Tennessee Sunsets

As Columnist Schafer returns home from a road trip vacation, she relates the journey to the amount of our lives that we spend chasing goals. Life is more than just a few big achievements, but we have to be willing to stop and enjoy the sunsets in order to see the impact they have.

Editor's Note: This column is a part of a series called “I’m hyperfocusing on...”.

I just got back from a vacation with Cole and our mothers. It was the first road trip vacation I’ve ever taken, and with that comes some realizations that I wasn’t expecting when we left Iowa.

I’ve been on two vacations before this one, both of which having a set location at which the vacation would take place (South Dakota when I was 10, and Texas earlier this year). Aside from that, my family spends a weekend at the lake outside of town every Memorial Day, and we occasionally meet up with my mom’s friends during a long weekend at their house. For the first time, I traveled without a singular destination. Instead, this vacation was about the journey.

My family doesn’t take breaks on the way to our destination when we go somewhere. We’ll pull over for restroom breaks occasionally, but we don’t ever split up a drive into multiple chunks. It was odd at first for me when we stopped for the first night. We had planned to only drive for eight hours on the first day, followed by a few days near the campsite before we continued onward — away from home, but not quite to a specific destination. The farthest we were from home was a campsite in Florida for one night, which Cole and I spent searching for alligators between the flooded parking spaces while our moms stayed in the camper to read away from the mosquitoes.

I felt like this trip was analogous to life goals in many ways. We set these big goals for our lives, but that doesn’t necessarily mean achieving those goals will be nearly as special as we think they will. Oftentimes, the more impactful times are the journey, either leading up to or following after the goal’s achievement. While graduating high school was a big goal for me, I don’t look back on the day of my graduation nearly as much as I thought I would. I don’t even remember which classmates graduated with a higher GPA than I did. It was a big deal at the time — being 0.00004 away from Valedictorian was devastating. Instead, I look back to reflect on the memories I made along the way, the several years of experience that led up to that big momentous day. I reminisce on the days of early morning show choir rehearsals, late night homework crams, geometry classes, monthly Read 'N Feeds with the elementary school and weekend trips to see my friends. And even now, I reflect back on what has followed since graduation as a result of those years.

Although the farthest we got from home was the flooded Florida campsite, the bigger memories were made on the rest of the journey. Cole’s accident in Missouri on the way there, finding geckos in the caves in Tennessee on the way back or even swimming in the pool at the last campsite before making it home, these were all just as significant or even more than searching for alligators with Cole in Florida.

Sometimes the best part of achieving a goal is the journey to that point, including all the memories and experiences collected along the way. If we don’t take time to stop and appreciate the journey, is achieving the goal worth anything?

cameryn schafer profile

Cameryn Schafer is a senior majoring in dietetics and animal ecology pre-vet with a minor in classical studies.

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