EXPLOregon: How a weekend in the Pacific Northwest gave me an Identity Crisis

“It’s not about the destination but the journey to get there.”

At least, that’s what the caption on the heavy-framed motivational poster in my dentist’s office says. Pretty appropriately placed, too. My mouth is throbbing just a little bit less, now that I know the interior designer and I both share an appreciation for overly photoshopped images of silhouetted men on mountain peaks. I’m glad we were given this time to connect before your boss drills a hole in my mouth.

Granted…guys, what a beautiful caption it is! The Journey, so full of mystery and uncertainty.

The Journey gives me goosebumps! Because of the Journey, we get to experience new things, new places, new people constantly. It’s a never ending cycle of excitement, discovery, pleasure and rejuvenation!

But, it’s just not that simple (it never is). The magic of the Journey isn’t the only reason we travel. We travel because we’re antsy, anxious, restless. It’s not just a thrill but an obligation to go find something different, somewhere more grand, a new landscape with new meaning, more depth.

Sure, we travel for the romance of wanderlust but let’s face it – We’ve been displaced, us wanderers and wanderesses. We travel because that little house in the suburbs never really felt like a place to call home.

And so, we keep moving, for some sort of release from our logistical ADD.

Two weeks ago, I probably never would have debated Ms-interior-design-lady’s mantra of choice. What does a single destination have to offer me that I can’t find a million times over out on the road?

But then, I met Portland.

It wasn’t my first time on the Pacific coast. From the glacial inlets of Alaska to the mountains of Yosemite, I’d seen my fair share of breathtaking, awe-inspiring scenery out west. But Portland was something else. Portland was about the People.

Glacier Bay, AK; 2013
Glacier Bay, AK; 2013

The city of weirdos! Adventure-mongers, enviro-activists, retired vagabonds, the true hippies at heart! …all demographically snuggled together in the middle of the forest. Dude, this was totally the Destination.

My ch’i was balanced. I was happy. But most importantly, I was suddenly motionless.

Mountains and glaciers and forests and rivers and waterfalls and beaches and rocks and these amazing, loving, happy people! All fixated in one place!

I did not want to leave.

I was not going to leave.

I had to leave.

When you’re always on the go, inevitably, the perfect destination will come along. Everything will finally seem good, in a peaceful it-all-makes-sense kind of way. “This, this right here was what I was so restless for. Darling, I found you and I’m staying forever.”

But then you have to remember – That is very selfish of you.

See, you started adventuring because you felt displaced. But along the way, you realized the power of travel – it’s not just about seeing new things, new people, new places. It’s about learning and grasping and contending with yourself and others about all things small and large.

“Look at all these amazing cultures and societies, places and people. I…I can make a difference in this world. I have something to offer!” …but you’re not really sure what it is yet.

We travel because we love this planet, we want to take care of it and we’re trying to figure out how.

So as I hope you could guess, you can’t start nesting in your forever Destination. You’re only a 20-something and there is still so much more to learn, to see, so many more tools to put in your toolbox. You’ll be back, I promise. The destination truly is important but it isn’t your time to stop.

You’re not quite ready to save the world.

Your journey has just begun.


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