Most of the traveling that I have done has been planned and set in stone before I ever leave home. Upon leaving for the beach, my family decides which days will be 'beach days' and which day will be our water park 'extravaganza.' Prior to flying to Europe, our teachers devised an itinerary that had to be followed to the minutest details if our trip was to be a success. I found these step-by-step directions to be wonderful.
Needless to say, when my grandfather talked of a cross country trip to Branson, Missouri without planning for much else, I was overwhelmed and anxious. How could we cross the country without creating a detailed plan for executing every turn and stop? As we embarked, I just knew I had set out on a journey doomed for failure, but it did not take long for me to realize how wrong I was. Our journey began as a long drive from Perry, Georgia to Tupelo, Mississippi.
Our first glitch came when we realized that the road that our guide, a 3 year old United States atlas, claimed existed did not exist any longer. Although I was immediately pessimistic, my grandfather and I navigated to an alternate road. Once in Tupelo, our group, which consisted of my grandfather, grandmother, aunt, brother and I, drove around town until we found a hotel to stay at and a restaurant to eat at.
I was amazed that we could just drive into this city and stay. No reservations, no research, just simply ask for a room. The next morning, we drove all the way to Branson.
On the way we saw Graceland, which was impressive, but not nearly as impressive as the winding, pastoral roads in the mountains of Arkansas and Missouri. As I maneuvered these treacherous curves, with a mountain on one side and a cavernous drop on the other, I could only imagine how much easier the interstate would have been. Only later did I realize what an amazing opportunity my grandfather had given us.
I had seen a part of our nation that I would have otherwise never known existed. My brother and I saw a beautiful land that is hidden from the eyes of a person driving along the interstate. Arriving in Branson, we again found a hotel.
We also bought tickets for a few shows. We watched performers impersonate legendary singers, the amazing Shoji Tabuchi play the play the violin, and a comedian make dogs talk while we cruised aboard a showboat. All these amazing experiences had come without planning ahead.
I was both humbled and in awe. After meandering through northwest Arkansas, we crossed into Oklahoma to visit my grandfather's navy buddies. Although my brother and I felt this was part of the trip only for my grandfather, we quickly realized how amazing their stories were.
Enchanted by their endless memories, I could not say who enjoyed their company more, my grandfather or me. Originally, our loose plan dictated that we retrace our route back home, but on a split-second decision, we drove to Dallas, Texas. Although we drove around downtown Dallas for an hour, seeing the exact spot where President Kennedy was shot made it well worth the wait. All that remained now was to drive across three states back home. With cornfields and rolling hills as company, we trekked back to Perry, Georgia.
After arriving home, I was able to reflect back on all the amazing experiences. The obvious came to mind first, the picturesque geography across our nation had impressed me. The entertainment at the shows had been incredible. Although these ascetic attributes of my travels were remarkable, the true significance of our trip only came to me later. While my grandfather taught me about how to brake while driving in the mountains, I gleaned an important lesson from him. That lesson was that even though I may not be sure of what the journey will hold, I can be successful if I keep my eyes on the destination. This trip was as extraordinary as my travels in Europe, even though every step of this trip was not planned. No matter what roadblocks come up in life, I will navigate around them by keeping my eyes on the goal. I will apply this lesson to my life as I go to college. I may not know what the journey has in store, but I will keep my destination in mind as I navigate through life.