When I was younger, I hiked the beautiful Na Pali Coast of Kauai, which spans eleven miles and weaves in and out of ravines, up switchbacks and across several streams. A novice backpacker, I was totally focused on where I was going. Every time the trail led out to a point from which I could look down the coast, I would eye my destination—Kalalau Valley. I had heard it was like the Garden of Eden, which seemed like an appropriate place for a young woman named Eve! For at least ten and a half of the eleven miles, I looked ahead to see how much further I had to go, then continued my march, only to look again, recalculate and carry on.
When I arrived at my destination it was, indeed, beautiful; waterfalls poured out onto the beach, fruit was there for the picking, rainbows, flowers, and turquoise waters surrounded us. My feet however, had huge blisters from hiking in brand-new boots and the eleven-mile hike ahead out was not, at all, attractive.
Back in those days you could pay for a boat ride out of the valley so that was exactly what I opted to do. It wasn’t until I was several hundred feet off shore that I realized that while the valley was a worthy destination, the eleven-mile coastline was spectacular in and of itself. Somehow in my intent focus on getting where I was going, I had missed the spectacular nature of the journey.
It was then that I realized how often we have a tendency to live for the destination and miss the experience. In fact, whole lives are missed out on by doing this. We think life begins at sixteen when we get our driver’s license, then when we get it, we think it must really start at eighteen when we become adults. Then at eighteen, we determine it must start at twenty-one when we are able to drink. No, it must be when we fall in love, when we get married, when we have children, when the children move out, when we get divorced, when we get the dream job, make the money, retire, etc. For some strange reason, we humans have an uncanny ability to miss the point; we miss the present.
Many of us do the same thing in our love lives. We start thinking about “happily ever after” sometimes before we have even said, “Hello.” When I was a middle-school counselor a girl came to my office and excitedly told me her mom was getting married! I asked about the intended groom and then discovered that not only had the daughter not met the man yet, the mother hadn’t either! It appeared that just like my hike, the want-to-be bride met a man online and immediately stood at that point in the relationship and looked ahead to the destination of marriage.
Perhaps I should rephrase that to—she was looking to the destination of a wedding. This was similar to my lack of awareness that once I reached my glorious destination, there was still another eleven miles of challenging terrain—both beautiful and difficult—that would have to be travelled.
When it comes to relationships, the journey is indeed the destination. There is no place called “Happily-Ever-After.” The quality of interaction, the opportunity to practice self-mastery, the ravines and switchbacks as well as the high points—these are the destination.
I invite you to continue to dream and plan for the future, but do so in full appreciation of the present terrain. You may never see moments like these again and they are not to be missed.
- Look around and take a deep breath in appreciation of where you currently are.
- Take a moment to acknowledge how far you have come.
- As you journey toward the future, recognize that the only way to get “there” is with each step in the present moment.