This I Believe

Whitney - Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
Entered on June 12, 2006
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: hope

Life isn’t about reaching a final destination. Instead, the true essence of life stems from the many experiences shared on the way. For some, being lost creates a sense of panic, but for me it provides an exciting reprieve in my otherwise routine life. I believe in the unexpected rewards of venturing into the vast unknown.

Someone once told me, “If the map and the road don’t match, get rid of the map.” This is valuable advice for a “pleaser” and a “perfectionist” because the best experiences in life are often unplanned gifts in disguise. On a recent excursion to Europe, my tour group offered a day trip to Tautavel, France. I assumed that it would be just another side stop on our journey to infamous cities such as Carcassone or Rome. Just by chance, I joined the excursion on my own without a peer. What I experienced was nothing less than extraordinary. Tautavel was a beautiful excavation site amidst the lush French countryside. Lost and alone in the middle of a crowd, I walked onto the site. This was history, yet a place I belonged. My spirit was everywhere—fossilized in the cave rocks, fused with the river current, carried by the gentle breeze. Calm washed over me as I was emotionally transported to another era and became one with nature. Had I chosen to stay behind at the hotel or traveled to a more frequented landmark, I would have never experienced the magic of Tautavel. Whether it’s impulsive or accidental, I find that experiences such as Tautavel unmask the true me—the one who stops to appreciate life rather than just let it pass me by.

When maps are thrown away and clocks are left behind, I become my own compass. If I don’t have enough time to physically wander into uncharted landscapes, I let my mind meander instead. It subconsciously drifts over an array of topics that when explored further, create a greater sense of self-understanding. As I watch the tide lull or the sun set, everything else fades away until only nature and I remain. Time becomes irrelevant. Forced to focus on me, I begin to see myself for who I truly am and realize that I, alone, have the power to plot and change my life course.

By seeking out the rewards of being lost rather than focusing on my return to reality, I have reaped innumerable benefits that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Not only have I achieved an awakened sense of self-discovery, but I have also witnessed first hand the beauty of the natural world. Learning to enjoy lost moments, places, and things has become a survival skill that serenely nourishes my soul. This act of being lost, I believe, is one of my private treasures.