Daniel and I don’t consider ourselves travel experts or even seasoned RVers; however, we do have a knack for finding what we’re looking for on the road. I’m not talking about the nearest grocery, post office, or anything found by Google. Nope, the things we look for don’t have addresses and can’t be flagged on any map.
I’m also not talking about any items you’d find at a store or on Amazon. Sure, years ago I stockpiled favorite hard-to-find snacks for road trips, but age, experience, and self-restraint taught me that true must-haves aren’t for sale anywhere.
So how do we find what we’re looking for? We pack it in, bringing with us exactly what we hope to find wherever we go. Kindness, compassion, generosity, delight, joy, and patience…exceptional attributes that represent the best of humanity, and what we wish for with every interaction both home and away. If the most assured way of finding an apple is to bring an apple with you then it only makes sense to try to be the fruit of the spirit you seek to find in others.
I thought about this mindset the other day as I read an article about my Hoosier state and one person’s entry in a small-town July 4th parade. Comment after comment made about the people of Indiana called us racists and bigots, filled with hate. The entire state. Six and a half million people were considered guilty of one singular perspective by folks outside of Indiana because of one guy with–to be kind–questionable judgment. I shook my head as my stomach knotted up. “Look for a (racist, bigot, hater, cynic, etc.) anywhere and you’re sure to find them,” I said. Give me five minutes in Sheridan, Indiana and I guarantee you I’d find someone kind, loving, and compassionate.
There’s a quote attributed to Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” which may or may not have actually been said verbatim by the famous peacemaker. Regardless of the details, the idea resonated with me several years ago when I first read it on a billboard. It reminded me of Michael Jackson’s 1988 song, “Man in the Mirror”:
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and make a change.
As if Gandhi and the King of Pop aren’t enough, I offer Yoda. “You will find only what you bring in,” the Jedi Master tells Luke Skywalker in “The Empire Strikes Back.” For non-Star Wars fans (the handful who exist), the darkness that the young hero faced in the cave on Yoda’s planet was Luke’s own, the incarnation of his personal junk. Not Darth Vader. Not some other bad guy. “You will find only what you bring in,” said Yoda. Luke battled the demon inside. The Man in the Mirror. To see a change, he had to be the change.
Horrible situations fill the newscasts today. Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas are painful reminders of the awful truth we live these days. Our world is broken. I go back to what Gandhi probably said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” What can I do? Looking myself in the mirror, what do I need to do? “You will find only what you bring in,” Yoda said. What personal junk do I travel with in this world?
In 2005, I was a bitter, angry, critical person who hit the road on a journey of a lifetime. While I struggled to learn the RV lifestyle, I did so through my own filter of bitterness that I’d brought with me. Guess what I found on my year of discovery? I found reasons to be unhappy. The RV needed near-constant service and the repair folks were never fast enough for me. The campgrounds we stayed at were mediocre at best and shopping in different stores than I was used to made me miss home. Friends, it took months for me to get over myself! But, gradually, I changed my attitude by letting go of my dark side. If I wanted to find the joy those Go RVing commercials portrayed then I was going to have be joyful.
It shouldn’t surprise you that simply changing myself changed the world around me. Suddenly, I understood that driving a home down the highway at 70 mph will likely shake some things loose. And, if I really listened to the poor guy trying to help me he sounded like a human being doing his best instead of Charlie Brown’s teacher spouting excuses. If I looked carefully with intent, I found delight in a 24-hour laundry room, concrete pad, and amazing fire pit, comforts and luxuries just like home.
Ten years of working hard to leave my inner demons outside the cave. Ten years of challenging the woman in the mirror to be a better human being. Ten years of choosing to be the type of person I hope to find wherever I go. Whether Gandhi said it or not, the phrase “Be the change you want to see in the world” encapsulates a mindset that works.
Daniel and I had dinner the other night with friends in Traverse City and someone asked about the people around the country, their differences, and what they’re like. We said what we always say, “People are nice everywhere we go.” It’s true. “You will find only what you bring in.” I’m no Jedi Master, but even a middle-aged travel enthusiast knows that the only way to guarantee finding something exceptional is to be something exceptional.