Three months into 2021, I was overdue for an adventure. My friends and I talked about going to Yellowstone National Park, but as the year progressed, I could see our “plans” weren’t going to happen. So I thought, “Why don't I just go?” I had traveled solo several times before, and this would be the perfect way to give a gift to myself for my birthday weekend. I reserved a campground and spent the next few months perusing articles about where to see wolves and Grizzly bears and also, how not to get eaten by one. (Spoiler alert: I briefly saw a wolf, but not a bear. However, I did see a moose for the first time, and it was awesome!)
The day finally arrived when I rented a cargo van in Salt Lake City and set out to Yellowstone. It was a whirlwind of breathtaking sights, a couple are below, but I'm not just here to share photos. So, as a writer, I thought about distinct moments during my trip and the lessons I could apply to everyday life. Whether it's through travel or something else, new experiences on our own are always an opportunity for reflection. Here are a few thoughts that helped me, and I hope they offer some helpful insight for you too!
We don't always find peace where we expect to, and that's okay.While I had tons of sights I was excited to explore on my trip, I also thought it would be a great chance to refresh in solitude and "get away from everything." I had a picture in my head of hiking in the great wide open and listening to God. However, in the three days I spent exploring, I never really had the chance to spend much time outside of my car. Drive, drive, take pictures, look at a map, and drive was pretty much my routine. But I still had moments with God amongst the busyness. When I saw the majestic waterfall at Artist Point and watched dozens of geysers leap up in front of a beautiful sunrise, I felt surrounded by God's power. If He can create so many crazy things, how much more can He do with my life? And in that tangibility of His work, I found peace for the future. Peace isn't always a feeling of stillness; it is trust that we are where we are supposed to be.
Alone does not equal solitude. When I think of solitude, I think of meaningful disconnection from the rest of the world that helps me process my inner thoughts. As I drove my van through the valleys with easygoing country music on the radio, I felt like I was purely with me. However, the trip as a whole was not a practice in solitude. I may have gone hours without phone service, and at times was out of sight of other tourists, but my plans and anticipation brought in the full experience of the outside world. And that wasn’t a bad thing. Anywhere we go, there are times to choose introspection and times to focus on the experiences around us. The balance is not always consistent, but that rhythm helps us to live in the moment. Life doesn't always keep solitude and connection in designated areas; we need patterns within and outside our comfort zones to experience both.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen.” - Isaiah 43:19-20
The one lesson I learn every time I travel is that I need to both embrace familiarity and seek the new. I enjoy the freedom to go where I want to go, but I also find renewed delight in the comfort of home. Whether I have my feet out the back of a campervan in the woods, am deep diving Youtube with my roommates, or I'm on my laptop with an article idea in front of me, I want to have momentum in mind. There are times to be still and times to go, go, go. And even in the "still" moments, there is a sense of moving forward. The more I do this, the more I understand contentment in the present is a decision, the more I appreciate each of the other parts. I want to follow Jesus through it all, and I know there is joy in the balance.
Written Content Coordinator at Sun Valley Community Church. An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.