Not a very reverent way to recant the words of the influential Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu, but the famous words roll so tritely off the tongue that the meaning is lost somewhere along the way.
Let’s take a minute to think past the cliché. How is it that a journey of any great length can begin with something so rudimentary? Surely any journey that has any gravitas has to begin with an equally grand gesture?
No, I think ancient Chinese dude was on to something.
I publicly outed our 2012 travel plans over at Family Trek last week, and there is nothing like putting it all out there in black and white to make a plan on paper seem like a reality. Later this year we’ll be taking a pretty big step on our journey as we set out with our family of six and our 30 foot trailer on an open ended journey through the eastern US.
Although that may seem like much more than just a single step, we didn’t start our traveling journey with the idea to take our family traipsing around the country In fact, we started out as parents who were afraid to take their young children to the grocery store. One of my clearest memories as a young mom was joyfully exclaiming to my best friend, “I did it! I can’t believe it! I did it!” But it wasn’t a long car trip or a international flight that elicited such elation. I had simply finally worked up the nerve to take my three small children to the store all at the same time.
High on my grocery store success, I then felt brave enough to try a short car trip and then a longer car trip and then a plane ride and then a longer plane ride. Step by step by step we became a family who was ready and willing to travel anywhere. This trip, which we have dubbed the MOART (Mother of All Road Trips), is the next step on our personal journey.
While it is tempting to think that this trip may bring us to personal finish line, it is more likely that the completion of the MOART will just lead us to the next step. We are already admitting with hopeful trepidation that if this works out we could be heading towards selling everything and hitting the road full time. (That sound you hear is the collective shock of our friends and family as we drop that little bomb. Try to ignore it. I’m sure it will stop soon.)
But getting back to the Chinese philosopher. It seems that this wise saying that has become so cliché was actually the victim of an old fashioned game of telephone with a bit of the true meaning lost in translation. In the original Chinese Lao Tsu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one's feet.” Put another way we could say “Even the longest journey must begin where you stand.”
And that’s the money quote right there. Whether you are ready to travel the world or still uncertain about going around the block, you are on a journey. Whether you take one step or one hundred, you are on a journey. Even if you stand in one spot and refuse to move, you are still on a journey. Start where you are standing right now and take a step, any step in any direction. Take a big step. Take a little step. Take two steps forward and one step back. Don’t worry about whether your steps match with the person next to you. Don’t think about how far away your personal finish line seems. Just take a step.
You are on a journey. Where you are going is completely up to you.
~A big thanks to my friend Leslie who inspired the moniker MOART~