8 Things I Learned While Traveling

Firsts can’t be repeated.

I went to a conference for a second time. Apparently I carried high expectations with me. I didn’t know that until the week ended and I felt some unexplained disappointment. What was I expecting? Was I subconsciously comparing this year to last year?

Whenever you experience something for the first time — an event, a relationship, a place, a milestone — you can try to relive, recreate, or revisit, but it’s most likely not going to be the same. Firsts are special. Firsts are to be celebrated and remembered for what they were.

Enjoy the “seconds” that life brings.

Once I understood my heart was constantly comparing all week long, I reminded myself as I just reminded you: firsts can’t be repeated. The conference last year was so powerful and life-changing for me. It can be equally as powerful, but I was looking to make the week go a certain way. I needed to close the door on unrealistic expectations so that I could let whatever happen happen and enjoy it.

Seconds are special in their own way. Seconds are exciting and new versions of those firsts. The trick is to let the seconds unfold and embrace them as they are. And don’t compare to the past. The present is a gift for a reason. It takes you to the future.

I actually enjoy being in new crowds.

This is not something I would have said just a couple years ago. Because a visible disability can mean I’m instantly frustrated, offended, ignored, or hurt by strangers I encounter in public. But I’ve grown to be OK in the uncomfortable and not let those situations bother me.

A new crowd is exciting. A new crowd can bring the chance to meet new people. The potential for finding connection is bigger than the possibility of feeling hurt.

The world is full of compassionate people.

Several times I witnessed and experienced the compassion of people I didn’t know. These people saw a situation and jumped in to help or make my adventure complete. For example, I wanted to drive my wheelchair along a sidewalk to go watch the sunset over Lake Michigan. The problem: a gap of 5 feet between 2 sidewalks, full of squishy sand. Pushing the chair was not working. The solution: a group of 5 people (2 I knew, 3 I didn’t) grabbed onto my chair, picked it up, and carried me across. That was a fun ride. And a second group carried me back.

These people pointed to the fact that God’s goodness can be spotted every single day.

Spontaneous adventures turn into the best memories.

I love wandering without a plan. A good road trip calls for some spontaneity. When I look back, the spontaneous moments become the stories I repeat. The unplanned detours are the adventures I remember. They teach me to leave room in everyday life too. You can be a tourist, on the road or at home.

I can drive (my wheelchair) in tight spaces and not break something or get stuck.

This trip gave me lots of driving practice. As I entered one restaurant, I started to panic a little. There were 2 glass doors, a tight alcove, and a sharp left turn. I worried I’d break a door and / or get stuck. Neither happened thanks to the kindness of strangers again. I enjoyed my dinner once I was out of the tight space.

I’m a fan of the NBA for the first time ever.

Well, I like the Toronto team. The Toronto Raptors played and won the semi-finals while I was in Canada for the weekend. It’s more exciting to root for the Canadian team when you’re actually in the province. And it’s fun to carry that connection home. Plus, they won the finals for the first time ever.

A travel hangover lasts at least a week. Or two.

Mine lasts exactly 2 weeks. I haven’t found a trick to speed up the “process,” except to go through it.

If you’ve traveled recently or plan to travel this summer, take heart. There is nothing wrong with feeling foggy or being in a funk. One day of traveling can contain multiple adventures, many miles, and several new cities or states. It’s a lot to take in. Take time to process a trip while you transition back to the regular routine. And dream a little about where you’d go next. The door to the world is always open.