This is the 7th post in a summer series on what travel has to teach us about life.
The second trip I took during my separation was to meet my friend at the halfway point between our houses in Columbus and Chicago: Indianapolis. Before arrival, we’d made a bunch of plans to visit the local sites, but ended up talking and laughing so much of the weekend that we only did “drive-bys” on such places as the downtown fountain, Union Station, and a fancy steakhouse that GPS guided us to, but seemed to no longer be in existence.
Not wanting to have to explain our lack of motivation to get out of the car, we figured if anyone asked, we’d just embellish our trip to include the following:
- Stopped and took pictures of downtown fountain. Made a wish and threw penny in. Wish came true and we are now millionaires.
- Toured old Union Station and saw a wedding take place there. (Actually saw a sign for a wedding and made fun of happy couples everywhere to ease our bitterness.)
- Ate at exclusive downtown Alcatrez Steakhouse, complete with valet parking and impeccable wait staff. (Actually stuffed face at Ruby Tuesday’s buffet, complete with salad bar, entrée, dessert, catty wait staff we could totally relate to, and $10.99 price tag.)
We also make plans to see a band and had a flashback to our young, dumb days as we contemplated a marquee for male strippers. We ended up falling asleep at 10:30pm watching HGTV instead.
And it got me thinking, are people that do a bunch of stuff on vacation really happier? The realization I came to was that part of enlightenment is understanding that fun shouldn’t put you out. We truly had a blast chatting it up, and, once we put aside the guilt at being lazy bums, realized our lives wouldn’t be any more fulfilled if we did the tourist thing. That’s where we both were at that weekend, and pretending otherwise was just going to stress us out.
In the past, I would have assumed that I was breaking my end of the bargain if I didn’t do all the things I’d planned to do on a trip. On the contrary, I actually made both myself and my friend happier by agreeing to do what we wanted to do at that moment, rather than worrying about past plans. Releasing expectations helped me understand the importance of DOING less and just BEING more.
Once we put aside our expectations of what a vacation should be, Shane and I ended up having a great time eating, drinking, and taking an unexpected ghost tour of Indiana’s oldest bar that’s been continually operated in its original building, The Slippery Noodle. We found out from our guide that the location, opened in 1850 as the Tremont House, had at times been a brothel, a stop on the Underground Railroad, and the sight of at least one shoot-out. They showed us the bullet holes in the bar, and advised that the Scfy channel’s Ghost Hunters team had just investigated there recently. While there, Shane flirted shamelessly with the tour guide, I drooled over the bartender while soaking up the history, and we both got a chance to relish in our strange obsession with all things ghost. It was fantastic.
A lot of us like the idea of certainty in our adventures, yet in reality, new experiences are implicitly uncertain. Releasing expectations opens us up to this uncertainty, so that we can get back to the being part of our humanity. That’s what makes this adventure called life so enjoyable, and what makes being flexible enough to go with the flow so Divine.