How to Enjoy the Journey, Not Just the Destination

Country Road Shot

So much of life is lived at high speed—when it could be lived on cruise control. Ever wonder why that little option in your car is called “Cruise Control,” when it could just as accurately have been called, “Speed Control”? Perhaps it’s because “cruising” suggests a more relaxing image and a more pleasurable user experience. (Blame some marketing guy.) The question is, wouldn’t life be more relaxing if we could cruise through it, instead of speed through it?

Remember family vacations as a kid? What question did we all invariably ask our parents on a long road trip? "Are we there yet?" Kids are only concerned about the final destination—not the journey. And, it turns out, so are we as adults—as we accelerate through life.

Makes me wonder how life would be different, richer, more meaningful, if we enjoyed the journey as much as the destination.

Take a ride with me on one of my family vacations as a kid. Imagine a family of eight in a 1962 Ford Fairlane. Mom and Dad in the front. My oldest sibling, Kathii, between them. A toddler, Joanie, on Mom’s lap. Four kids in the back seat. No seat belts that I recall. (If so, I don’t remember wearing them.) My older brother, Chris, and I “call” the window seats. That means Mary and Bob are relegated to the middle.

On the “ledge” behind the back seat are six shoeboxes in a tidy row. They bear our names. As we depart, Mom looks over her shoulder and says, “Okay, you can open your shoeboxes now.” To us, they weren’t shoeboxes—they were toy boxes, filled with small hand-held toys, games, mini puzzles, comic books, candy, bubble gum, kaleidoscopes, cool red wrap-around-your-ear plastic sunglasses, Pez dispensers, and gadgets from Nelson’s dime store. They were designed to keep four things: keep us busy, keep us entertained, keep us quiet, and keep the peace during the 400-mile trip to Leonard, Missouri to visit our grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Sometimes the shoebox did its job—for about 50 miles—to the Lake Forest Oasis in Illinois. Other times, well, we barely got around the block before we would squabble about a gift we coveted in our sibling’s shoebox. It was here we learned to barter.

Throughout the trip, not one of us was thinking, “Hey, I’m enjoying the journey.” No, instead we repeatedly asked, “How much longer, Dad?” And we all realized, six kids packed in a Ford Fairlane for 400 miles, on many two-lane country roads, was a close approximation to what eternity feels like. The point I’m making is, as adults now, if we can metaphorically put our lives on cruise control, it’s possible to enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

It doesn’t matter what our career is, or our current life experience, if we can live in the moment, we can find a way to enjoy it.

For example, in the writing life, I have referred to this by saying, “The Process is the End.” In other words, when I labor writing an article or book and it’s rejected multiple times, I remind myself why I’m writing—and what I love about it—the process (writing itself), is the end (the pleasure derived from writing, not just publication).

“For the professional musician, the music sounds as sweet in the

rehearsal hall as the concert hall."

I invested the last three years of my career helping job candidates transition into new careers. They were looking for a new destination (job). Often I told them to also enjoy the journey (the hidden benefits of sudden unemployment). After many of them landed rewarding new careers they called me and told me why they enjoyed the journey. Some recommitted themselves to their marriages, others cemented fractured relationships with teenage daughters, others reinvented their careers, and still others rediscovered during this “pause” what once brought them the most happiness.

Most of my childhood, I went on only one vacation every year—always to grandma’s house and the family farm. I loved it. She lived to 103. Today, when I reflect on that long ride as a kid, I realize the vacation actually began the moment we pulled away from the curb—and the journey produced almost as many memories as the destination.


SOMETHING TO CHEW ON:  In this age of Covid, I realize we may all want to get our lives “back up to speed.” Perhaps life has slowed down too much for you. Nevertheless, think about what you’ve learned—or observed about your life during this time. How will what you’ve learned help you when you’re back in the rat race—at full speed?

SPECIAL NOTE: I learned this week that my novel, The Glimpse, was selected as a semi-finalist in a writer's contest titled, "Book of the Decade," sponsored by Serious Writer. At the end of June, five finalists will be chosen by the judges. Wish me luck, and thank you for supporting me and this novel.

Photo by Craig Adderley on


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