Just Say Yes
Freshly back from a four-month backpacking trip through Southeast Asia, a friend stopped over last night for a catch-up. He shared stories of treacherous flights and exotic food and sticky nights and incredible beauty and fresh faces and big dreams and sleepless nights and long sleeps — the kind of stories that evoke pangs of nostalgia for any intrepid traveler. He had the spring in his step, the shine in his eyes, and the clarity of purpose that often accompany long periods away from the daily grind.
I love the way traveling stories quickly transport me to another place, triggering both immediate emotions and vibrant memories of my own past adventures. My husband and I met traveling, in an RV headed due east from LA. We later got to know each other bargaining in Marrakesh and had some of our first arguments trudging through freshly fallen snow in Tibet. We learned to take care of each other outside of the confines of a traditional home — a depth of care that made it easier for us to build our own concept of home once we were ready. A year after being married, we spent ninety-five days on foot and in vans circumnavigating the globe. Thirty days alone were spent on the Tran-Siberian Highway, waking up in ever-shrinking Russian towns. During those years, it was these moments — the steady diets of potatoes and meat…the champagne in Paris…the showers in hammams and onsens…the bike rides to the Great Wall — that defined us. And deep down, they still do.
Our daily moments are different now, foreign in a new sense. Bathtime, bedtime, family visits, packing lunches, walks to the library, hikes, grocery shopping, and bike rides along the ocean nearby fill our leisure time — standing in stark contrast against the days in the Gobi desert and nights out in New York City. But these days are equally beautiful and adventurous, as we navigate the new landscapes of infancy and toddlerhood and elementary school. They’re spectacular. They’re rugged and rewarding. They’re not Bhutan or Oman, but they’re uniquely ours, they’re irreplaceable, and they’re fleeting.
Near the end of the conversation last night, our friend shared that at the tail end of the Asia trip, someone invited him to go on a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. Despite this conflicting with his rational plan (i.e., get home and get working again), he said yes. “I’m into ‘saying yes‘ these days,” he told us. “Life is too short not to just say yes.” I thought about that long after he left. “Saying yes” is the spirit of traveling that’s easy to forget when we’re focused on the ins and outs of daily life. But doing it — opening ourselves to the possibility of what “yes” might bring — can awaken the traveler in all of us, whether we’re time zones away from home or just down the street.
So beyond dreams of Cambodia, my friend gave me a healthy reminder to just say yes a bit more often. “Sure I’ll go out for a glass of wine tonight, even if I’m exhausted.” “Yes I’ll run that trail race even though I might not feel ready.” “Yes I’ll jump in that freezing cold ocean.” “Of course I’ll build that fort.” “You bet I’d like to try that kale salad.” “Yes we should enter that adventure race.”
After all, any trip — near or far — can transport us.