By Lukas Brinkerhoff — Can you drive to a place and still be awe inspired by it? The short, obvious, over simplified answer is yes. And as if that lead up wasn’t enough of a foreshadow, the long answer is no, no you cannot.
In an effort for full disclosure, I hate cars. It’s not that I am unable to see their utilitarian purpose, it’s more that we, as a society, are so hopelessly addicted to their convenience that we bow down and worship them at every opportunity. Need to go the store right around the corner? Let’s drive. Work is less than 5 miles away… “But I can’t show up sweaty and in biking clothes and looking like a poor person.” It’s ever too easy to make excuses when your addiction gets to this level. So, yea, I hate cars, but I think there is more to this than that.
Have you ever bought something that you really, like really, really wanted only to have it sour and be stuck with buyer’s remorse within a couple of hours? Of course, you have. It’s a typical response to the convenience of being able to purchase just about anything you could want. While being able to buy things, just cause you want them or because you slaved away and saved your money (It’s really the same regardless), doesn’t mean you will be happy with that purchase. Much in the same that driving to a national park will provide you with a sense of awe, but you will be left empty wondering why it wasn’t quite worth it.
On the flipside, anyone who has taken the time to make something they needed themselves understands that part of the end product is the process of making, of doing. Taking an idea, some materials and turning it into something you need or something that speaks to who you are can be an extremely painful process, but in the end, it always feels like it was worth it.
Getting places isn’t any different. Take out the struggle of the journey and all you have is that you are there. You snap a couple photos with your iPad out the window, comment on how beautiful the surroundings are and move on. There’s a pretty good chance that you didn’t even leave your four-wheeled, pollution spewing coffin because, you know, it’s too hot. You got the selfie with the sign, did some artsy photo of the special surroundings that you drove to and boom, your experience is complete. Except that if you are anything like me, you will have buyer’s remorse and feel like you missed out on a piece of the equation, like you could have felt more, maybe seen something different had you got out of the car or maybe delved deeper into the landscape. And is that what we all want anyway? A deeper experience.
Now allow me to tell you about the last time I rode to my favorite restaurant. My commuter bike is my comf, it was parked in its usual location in my backyard leaned up against the wall. I had little thought as to what to wear, or how I was going to get there. It’s 3.5 blocks away. Not much of a journey by anyone’s calculations, but I grabbed my bike, walked out the front gate and began pedaling like I have so many times. The breeze was pleasant on my face, I nodded hello to the family that lives on the corner who are always outside enjoying the evening. We rolled up to what I assume is reserved parking because it’s always open for me, locked up my bike and walked the last few feet into Benja’s Thai. It was not an epic feat by any measure, but it felt like an adventure. It was satisfying to ride past all the parked cars, see the couple coming out and the look of wonder on their faces as we pulled up. I can’t help but believe that the wife was jealous, wanting that for them, riding bikes just to ride or taking a walk. I smiled to myself as I watched them load up and drive away. It was probably just my imagination, but I swear I could see a look of regret, as if they had missed some opportunity but they weren’t sure what it was.
Was my food any different than theirs? No, probably not. I can’t say that I enjoyed it more, because I have no idea how much they savored what they ate. I can only go off my own experiences and those have taught me that driving to the restaurant takes something away. Instead of being a micro-adventure, it’s just another outing in the car. Just another convenience that I bought with hours of toil and that didn’t fill my soul, but only my belly.
Taking an adventure, one that requires you to transport yourself in the way we have evolved, under your own power, hurts. There is effort required. You will sweat, your legs will burn and you will most likely want to stop at some point. You can’t skip that part. It isn’t the goal, but is what makes the end worth it. If we always jump to the finish, the race won’t ever be ran and the finish is pointless, empty, just one more instance of feeling buyer’s remorse.
Can you be awe inspired by the sight of a beautiful landscape when getting there was easy? Sure. I never said you couldn’t. However, the end destination should never be your goal, experiencing the entirety of the journey and the reward of arriving, that is worth the pain and will inspire a much deeper respect and awe for where you are.