I was sitting in a bar a few years ago in a rut.
I’d been in the same place in Chicago for a while. My career was a little stuck and I was bored.
And I heard the guitar player start to sing, “Joe’s run off, to Fire Lake.”
It’s a great old song by Bob Seger. Bikers love it in particular. It’s about adventure. Longing. The open road.
Something changed for me that day. It was like the call of the wild.
Suddenly I knew I had to stir things up a little.
Two months later, I landed in New Zealand.
But more on that later.
There has been plenty of research on how the places in our lives affect our happiness, serenity, and inner peace. Almost everyone I know has a “happy place” somewhere in the world. As a kid for me, it was at Ecola State Park in Cannon Beach. Pictured here.
I recently read a book about the innate human longing to be near the water called “Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do.”
It talks about how much more peaceful we feel being around water, and the psychological benefits of finding this. Many people throughout human history have drifted towards the water, in many cases for economic reasons. But this book shows there is a lot more to it. I mean we are mostly MADE of the stuff. I bet a lot of people will almost innately understand the relationship between water and their emotional well-being. It seems to be almost wired into us.
Of course, it doesn’t HAVE to be water. Maybe for you, it’s the mountains. Or the desert. Maybe it’s your local park. Wherever it is, I bet it’s a place where you feel better. Take a little break from your worries. Think a little more clearly. Even doctors are getting hip to this nowadays. Here's a fantastic clip about a Bellingham doctor who prescribes park visits instead of pills!
Park visits instead of pills!
Park visits instead of pills!
I once did this little exercise where you had to review your life and find the themes and activities that kept popping up for you that made you happy. Maybe as a kid, you loved to draw and paint, and kept coming back to it at various times in your life. Maybe it was making music. You get the idea.
But for me, it was always traveling. I’ve had that wanderlust since I was a child. The desire to see more, do more, explore more. It’s never stopped. I worked in five different national parks in my twenties, and even that didn’t scratch the itch. It’s a kind of longing. Anticipation. Hope.
Many people describe having had “peak” experiences in nature. Peak experiences are often described as transcendent moments of pure joy and elation. These are moments that stand out from everyday events. The memory of these events linger in our minds for a long time, and can even feel like a kind of spiritual experience. Peak Experiences
I’ve certainly had a few. One that stands out came during a hike to the very bottom of the Grand Canyon. Although I was alone, totally exhausted and physically depleted, I looked around and saw where I was. I realized how far I’d come, but also how much more there was to do in my life. I felt this powerful surge of energy that is still hard to explain. It was joy. Vibrancy. Exuberance.
These moments can sometimes be harder to find as we get older. Life intervenes. Holidays might turn into theme parks, minivans, and screaming kids. Work gets more intense. Money issues linger. All of a sudden we have perhaps lost sight of that primal need to be in nature once in a while.
I suspect this is how a lot of ruts get their start. Watch a Labrador when it gets near water. It will dive in head first and ask questions later. That’s primal.
And I submit that we humans have this need as well.
How do I know?
I recently went through another one of these “rut” periods.
And once again, I listened to the call of the wild.
So if you can’t reach me at the moment, I’ll be back on the open road. Not all who wander are lost. I think it’s just the opposite of being lost. It’s more like finding something again.
But in the meantime, I hope you find YOUR happy place in nature again. Spend some time there. Reconnect with this part of yourself.
And as for me?
Joe's run off to Fire Lake...