Last week my husband Ryan and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit our friends in Missoula, Montana. It was a long awaited trip due to the fact that we hadn’t seen Meredith and Adam for almost a year. We were really excited to catch up with them and see the beautiful scenery they had described in picturesque detail to us, while they prepared for their journey there last year.
The mountains, lakes and trails of Montana were everything they shared and more. Most breathtaking were the clear water streams you could look down into to see green, purple and crimson rocks providing an endless natural floor of simple beauty below the water’s surface.
An element of difference this trip had compared to others we had taken in the past was that I hadn’t planned what we would do when we were there, nor had I done much research about Montana. Perhaps this isn’t a huge detail for most, but for me it felt odd to go to a new location without full knowledge of what we wanted to do and see. Why the lack of preparation? We had wonderful hosts who were mindful of what we would enjoy as well as knowledgeable about where we needed to be pushed out of our comfort zones.
The push happened relatively quickly as we were picked up on our first day, by our friend Meredith and proceeded to hike up to the “M” on the mountainside of Missoula to overlook the town. The hike was invigorating and had a good level of healthy intensity for us newbies hiking mountains. We took many stops to “take in the view” and a breath as Meredith waited patiently for us. When we reached the top it was amazing to see what a lovely valley the town was enveloped in, surrounded by mountains and streams, creating a charming landscape to view and relish in.
Before we knew it we were back down the mountain and on our way to Idaho to see natural hot springs, another hike and adventure to experience together. As Meredith drove us to our next destination and shared all the plans that she had for the next 5 days, I knew we were in good hands. That said, as we started on our next hike, I felt like a kid again. I was simply walking through the woods to an unknown destination in the hopes that it would be “cool” enough to justify the journey. I was completely confident that Meredith knew what was best for us to see and had fun discovering just how boiling hot a “hot spring” could be.
Letting go of control and expectations felt wonderful. A principle that I took into this trip, was to hold the ultimate purpose of the trip in my heart at all times, that being: to enjoy our friendship and explore new things in Montana. The weather may not have been perfect each day, but we rolled with it and learned a great card game from Meredith’s dad on a rainy day. The mountains may have been a little obstructed by clouds at a few points, but when they revealed themselves later in the evening they were all the more majestic.
The last activity of our trip was floating down a river in Missoula, which was one of my favorite experiences of our time in Montana. The rapids were flowing at a nice leisurely pace and the river was surrounded by tree lined mountains, captivating your attention at each twist and turn of your tube. You could still feel the heat of summer, but also the coolness of fall’s days summoning in the imminent school year.
The school year’s start will not bring big changes to our home, but I know it will for our friend Meredith. This brings me to my final insight from this trip, you must steer your own raft. Although the rapids were easy to float in, we did encounter some rocks along the way that one of us needed to take charge of navigating around to ensure one of our tubs didn’t get struck. Metaphorically speaking, last year my friend Meredith took a giant leap from her tube, roped it up, moved it to Montana and followed her dreams and purpose. Witnessing her outcome as a PhD candidate, teacher and athlete, thriving in her new environment was truly inspirational.
Reflecting on my two insights, they feel paradoxical. With one insight I learn to let go and in another I’m finding inspiration to “steer your own raft.” The meaning I find here is that throughout life we must learn to discern when it is time to go with the flow and when to find the strength to follow your purpose. As I observe the achievements of friends, I find greater confidence to jump out of my raft when the time is right. However, I also realize that ultimately I may need to relinquish control to a greater universal knowing of what is the right path for me.
This week I encourage you to think about whether it is time to let go or steer your raft. What do you need to float with and what do you need to steer against?