When I was younger, I’d straight down refuse to take a rest, especially when traveling. I’d always think that winding down was a waste of time, especially when time in a certain destination was very limited. It took me a few years to learn that just kicking back and taking the time to rest isn’t always a bad idea, and even longer to learn to implement this knowledge. But once I did, my travels became much more meaningful and memorable.
When I was in the Eastern Sierras in the early spring, taking time to just slow down, sit down, and shut up was one of the main goals. It was after a few months of uniterrupted stir and movement, both literal and metaphorical, and I could feel myself slipping and losing grasp on everything in my life, icluding myself.
It was hard at first. I felt like I had to do stuff, take an advantage of being able to take a week off from work, kids, school… but I managed to take each day slower and slower, to wake up with the sun and breathe, to go down with the sun and breathe, and to focus on the present and breathe.
It was on my last full day in the Eastern Sierras that I just stopped and stayed along a 4-mile stretch of Highway 120 for the entire day. I went for a short run at Mono Lake but other than that, I was just there, parked on the side of the road that just opened that morning for the first time since winter. I walked among the trees and listened to the wind running across the land. I watched the sun set, disappear beyond the mountains, and the lake slowly change colors until the stars came out. Doing this “nothing” would have been unthinkable before. I’d feel guilty for “not taking advantage” of the limited time I had. But the years of learning showed me that slowing down is sometimes the best way to spend the little time I have, that it’s everything but waste.
The day was hot for an early spring, and I took off my shirt, enjoying the sun on my skin. I sat in the middle of the road, enjoying that I was the only person there. The wind whispered in the trees. There were no obligations to do anything or please anyone. It was perfect. I just allowed myself to be, and it was so very freeing, so very transformative.
Throughout the whole day, I saw only two cars and one truck take advantage of the open road. I spent the following night on a small rest place/parking right by the road with beautiful views of Mono Lake. It was the coldest night of them all, some 10 degrees below zero, and the stars were as beautiful as ever, their light piercing through the freezing air.