and their fresh perspectives. My faithful companions include:
- Daily readings I can dip into for my own version of bibliomancy: The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, and Daily OM by Madisyn Taylor.
- Meditation and mindfulness: Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, and Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
- Dream work: Inner Work by Robert A. Johnson and The Art of Dreaming by Jill Mellick.
- Energy psychology: How to Heal Yourself When No One Else Can by Amy B. Scher and The Promise of Energy Psychology by David Feinstein et al.
- Authenticity: The Art of Talking to Yourself by Vironika Tugaleva and The Exquisite Risk by Mark Nepo.
- Writing: Wild Women, Wild Voices by Judy Reeves, and One Year of Writing and Healing by Diane Morrow.
With a dozen authors and a few related online courses, I might need to rent a bus!
5. Decide What You’ll Leave Behind
You can’t go everywhere on your road trip. You can’t do everything. It’s important to decide what you will leave behind.
The freedom of the open road is seductive, serendipitous and absolutely liberating.Aaron Lauritsen
On my metaphorical road trip, I’m leaving behind books on topics that I really do want to explore, but at some other time. Topics including: Carl Jung and his theories (except for dream work); the hero’s journey; tarot; the second half of life; Byron Katie; archetypes; myths and legends; creativity and, hopefully permanently, self-help when it’s about plans, frameworks and inflated promises of glory.
More important I’m leaving behind: my planning brain; a sense of urgency bordering on desperation; my terrible habit of ‘clearing the decks’ instead of doing what I say I want to do, and my concern for others at the expense of myself.
6. Prepare and Maintain Your Vehicle
Successful trips require that your car’s tires be properly inflated, the air conditioning checked, and oil levels topped up.
When taking a metaphorical road trip, it is equally important to get good nutrition, adequate sleep, and daily physical activity to keep energy levels at their optimum. I will be sleeping and napping, walking and doing my Pilates workouts, and eating my low sugar, low carbs diet.
7. Plan for Your Safety
Someone should have a copy of your itinerary, just in case you run into problems along the way. Friends and family, in real life and online, will know what I’m doing.
8. Plan Some Side Trips
I won’t call these detours because on a metaphorical road trip, nothing’s a detour. Many paths are worth exploring. My summer includes: weekly breakfasts and walks with a good friend; craft shows and farmers’ markets; artist dates, and the very exciting opportunity to spend time with a couple of blogger friends I will be meeting for the first time this month. (More about this last one later!)
9. Take Breaks When Needed
On a literal road trip, there are days when you want to sleep in and perhaps swim in the hotel pool rather than visit yet another educational site.
My version of breaks when needed will include: made for television movies; ice cream; chainsaw work in a section of the woods where I’m forging a new trail; ‘beach read’ novels; slowly pedalling around my pond in the pedalboat, and rereading the encyclopedic and hilarious Complete Far Side cartoon collection.
10. Be Able to Answer the Question, “Are We There Yet?”
Parents may hate this question, especially when it’s asked within ten minutes of departure, but it’s important to know if you’re making progress towards your destination.
I love the search and don’t ever want to say that I have fully arrived. But I do need to be able to know when one metaphorical road trip has been completed, if only so that I’m free to start a new one.
For this summer’s trip, I’ll know that I’m getting there when I have developed routines that make me feel I am living my ‘Life of a Writer’; when I feel calm and balanced, and when the terms ‘inner voice’ and ‘true self’ makes sense to me as reality rather than an appealing theory.
Are you taking a literal or metaphorical road trip? What’s your destination?