Is it the journey or the destination that matters? Last month, my husband and I walked the Sanders-Monticello trail outside Charlottesville with his parents. The four-mile round-trip walk through the forest on a well-constructed wooden pathway was lovely and relatively easy. Little did I know, it was inspired by Thomas Jefferson himself.
“Of prospect I have a rich profusion – it may be successfully offered, & in different portions through vistas…with the advantage of shifting scenes as you advance on your way.” Thomas Jefferson
A lot of words to describe what he envisioned—a lovely approach to his historic home, Monticello. The destination. But like most things in life, the journey was as lovely as the destination. In a world consumed by goals and plans and strategy, this hike was a poignant reminder to enjoy the journey.
We wound our way through the vistas, woods thick with loblolly pines and green with spring. We sought out the birds that had been reported as plentiful but only found a few. Instead, we became distracted by our conversation about daily life—tv shows, good books, retirement life—because conversation about routine becomes dazzling when the months between their occurrence are stretched by miles.
We passed the remains of a Jeffersonian tulip tree and marveled at its size, its age, its perseverance. And then I marveled the same about myself. We reached the Carter Overlook, which offered a peak at the distant mountains, blue with memories and promise. A spectacular haven. Who was Mr. Carter to deserve an entire view to be remembered by? This must have been his favorite destination.
The walkway, a sturdy trespass through the woods for my out-of-shape legs, allowed forward momentum as we lollygagged (a technical hiker’s term for lazy walking). The boardwalk traversed Carter Mountain’s crevices and steep terrain. Who was Mrs. Carter to have an entire mountain to remember her by? She must have been more focused on the journey.
I channeled my inner-Beverly as I reminded myself that it should always be about the journey—a message I leave behind each day as I get on the train and cultivate goals and plans and strategy. The reminder doesn’t have to be a top-of-the-mountain epiphany to recall that the journey is where it’s at. The experiences, the people, the love, the conversations, the moments. (Will I feel this way about the writing journey? I don’t know–I’ll let you know when I arrive!)
“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon
I doubt Thomas Jefferson envisioned an easy walk through the forest and spring greenery to catch up on life as inspirational. He was aiming for a wow moment at the destination. And yet, the journey was, in fact, the inspiration “as you advance on your way.”
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