Part 1: Leaving the house

I left on a road trip from Utah to Minnesota - a trip that would take me 17 hours and 52 minutes if I didn't stop for gas or to eat, sleep or go to a restroom. Since I knew that wouldn't happen, I made no commitment to a certain arrival time.

The first step of any road trip is to leave the house. This step goes far beyond worrying what to pack or whether or not I've left the iron on. What stops me from leaving the house is my own comfort. I must dislodge myself from comfort and once again face the world.

I am dedicated to savoring every moment I have left in this world. Savoring involves continuing to learn. And there's nothing like a road trip to teach you a thing or two.

Part 2: Remaining open

As I drove from Utah to South Dakota on the first day, I stopped to look at interesting buildings, snap photos and even take a nap. I've travelled a lot in my life, but I've never achieved the air of a seasoned traveler. I am a clunky, curious sort, laboring forth with way too much emotional and literal baggage.

My trip's theme of "Remaining Open" meant that I would be open to possibilities. On my drive through the vast, open expanses of Wyoming landscape, I decided that from here on out I would make up my own success measurements, including accepting myself and all of my raging imperfections.

Part 3: Noticing stuff

My biggest challenge, however - "I will notice stuff." It sounds simple. It sounds inviting. I tried.

In this world of continual distractions, all I have to do is remember to breathe, pause and focus on one thing at a time. A long road trip is the perfect place to practice this sort of thinking.

Initially, I thought I'd notice stuff - interesting monuments, the scenery. However, what I noticed most was my physical state. There was tension in my shoulders, for example. I listened to my worried thoughts and I responded by allowing them to fly away. I began to see my surroundings in a new way.

When I make a point of noticing things, my mind switches to a state of gratitude. I see the kindness in others. I see the beauty of my surroundings. I notice how the day unfolds and as it does, I don't judge it as harshly.

I made it to Minnesota, and I returned to Utah taking a different route, remaining open and noticing stuff.

Debra Payne lives in Ogden, Utah, and went to graduate school at the University of Minnesota.

Editor's Note: This essay is edited from a longer blog entry on Wandering Educators. Published with permission.

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